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Showing posts by: Tim Maughan click to see Tim Maughan's profile
Fri
Nov 22 2013 11:00am

Birth of the Living Dead: George A Romero, Zombies, and the Civil Rights Movement

Birth of the Living Dead

From movies to comics and video games to hit TV shows, zombies have been swarming all over popular culture for the last couple of decades in a fury of brain eating, moaning and unstoppable, civilisation-ending shuffling. But with the zombie apocalypse such a standard, pervasive trope in modern genre entertainment it’s easy to forget where it all began—in the early days of horror cinema the zombie was a very different figure; a slightly laughable and much more ghostly one, based largely on misinterpreted Haitian mythology, and depicted in b-movie flicks such as White Zombie (1932) and Revolt of the Zombies (1936).

It took the 28 year old, and then very unknown, TV ad director George A Romero to re-define the zombie into the classic creature we know now, with the ultra low budget classic Night of the Living Dead (1968). Now, nearly half a century later, a new documentary film Birth of the Living Dead takes a look back at not just the unique filmmaking experience that Romero and his crew of guerrilla filmmakers undertook, but also at the movie’s just as revolutionary social commentary and lasting cultural impact.

[Read more...]

Tue
Aug 27 2013 2:00pm

On Elysium, SF Summer Blockbusters, and Geek Outrage Run Amok

Elysium Matt Damon

Take a look around the geekiest parts of the internet this year and you could be mistaken for thinking Hollywood is in crisis. Apparently this has been a terrible summer, with most of the season’s much-anticipated science fiction blockbusters turning out to be critical under-performers. First off Star Trek: Into Darkness put everyone into panic mode by suggesting that the man they’ve put in charge of Star Wars’ future might just not have much grasp of filmmaking beyond mashing together identifiable, nostalgia sparking tropes, and then Man Of Steel came along and horrified the fundamentalist comic book congregation by portraying their Christ figure as someone that would resort to murder and the leveling of entire cities.

But the real killer blow came via Pacific Rim, a movie so hyped for so long by the film nerd hierarchy that they couldn’t bring themselves to see how utterly dismal it really was, perhaps because the only way to observe the true atrocities of it’s script and performances while not experiencing physical embarrassment was to peer at it through the gaps in your fingers. “Yeah, it was dumb,” its defenders say, “but at least it knew it was dumb.” Trust me, after nearly 40 years of unsuccessfully trying this same defense on parents, teachers, lovers, bosses, law enforcement officials and editors I’m really not convinced.

[Read more...]

Wed
Jul 17 2013 5:00pm

Writing Ahead of the Future

Something quite odd happened to me today. I think I just experienced, for the first time, the odd sensation of having something you dreamed up for a story happen in real life.

Nearly 3 years ago I wrote a short story called Paintwork (reprinted here on Tor.com earlier this year) about augmented reality graffiti. In it the main protagonist, a young artist called 3Cube, replaces the QR codes on corporate advertising billboards so that wearers of augmented reality glasses (known as spex) are lead to their artwork instead of the advertisers message. It was a fairly simple idea, based on seeing how artists and vandals in my home town of Bristol abuse the ubiquitous billboards that line our streets. I had some really nice feedback about the story, and I was pretty happy with it—people seemed to like it, and at the beginning of the year myself and some friends even made a short based on the opening scene and this particular concept.

[Read more...]

Mon
Feb 4 2013 10:00am
Reprint

Paintwork

Tim Maughan

"Paintwork"Enjoy this reprint of the title story from Tim Maughan’s short story collection Paintwork, a collection which also contains the BSFA Award nominated “Havana Augmented.” His collection comes highly recommended by Cory Doctorow and Ken MacLeod. His short story “Limited Edition” has been shortlisted for the 2012 BSFA Award.

“Paintwork” is a near-futuristic story of a virtual-reality graffiti artist specializing in defacing and reprogramming QR codes who is confronted with a series of impossibly fast takedowns of his latest series. He must find the artist who is dissing his works while struggling to face the validity of their critiques.

[Read More]

Tue
Jan 22 2013 1:00pm

“Dangerous bends ahead. Slow down.” JG Ballard and Forty Years of the Future

"Dangerous bends ahead. Slow down." JG Ballard and Forty Years of the Future

Ballardian—resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in JG Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”

-Oxford English Dictionary

“It seems to me that what most of us have to fear for the future is not that something terrible is going to happen, but rather that nothing is going to happen... I could sum up the future in one word, and that word is boring. The future is going to be boring.”

-JG Ballard, 1991

Drained swimming pools and drowned cities, crashed cars and deserted highways—the term “Ballardian” has not just entered dictionaries but also the public and media consciousness in the years since the author’s death. But by doing so there is a danger that some sense of meaning has been lost; that by becoming a soundbite to be thrown about by lazy critics, journalists and even politicians it has not just lost multiple layers of nuance, but come to represent something Ballard never intended—a cliche of inhumanity and dystopia associated with a man that, contrary to popular perception, never celebrated either.

[Read more...]

Tue
Nov 6 2012 12:00pm

Six of the Best and Worst Anime Based on Video Games

Six of the Best and Worst Anime Based on Video Games

The main problem with talking about anime adaptations of video games is knowing where to start. Just go and look at this list over on Wikipedia and it’s clear that games have been a constant source of material for anime movies, films and direct to video releases for decades—there’s literally hundreds of entries, many of which are familiar names, while plenty of others will seem utterly alien to western gamers. 

[Insert coins to continue...]

Wed
Sep 26 2012 11:30am

A Comic Book Movie That Explodes Across the Screen: Dredd

A Comic Book Movie That Explodes Across the Screen: A review of DreddSo you think you know Judge Dredd, huh?

Maybe you know the character from the 1995 Sly Stallone movie and think he’s a cheesy gun-toting meathead that stomps about in black lycra and gold trim, randomly shouting catchphrases like “I AM THE LAWWWW” and “I KNEW YOU’D SAY THAT” and taking his helmet off at every opportunity to a hugely pompous orchestral soundtrack. 

Maybe, like me and a lot of Brits my age, you know Judge Dredd from the weekly stories in 2000AD comic and think he’s the ultimate anti-hero; a comic character you’re meant to be afraid of rather than applaud, created by some of the UK’s greatest comic writers and artists to poke fun at everything from American superheroes to American politics and pop culture, while also being the star of numerous epic science fiction adventures.

Or maybe you don’t know anything about Judge Dredd at all, and all the above barely makes sense to you.

The important thing is it doesn’t matter. Whether you were scared by the ‘95 movie, are a huge fanboy or a complete newb, it should have zero impact on your enjoyment of the 2012 movie adaptation Dredd which sets out with only has one main objective: to be a cool, ultra-violent, low budget sci-fi action movie.

[The question is - does it succeed?]

Wed
Sep 19 2012 4:00pm

Geeks, Swords and the Snow Crash Movie: Neal Stephenson in Conversation

Neal Stephenson is a name that shouldn’t need much in the way of introduction to readers of speculative literature - five of his last six novels have been New York Times bestsellers. His latest book Some Remarks is non-fiction - a collection of essays, articles and interviews on everything from the history of science and today’s current lack of innovation to movies and the boom of geek culture.

Stephenson recently grabbed headlines with the announcement of Clang, a Kickstarter-funded video game that aims to be the “ Guitar Hero of sword-fighting.” He was recently here in the UK promoting Some Remarks and the paperback edition of his last novel Reamde, and I was lucky enough to grab a couple of hours with him over drinks to discuss all these subjects plus more: including the problems facing contemporary science fiction writers and the long awaited movie adaptation of his 1992 cyberpunk classic Snow Crash

[Read the full interview...]

Wed
Jul 18 2012 4:00pm

The Future is Disturbing and Funny: Ghosts With Shit Jobs

The Future is Disturbing and Funny: A review of independent movie Ghosts With Shit Jobs

The idea of the western world losing it’s economic, military and cultural dominance to the east is hardly a knew one in science fiction — it was a mainstay theme in cyberpunk in the 1980s, and perhaps most memorably explored on the screen in Blade Runner. But Ridley’s Scott’s dizzying glimpse at an Asian dominated 2019 Los Angeles was made thirty years ago, and now it seems to be a subject that SF is shying away from. We might not have flying cars or replicant slaves, and our streets might not be full of Japanese signage and imagery — but there’s little denying that China and India’s economies continue to grow and dominate while North America and Europe’s not only wain, but at times seem as though they are teetering on the edge of a very real collapse.

[Welcome to your future career...]

Fri
Mar 30 2012 11:00am

Noboru Ishiguro: Anime’s Master of Space Opera

March 2012 has been a tragic month for science fictions fans. First we saw the passing of Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie, followed closely by the passing of French comic book and SF movie visionary Jean ‘Moebius‘ Giraud. And as if both were not painful enough, last week saw news that anime legend Noboru Ishiguro had also died at the age of 74.

Ishiguro may not sound familiar to US science fiction fans, but like Moebius he’s another figure whose influence extends further than his name. There are few people in anime history — especially within science fiction anime — who worked on so many landmark series and franchises. And he started early too — in 1963, while still a student, he got his first work as an animator on Tetsujin 28-go, arguably the first giant robot anime series. A massive hit in Japan, it is the story of Shotaro, a young boy who takes control of the eponymous robot built by his late father to fight crime and invading enemy robots. A year after Ishiguro joined the already long-running production, Tetsujin 28-go was one of the first anime series to receive a U.S. translation and TV broadcast in the form of Gigantor, fueling an early interest amongst American SF fans in Japanese animation.

[A true legend of science fiction passes...]

Mon
Mar 12 2012 10:30am

Moebius: The Visionary’s Visionary

The passing of Jean Giraud this weekend has shaken many science fiction and fantasy fans who are familiar with his work, and thanks to the nature of the internet and social media, intrigued many who are not. To the uninitiated the attention may seem baffling — why such an outpouring of sadness and love for a seemingly obscure French comic book artist? The answer is both simple and surprising: Giraud — or Moebius, the pen name his fans prefer to use for him — may not have been a household name himself, but his influence over the very biggest SF names and works is undeniable.

[Read more]

Thu
Mar 8 2012 10:00am

Six Pre-Studio Ghibli Anime Films You Should Track Down

Studio Ghibli is — much deservedly — probably the best known anime studio in the west. Spirited Away won the studio’s legendary co-founder Hayao Miyazaki an Oscar back in 2002, and The Secret World of Arrietty is currently wooing both critics and audiences during its theatre run in the U.S. It’s the 17th movie from the production house, first founded by Miyazaki and fellow director/animator Isao Takahata in 1985, but the pair’s careers stretch back much further than setting up the influential studio.

[Travel back into Ghibli prehistory...]

Fri
Feb 17 2012 11:00am

Studio Ghibli Reaches a Turning Point With The Secret World of Arrietty

The Secret World of ArriettyIf you have even a passing interest in anime there’s a very high chance you know that Studio Ghibli’s latest offering, The Secret World of Arrietty, opens in U.S. theaters this Friday. What’s perhaps more surprising is that us fans here in the UK had the unusual pleasure of first seeing the movie back in July of 2011 — and, in fact, the Blu-ray/DVD was released here last month. It’s unusual because us poor limeys usually have to play second fiddle when it comes to anime releases; economies of scale and the niche nature of anime fandom mean that we often miss out on some releases altogether, and can find ourselves waiting for up to 6 months after U.S. releases for the ones we do. So what makes Arrietty so different?

[Read on]

Wed
Jan 18 2012 4:00pm

Anime on the Front Lines

Military science fiction anime

With giant battling robots being one of the first images to spring into people’s minds when you mention anime to them, it’s no surprise that military science fiction was for years one of the most popular genres in Japanese animation. In fact there’s so many shows depicting some kind of futuristic — and usually mechanised — warfare that it can be hard to know where to start. Which is why I’ve picked out just four examples — from the action packed and epic through to the dark and philosophical — that I think most military SF buffs will find interesting.

[Prepare for battle...]

Thu
Nov 17 2011 1:00pm

Ten Anime Series You Should See Before You Die

Ten Anime Series You Should See Before You DieFirst off I’d just like to say a huge thank you to everyone that read my list of ten anime films you should see before you die—the response has been phenomenal—not just the number of people who read it, but also those who took the time out to get involved in the following discussion. Some people loved my selections, some people thought I was well off the mark, but it was clear that there was no way I was going to be able to avoid putting together another list, this time of TV series.

It has been a far harder list to compile. Not only because of the vast selection to choose from, but also because I knew from the start that I would be leaving out some shows that a lot of people hold very dear. As such, I hope that at least some of you will read the next paragraph first before scrolling down the list to see what is missing and getting upset.

[See the ten...]

Wed
Nov 2 2011 12:00pm

Why You Can’t Miss Redline: An Interview with Director Takeshi Koike

Yeah, I know. You don’t like anime. It’s all big eyes and tentacle rape. You’ve seen enough to know you don’t need to see anymore, thank you very much.

The problem with all that is you’ve not seen Redline.

At least not yet. But you will see it. You’re the type of person that reads Tor.com. It will be impossible for you to avoid it. If you’re sensible you’ll try and catch a cinema screening of it somewhere, at a festival or a con. Or you’ll pick it up when it comes out on DVD or Blu-ray (next month in the UK, January in the US). Or perhaps you’re more stubborn than that. Perhaps you’ll refuse to watch it at all, especially after this slightly irritating blog post intro. But you won’t escape it. You can’t. Someone on your Twitter or Facebook stream will be raving about it. You’ll be at a party and someone will be chatting about it. And then one day — maybe even years from now — you’ll be at a friend’s place and they’ll say to you “what do you mean you’ve not seen Redline?” And despite your protests about not liking anime because it’s all big eyes and tentacle rape, they’ll force you to sit down and watch it.

And then you’ll wonder why you resisted for so long, while the movie melts your retinas and makes your heart want to explode out of your chest and you realise that the person that made you watch it is your best friend forever.

[CLICK HERE TO MELT YOUR RETINAS]

Thu
Sep 29 2011 12:00pm

Science Fiction and Fantasy Anime: RideBack

Science Fiction and Fantasy Anime: RideBack

Those of you that caught my last post — a review of Highschool of the Dead — may remember me explaining how anime tends to churn out the usual genre tropes — zombies, vampires, aliens... all the expected stuff. But occasionally it still manages to through out something a bit more... unusual. Like say, for example, reluctant freedom-fighting teenage ballerinas riding transforming motorbikes.

[Welcome to RideBack]

Wed
Aug 24 2011 5:28pm

Science Fiction and Fantasy Anime: Highschool of the Dead

As I mentioned last time, the last few years have been tough if you’re a science fiction, fantasy or horror anime fan. The medium has been dominated by slice-of-life comedies and dramas, created to appeal to a certain breed of very specialist fan that are far more interested characters than plots or ideas. But anime — like all entertainment — is driven by trends and cycles, and the last year has seen the rise again of more genre orientated shows. And also — like all entertainment — originality is generally scarce, and risks are avoided in favor of tried and tested formulas. Alien invasions. Sexy teenage vampires. Post apocalyptic dystopias. Rebellious robots. All that dwarves and elves stuff. And this week... zombies.

[BRAAAAAIIIINNNNSSSSSSSSS]

Thu
Aug 4 2011 5:35pm

Science Fiction and Fantasy Anime: TO: 2001 Nights

If, like me, you first encountered anime in the 1990s then the chances are they were science fiction, fantasy and horror stories that first attracted your attention. In fact for decades that was what the medium was most strongly associated with — from the outside it seemed to be little more than cyborgs, giant robots, psychic teenagers, and city-leveling demons. In truth anime has always, since its first conception, covered a much wider range of topics and genres. Comedies, slice-of-life dramas and romances have always been popular, and over the last few years they have dwarfed everything else around them, with anime otaku seemingly more interested in cute girls and the intricacies of their daily life than any kind of more out of this world topics.

[TO - 2001 Nights...]

Wed
Jul 6 2011 4:31pm

Twenty Years of Anime in the UK

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a swanky location in London’s glamorous west end for anime distributor Manga UK’s 20th birthday party. Now for those of you outside the UK Manga may not be a familiar company, but on this side of the Atlantic it is a name synonymous with anime (and yes ’manga’ being associated with ’anime’ has caused decades of confusion). Originally founded in 1991 to distribute the movie Akira, it went on to not just release hundreds of titles theatrically and on VHS and DVD, but also to produce a legion of infamous dubs and even contribute financial backing to productions like Ghost in the Shell.

The party was fun, but a slightly unusual experience for me. Not just because us lowly anime bloggers don’t usually get invited to such fancy corporate events, but mainly because as I sat there—swigging free beer and munching free sushi—I found myself drifting away down memory lane.

[Booting up the way-back-when machine....]