Blade Runner 2049: The Bradscribe Review

Future Perfect? More Sequel Than Sequel…?

“This is not some clunky franchise-farmed cash-in… With all the art and craft of the original, Denis Villeneuve has… gotten down and dirty in the gene pool, marinated in its enzymes, slept in its bed and dreamt its dreams. And then he’s gone to work” – The Sunday Times.  

“I want more life!” demanded Roy Batty, the peculiar, but poetic, doomed replicant from the classic original Blade Runner. 

Well – after all this time – should that masterpiece, one of the greatest – and self-contained – SF classics reviewed here: have been granted an extension of its existence?

Remarkably, these past few weeks, some critics have argued that Blade Runner 2049 has surpassed the original, taking the issues of humanity, genetics and identity to whole new astounding levels. 

Now, considering how this blogger included himself as one of those teeming masses baulking at a “new” Blade Runner movie, it is a revelation – not to mention a relief – to report that Blade Runner 2(049) has turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing visual and emotional experience.

“Despite all the overlaps, this is not a simulacrum of a Ridley Scott film. It is unmistakably a Denis Villeneuve film, inviting us to tumble, tense with anticipation, into his doomy clutches” – The New Yorker.

The plot of Blade Runner 2049 begins with Ryan Gosling, turning in an appropriately vacant and artificial presence as a new Runner: K (as in Philip K. Dick?), paying a visit to the isolated warehouse/abode of Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton – retired from the rumble-tumble world of WWF to a barren sector of the Californian wasteland to Grow Green Stuff, Man. What the officer’s surveillance equipment discovers onsite leads to the main plot development: K questioning the nature of his own existence – “basically Pinocchio with more eco-pollution” as one reviewer rather facetiously described it.

When we eventually get to see the Main Man/Replicant/? Himself, it’s nice to see Villeneuve honour that traditional sci-fi dystopian trope of the protagonist wandering into somebody else’s gaff without even a knock or a “Yoohoo!”

As tired and drawn as the world he now (barely) inhabits, Deckard cuts a haggard, whiskey-slugging figure, with only a dog and a holographic Elvis to keep him company. Perhaps Ford’s finest performance in years. 

That wasn’t a real dog… was it? 

Shame it wasn’t a sheep – that would’ve been neat. No, seriously, in the novel, Rick Deckard keeps an artificial sheep on his roof, and only takes the job to retire those wayward  Nexus-6 replicants so that he can afford to buy a real domesticated ruminant mammal with a thick woolly coat…  

“The question at Blade Runner 2049’s pulsating heart has no glib answer… With dazzling adroitness, [Villeneuve] has built on Scott’s legacy to create something grander in scope and emotional range” – London Evening Standard. 

What about the Soundtrack? 

There are no exceptional tracks here – nothing to compare to Vangelis’ sumptuous Blade Runner Blues, the sensuality of the Love Theme, the achingly beautiful Memories Of Green, or the sweeping grandeur of Harps Of The Ancient Temples – regrettably, the score is just as equally soulless as its artificial antagonists…

There is another unsettling observation concerning Blade Runner 2049 that has largely gone unmentioned in other reviews. In this post post-feminist “society” women can look forward – ha! – to not much in the way of beneficial or progressive roles. There are some strong female characters – who can forget Sylvia Hoeks’ “Luv”? Robin Wright is enjoying a promising upturn in her career – here she plays K’s superior: Lieutenant Joshi, in an interesting, but underused, performance.

Apparently, Blade Runner 2049 fails the Bechdel Test i.e. can two female characters share the screen and NOT have a conversation about a man? Morover, this movie just falls short of the Bradscribe Test, specifically: are there 3-4 lines cool or snazzy enough to be quoted herein? When you consider how the original movie positively brims with terrific lines and conversations, sill fondly remembered and quoted 35 years later…

The virtual love interest is brought to you by Joi (Ana de Armas), a hypnotic beauty, but then, she would need to be a top-of-the-range model distracting enough to make any man (or woman?) forget that they exist in a murky dystopia beset with biospheric collapse, child labour camps, distracting neon billboards and Jared Leto – blind, bearded and as bonkers as a bat – ruling the roost from his ambient asylum, inflicting poor, unsuspecting souls with his unintelligible pseudobabble. His (mis)casting as Niander Wallace is perhaps my biggest grumble with this otherwise captivating movie.

Tell you what: going for a spin in his spinner, tha last thing Brad (hopefully not looking as old and thoroughly dischuffed as Harrison Ford does here) will want is to be distracted by a 50 foot holographic ballerina pirouetting past the bally windscreen, thank you very much…

“Blade Runner 2049 has been made with impeccable craftsmanship and taste, yet the film is so terrified of disreputability that it renders itself dead from the waist down, unable to derive pleasure even from a theoretically kinky robot three-way” – Slant Magazine.

Will 2049 end up matching – or even surpassing – its predecessor’s revered status in the pantheon of SF greats? 

Well, no. 

Look at its core components: more bleak, more brutal, less memorable and less inspiring – can these really be considered to be superior traits…?

Certainly not. 

Those folks who reckon this movie supersedes the original are merely revelling (somewhat prematurely) in hype. Nevertheless, during all the time we were suppressing the prospect of a sequel, little did we know that such a wondrous filmmaker as Denis Villeneuve could even exist…

“You’ve never seen a miracle,” Sapper Morton mumbles before being wiped off the cast list. Considering how much the audience were fidgeting, yawning and groaning throughout 2049’s 2hrs, 44 mins (unlike the spinners, time doesn’t fly in this hazy, amber-tinted future), it looked like they were being hard-pushed to find anything exceptional in this languid concoction. 

Always keen to watch more sophisticated, less action-stuffed film fare, my patience, however, was awarded with incredible visuals, an extraordinary narrative atmosphere, and the golden opp of seeing – no matter how grumpy he looks these days – the Ford Legend grace the big screen once more…

In answer to the question: “would you recommend it?” it strikes me as being one of those movies absolutely magnificent to watch once, but fails to incite the urge to pay it numerous viewings. Guess one misses that rain-soaked Chinatown and those fire-spewing ziggurats of good ol’ 2019 a tad too much… 

Brad doesn’t know how long it will take to get round to watching Blade Runner 2049 a second time.

Who does…?

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4 out of 5 glittering C-beams, but ooooh, only just…

 

“I was quit when I come in here, Bryant, I’m twice as quit now” – Rick Deckard.

 

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Voight-Kampff Test Retaken: Blade Runner: The Bradscribe Rereview

Is This To Be An Empathy Test?

“Memories. You’re talking about memories…” – Rick Deckard.  

“Blade Runner is such an amazing movie. A mesmerising mix of sci-fi, action and film noir, it is quite unlike anything you have seen before…” were my words used to describe this seminal SF masterpiece, back in 1986. That school project required us to produce our own magazine. At last! Something to really engage my interests and talents.

The result: Film File – twenty pages, crammed with reviews and profiles written in different coloured ink – was awarded A+ by my gobsmacked English teacher. Blade Runner had had its TV premiere that year, and my VHS copy was swiftly getting worn out at an exponential rate. Naturally, consumed by Ridley Scott’s scintillating verve and vision – over and over again – when it came to compile this rag, Blade Runner took centre stage.

“Harrison Ford makes a fascinating lead character here,” my write-up continued. “The performances are particularly memorable, but it is the spectacular “visual futurism” created by Syd Mead that is sure to become the template in which all subsequent dystopian thrillers will thrive…”

“I’m impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them?” – Dr. Eldon Tyrell. 

Even now – with just two years to go before we reach the timeframe created therein – what can Brad write about a movie that holds a reserved place in his All-Time Top 5: honestly, one does not just watch this movie – you experience it…

But then, remember that yours truly is a Professional Wordsmith – it’s my job to find the right words, ma’am. 

What better way to begin than from the beginning: the opening shot of the imposing Tyrell Corp pyramid dominating the cityscape is sumptuous enough, but a seemingly mundane scene involving Holden testing a subject called Leon ends in such an unexpected, dramatic way, my attention was drawn in from that moment – still get goosebumps marvelling at its intricate editing – and the exceptional sights and sounds that unfolded  kept me hooked right up to its melancholy conclusion.

One of the quintessential elements to enhance the classic status of this sophisticated replicant-busting package is the synthtastic score by Vangelis. As the movie has fuelled its fanatical fan-base to ask numerous questions over the years, there is one particular poser that always fascinates my speculative faculties:  

Who – or what – else could have evoked better mood and enhanced the drama? 

Choosing just ONE track from the classic Soundtrack is challenging enough, but this one gets me every time:

 

My very own unique arbiter of good taste: my father, loved the movie as well – ’twas he who had to stay up (extra late) that weekday night in ’86 and record it, editing out the commercials (bless ‘im!)

The “Boy, have you got a treat in store!” look on his face the next morning is one of those priceless moments @ Brad Manor… 

Leon Kowalski (played viciously-cool by Brion James) had more of a profound effect on The Original Brad than on me. He really enjoyed quoting Leon’s lines non-stop:

“Wake up, time to die!” 

“Okay, OKAY, I WILL tidy my room already…” 

“What do you mean, I’m not helping?” – Leon Kowalski. 

And then of course, the main female character became equally iconic.

The fashion sense and hairstyle of eternally-lovely Rachel (Sean Young) added a distinctive 1940s vibe to these “futuristic” proceedings -enhancing that elaborate noir touch in amidst all that neon…

“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachel. 

“It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?” – Gaff.  

“Personally, the added unicorn dream sequence looks more incongruous than the original drive-away ending that consisted of outtakes from The Shining! If anything, this unwelcome addition looks like a shoddy outtake from Scott’s 1985 movie: Legend – an even more absurd anomaly…” so argued my write-up prepared for a local newspaper to coincide with the cinematic release of Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut in 1992. The then-Editor didn’t seem all that impressed as my Reviewlike most of my best material – never saw publication.

Thankfully, my opinion towards this sequence has mellowed over time.

“To me, it’s entirely logical,” Ridley Scott explained in a 1982 interview. “Particularly when you are doing a film noir, you might as well go through with that theme, and the central character could in fact be what he is chasing. You could say it is corny or not corny. Something is usually only corny according to execution. It was cut into the picture, and I think it worked wonderfully.”

Although filmed for the original theatrical cut, there again, meddling studio execs advised him to extricate the scene because it complicated the narrative even furtherWithout it, of course, the later appearance of the origami unicorn makes no sense. 

Part of the initial appeal was Ford’s droll narration. Never had a problem with it myself – was unaware that it was an explanatory device reluctantly added later. As a writer, it is understandable now: how the endless revisions and rewrites it had to go through became a source of irritation for the makers.  

Actually, what about that other question: was Ford miscast? 

Many of his fans thought so, and the negative word-of-mouth contributed to Blade Runner‘s surprisingly dismal run during its initial release.

On the other hand, his presence primarily influenced my decision to sit down, watch and have my life changed forever…

“Are you for real?” – Zhora.

 Gaff: “Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem, bitte! 

Sushi Master: “He say you under arrest, Mister Deckard.” 

Deckard: “Got the wrong guy, pal.” 

Gaff:Lófaszt! Nehogy már! Te vagy a Blade, Blade Runner!” 

Sushi Master: “He say you Blade Runner.”

Deckard:Tell him I’m eating.”

To celebrate its 25th Anniversary, in 2007, Blade Runner: The Final Cut was released. Working abroad where it received no theatrical release, it was just a matter of time before finally seeing what Ridley Scott had originally intended.

Strangely enough, it has taken another ten years before getting round to renting a copy of Blade Runner: The Final Cut! Just last month, in fact, intricate rituals had to be undertaken to prepare me for this superior sensory sensation. Yes, that same tingling feeling throughout is still there…

Future perfect? Perhaps… 

The most perplexing question: “Is Deckard a replicant?” has been argued to almost monotonous degrees among critics and fans alike.

For aeons…

Scott insists that he is; Ford has always denied this aspect of his character. Actually, look at it this way: it’s an aspect best left open and UNanswered; let viewers decide for themselves – very few movies possess the capacity to allow audiences to react in such a way. The point that people are still arguing over this issue 35 years later is a testament to the power and intrigue that Blade Runner has – and continues – to generate.

“We need you, Sebastian. You’re our best and only friend” – Pris.

“Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave” – Roy Batty.

That other oherwhelming question: “Should this classic have a sequel?” has always been answered from this quarter with a stern:

NO, A Thousand Times No. 

When news finally broke confirming the go-ahead of the dreaded Blade Runner 2, it seemed like such an abysmal admit-defeat scenario had unfolded.

However…

In the promising hands of Denis Villeneuve, who lavished the extraordinarily impressive Arrival upon us all last year, prospects suddenly don’t look so dire. Plus, unexpectedly glowing initial Reviews have trickled in. Some critics have even had the nerve to comment how Blade Runner 2049 not only complements the original, but supersedes it in terms of depth and quality. 

Uff, we’ll have to see about THAT…

So, always up for a challenge, your correspondent will give 2049 a go, and report back to you later in the week… 

Let it be said: Villeneuve  will have to go SOME WAY to try and produce anything to equal the original’s Final Act: still cited by many as the Greatest Scene in SF Cinema History – it is certainly one of the leading contenders. 

Honestly, how could we finish This Post without it? 

Tears in rain? Tears on my keyboard, more like.

Every time…

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“Reaction time is a factor in this so please pay attention. Answer as quickly as you can.”

 

“The Female Man”: Issues Of Gender And Feminism In SF

Hey Man, The Future Is Female…

“After reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s work, I began to think about how women could explore alternate biologies and societies for their benefit. That’s the sign of good science fiction” – Marge Piercy.  

“The enormous appeal of science fiction is the ability to change just one or two small variables and see what could happen,” says writer Marge Piercy, whose 1976 novel: Woman On The Edge Of Time has become a feminist SF classic. “Up until [The Left Hand Of Darkness (1969)] most science fiction had assumed binary gender throughout the universe. She writes of a world where gender is irrelevant and sexuality completely fluid…” 

Aeons ago, when Brad was… oh, about that high, there was an easy peasy way to tell the difference between boys and girls: 

boys loved sci-fi –girls did not = it was that simple.

Nowadays, of course, such a statement sounds so trite and patronising… not to mention simple-minded. Encouragingly, more than ever before, there is active female participation in science fiction, whether it be reading novels or comics, or – better still – producing a new wave of critically-and-commercially-acclaimed material. 

As this Post will show, not only has the number of female SF writers grown, but the genre has always had a healthy history of influential female involvement.

Recalling those longlost schooldays, it would now appear that those attempts by girls to run off with our Star Wars figures signified concerted efforts to break barriers and expectations and try to infiltrate this exotic-looking Boy’s Club. Back then, of course, the very notion of ACTUALLY TALKING TO GIRLS about comics, spaceships, transdimensional engineering and the inner workings of

Mennotor 430 Neural Inhibitors seemed so… far out – as unlikely as…

as BBC’s Doctor Who ever changing into a woman…

“I wish my successor, whoever he or she might be, the best of luck… I think it might be quite nice to have a woman…” – Tom Baker.

Having established that the Doctors could transmogrify into another aspect of this particular character, then there was no real limit to the number of Doctors or the sex of the Doctors,” remarked Patrick Troughton, the second actor to play this particular character (between 1966-69).

In July, the biggest SF news happened to be the announcement of the next regen(d)eration of Gallifrey’s most famous Time Lord; this year’s Christmas special will mark the debut of Jodie Whittaker – the first woman to portray the Doctor since the series began in 1963. There came a point during the most recent season in which the current Doctor (played by lifelong-Whovian Peter Capaldi) explains – to his gobsmacked companion – how his race long ago transcended the whole gender-thing, and you think – aha! – better prepare for something pretty unprecedented here… 

When avidly watching the series back in the early ’80s, this boy – who constructed his own sonic screwdriver, used his own wardrobe as his TARDIS, and brought Teddy Edwards along as his own companion (aah bless!) – would have baulked at the prospect of having an actress in the titular role; now, of course, that prospect is in keeping with the fresh and innovative nature of the show and should be warmly welcomed.     

But Jodie will need a truly exceptional writer to make her tenure work…

On the threshold of making SF TV history, Whittaker said she felt “beyond excited to begin” reinvigorating the BBC’s longest-running SF series. Certainly, Verity Lambert – the producer responsible for bringing Doctor Who to television screens in 1963, would have been absolutely delighted with this news…

“[The Female Man is] a wonderfully inventive novel – this interplanetary exploration of feminist inner space, this sophisticated, playful fantasy book is, of course, all about reality” – Phyllis Chester.   

“You simply can’t underplay how ground-breaking it was,” remarked Yasmin Khan – advisor to the “Into the Unknown: A Journey Thro Science Fiction,” a major exhibition held in London this past summer – referring to Sultana’s Dream, written as early as 1905, in Bengal, by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (then aged just 25). “Raised in an upper-class Muslim family, she was denied a social education, like many women at that time.” 

Appalled by the social injustice inflicted on women, she created “Ladyland”: a technologically advanced matriarchy where women monopolize all freedoms, while men are secluded in the “madana,” a play on the Urdu word zenana (women’s quarters).

Imagined futures, and speculative concepts – the very styff on which science fiction has always thrived – should be enhanced and enriched by adding female perspectives.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ is a principal go-to game-changer in feminist SF, conducting a powerful and uncompromising critique, both of society and the patriarchal framework of sci-fi itself. Her writing offers “strong, witty female protagonists whose understanding supersedes the status games and repressive obsessions that occupy the other characters, often representatives of far-future societies that parody our own.”

Apart from confronting issues of genger and sexuality, as far as publishers were concerned, the matter of the author’s sex – and her sexual orientation – were considered a hindrance at that time. Nevertheless, the novel helped to begin tear down boundaries not just in SF, but in women’s literature in general. 

Its status as an all-time masterpiece has been recognised by Gollancz who fortunately included in their SF Masterworks series. Thus, unlike the other titles mentioned here, The Female Man CAN be found in my local library… 

“Traditionally, people turn to science fiction in times of political crisis.”

Cue The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian noveland now Emmy-award-winning TV serialso timely and monumental, it deserves its own blog post…

“I’m a pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black… an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive” – Octavia Butler.

“Considered one of the most creative, unique, and innovative science fiction writers of her generation,” is how feminist scholar Professor Rebecca Hankins describes Octavia Butler (1947-2006) – one of a scant number of African-American writers working in this genre. “Never one to sugar coat our existence, Butler’s writing always centres on women as independent, fierce, and unapologetic heroines.”

Her work also helped eradicate the genre’s entrenched science fiction image as “male, pale and stale.” She created a shape-shifting, gender-fluid creature in Wild Seed; a post-apocalyptic mute in Dawn; and the determined daughter in the Patternist series.

Therefore (one abhors having to admit this), because she does not fit the white male norm expected in the genre, this explains precisely why this SF “aficionado” has been deprived of all knowledge pertaining to this marvellous talent for so long. Moreover, it is a crying shame that her gender and ethnicity have proved a hindrance to her seemingly-deserved exalted status among the SF hierarchy. 

As for actually getting round to reading her masterworks? 

Well, not yet… 

It comes as no shock to learn that her books are unavailable in the half-dozen public libraries near me…

You want Arthur C. Clarke? 

He’s right here. 

Itching for Philip K. Dick? 

He’s over there. 

Do they have Isaac Asimov?

Are you kidding me? A whole shelf is devoted to his sizeable back catalogue…

Dread to ask the librarians if they stock ANY Octavia Butler:

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have him…”

“Her works are an ongoing inspiration,” Professor Hankins continued: “…not only to black women writers, but to all of us to push the boundaries and imagine new fairer worlds.”

“Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen” – Margaret Atwood.

And while we’re on the subject of gender, you may be delighted to learn that – in the spirit of these enlightened fluid and flexible times – Brad will be changing gender as well. Henceforth, address all e-mails/Comments to Angelina.

Seriously though, an increasing number of media work is geared towards women writing exclusively for an all-female readership. Look at the subjects requested: history, psychology, sociologynothing gender normative about them. Nonetheless, in order to get more work in the online 21st century environment, this is the measure one must take to ensure a steady supply of cake in one’s larder…

*

Finally, let’s finish on an amusing – and thoroughly English – note.

That legend of prime-time evening entertainment: Kenny Everett provided the very first time this bunny saw any man in drag. They must have had a marvellous time making these shows – the production crew couldn’t help but laugh.

There are no SF-related vids here, but there may never come a more appropriate opportunity to show this classic sketch.

While compiling this Post, it was heartening to learn that Billy Connolly is due to receive a knighthood. 

Well, huzzah! Arise, Sir Billy!

Or should that be Dame…?

 

Electric Dreams II: The Return Of Retrowave

New Ways, New Ways, I Dream Of Wires

“My only exposure to electronic music before this had been Kraftwerk, but they were always trying to be machine-like… Then The Human League came along and their music had a human feel to it. It worked for me” – Gary Numan.

“One of my friends told me how genius it was that at the start of Cars [1979] there is just one note that stays and stays and stays,” recalled affable high-flying Electro Overlord Gary NumanI had to break it to them that when I was in the studio I started playing the first note and couldn’t think what to do next. I wasn’t a genius at all, just bereft of ideas.”

Ha! Such a self-effacing Overlord.

He paved the way for the innovative New Wave electronic pop outfits of the ’80s, who, in turn, have helped influence the current music genre guaranteed to lift my spirits: Retrowave, aka Synthwave.

Can’t go wrong wth a roster of retro vibes.

Thus, this selection includes just some of the audio pleasures to have sustained me during the last few weeks of alternating levels of creativity. Compiling the first instalment of this series turned out to be such a blast so this further indulgence was in order. Would like to think that you can find some gems in this collection that can inspire your writing too.

What better way to begin than with Miami Vice: the epitome of class ’80s TV.

Crockett is a consistently good Retrowave artist – and knows how to set the right mood when my writing kicks in – in fact, one or two of his tracks have single-handedly inspired pieces of my fiction!

With this vid, all me groovy ’80s small screen memories come flooding back; you’re watching and all of a sudden – @ 00:38: BAM! there they are: Crockett and Tubbs – woo-hoo!! The boys are back in town! Together in Electric Dreams…?

“…I was always convinced that electronic music wasn’t just another genre; it was a different way of approaching the composition and production of music. It was about the idea that music is not only made up of notes and harmonies, but could be made with sound…” – Jean Michel Jarre.  

There are a least three YouTube channels constantly loading new material on a daily base; the quality and diversity on increasing offer  is simply breathtaking – a mighty fine accompaniment to my working and creative sessions.

Such a gem starts off sounding akin to one of John Carpenter’s more creepy movie scores before transmogrifyng into something by Gary Numan.

Surely, that is high praise, indeed? 

This is glorious: 

I have heard the music of the future – don’t look for anything else” – Brian Eno. 

Cosmic!

Not only one of the most scrumptious words in the English language, it always presents mighty fine and dandy excuse to explore the good stuff – and escape from the bad. 

Synthwave is the only genre producing the kind of spacebound sounds that help Brad achieve just that.

From Turboslash to Turbo Knight – let’s face it: it’s these ecstatic moments of beautiful symmetry that keep bringing you back to Bradscribe.

Isn’t it? 

This track is accompanied by some Japanese anime – always expect the unexpected on this site!

LOVE the deeeep intro to this – far out, man…

“…I went back to the big, original Moog and did everything electronicallyIn a computer. In ’77… I suppose I helped modernise the sound of pop…” – Giorgio Moroder. 

“I get credit for being a pioneer,” Numan continued. “But you open a door and it allows other people who have got great ideas to come through and take it even further. You hear other people doing things and you think: That’s great!’”

Well, what an amazing door.

Even better – heartening, even – to know that a considerable range otalented auteurs of audio awesomeness have seized the opp to not only revive ’80s’ pop vibes, but draw upon that decade’s eclectic mix of SF movies (and their soundtracks!), videos and other media to create these retro-wonders. 

This week, one of my more intelligible spam Comments (for one of my comic reviews, of all things) read: 

“Built-in grooves to connect numerous units together.”

Yes, that is all it said…

Would like to think that some really snazzy built-in grooves have been assembled here for your enjoyment this evening.

This is another Synthwave artist who can do no wrong @ th mo – there’s no ace like HOME: 

Something new was in the air with electronic sounds. We were a younger generation. We came up with different textures” – Ralf Hutter (Kraftwerk). 

“It all began, appropriately enough, in science fiction,” wrote Jon Savage, in a blisteringly compelling exploration – published five years ago – of the development of electronic music. 

He went on to confirm a personal belief held for some time that: “…the possibility of other worlds – and the transformation achieved of leaving this one – is a sure-fire way of abstracting from any problems that one has on this Earth…”

At this point my text rambles into something utterly profound – but hey! – it’s getting late, and everyone just wants to party.

Don’t they…? 

“…Annnd it’s half past groovy – you’re listening to Bradscribe FM, beaming LIVE from the Cosmic Cakery across the Outer Rim Territories – playing the platters that matter on the station where the fun never stops!

“Get on the good foot, pop-pickers!”

“…On the wall back there is a black panel. Blinky yellow light. You see it? There’s a quarnex battery behind it. Purplish box. Green wires. To get into that watch tower, I definitely need it…

“I got one plan, and that plan requires this frickin’ quarnex battery, so FIGURE IT OUT!” – Rocket Raccoon. 

And if this Third Rock From The Sun is all too much, you can always escape with Brad into some right snazzy realms of the imagination.

Where else in the blogosphere can you jump at such a chance?

As far as the universe is concerned, we are but fleeting and randomly assembled collections of energy and matter, forever foraging for greater meaning in our lives…

(Aha! Told you he was going to slip something hi-brow in…)

The cute but courageousScribe may NOT hold all the unswers ye seek, but what DOES matter is that we don’t waste what precious little energy we have.

Sweet dreams…

“Keep your ‘lectric eye on me, babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!”
David Bowie. 

The Knack Of Scant Prose: Studying The Formula Of First Prize Short Stories

Can Brad Really Win That Short Story Competition After All These Years?! 

“Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves” – Ray Bradbury.

“Writing science fiction,” wrote Ray Bradbury, “is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.”

Winning a short story competition – one of the goals that has always eluded me – cannot, therefore, be impossible.

Having entered various short story competitions, mainly the sci-fi and horror categories – my hopes and expectations were set at exceptionally stratospheric levels, until realizing that my name never even reached the extensive Runners-Up Lists… And so, my tender years – and even more brittle confidence – finally dissuaded me from tackling short story competitions.

However, recentlyBrad Burrito Fartlighter: a decidedly English galactic hero, has shot to blogosphere fame in his very own “Fartlighter Bradventures.” Come on! Where else could you find the awesome – and hopefully hilarious – escapades of a very English spacefaring rogue who digs Mexican grub and cake?! One forthcoming instalment has been set aside – for professional consultation – so studying the art (and history) of the short story has taken up my time this past week. 

The short story originated in the medium that furnished a market for it: magazines. Common belief holds that the first exponent of this format was Edgar Allan Poe. The majority of the short fiction he produced appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger from 1835 onwards. He is regarded as perfecting the art of striking the keynote – by grabbing attention immediately with a sharp opening paragraph, or even just a sharp opening sentence.

At the moment, it looks like my ideas are flowing more reliably than my typing. Once a really groovy story starts to rock, my dexterity begins to roll. All over the place… 

While frantically pummelling the keyboard – apart from getting the ‘e’ and ‘r,’ and ‘a’ and ‘s’ mixed up, my fingers now hit ‘v’ instead of ‘b,’ and bice bersa…

“A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again” – Colum McCann.  

How – and wheredoes the effective short story begin?

“Start as close to the end as possible,” remarked Kurt Vonnegut, when he included a list of essential tips on How To Write A Short Story in the Introduction to his 1999 collection of magazine stories: Bagombo Snuff Box. He also remarked that: “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”

Within a certain (limited) word count, how much characterisation can you realistically inject into a “short” story? Fortunately, Fartlighter is gifted with his own band of lovable rogues: “Brad Company” – doing their nabbing-from-the-greedy-to-give-to-the-needy bit across the galaxy; therefore the diversity on display means that a rich and variable range of potential plotlines lie in wait. 

Besides breaking up the text with images and quotes, a standard Bradventure can amount to 2,600 words. Naturally, the more fun you have with creative writing, you will/can (easily) produce greater quantity. The Christmas Special turned out to be such a blast that at over 5,000 words and still TWO pivotal scenes yet to be typed, a major editing job had to be applied. Thus, my inner Poe was invoked: with less words, comes greater impact.

Sharper – and more economical – than a novel, the short story has to be vividly defined. 

Allow no wandering, no superfluous material – heck, prepare to hack without mercy. 

“A short story is not only smaller… not only simpler and more compact, it is single with a more intense concentration. It should work out a single idea; make a single point; close with a single ‘punch’; convey a single effect” – Geoffrey Ashe.   

Unbelievably, what vexes editors and judges the most involves receiving far too many submissions that offer just a situation, NOT a story!

To set my goals straight, these are the Five Components Of A Story that take pride of place in my notes, and what any short story writer should adhere to!

  • A story reveals something about the human condition, or makes a statement about what it means to be human; 
  • A story tests personal character, over and over, to reveal deeper character;
  • A story has subplots that are dramatic and thematic reflections of the journey of the protagonist;
  • A story ends in a different emotional space than where it began;
  • A story is driven by a strong moral component motivating the protagonist through the middle of the story, resulting in dramatically interconnected scene writing;

Perhaps some modern movie-makers should also study this list? 

Although the story may not have anything to say about the human condition, at least the reader should be able to derive some fun, be engaged, (be shocked?) and – above all – be entertained. 

To create a successful story – the One that sets judges’ pulses racing and jaws droppinga writer MUST convey their OWN ideas and style, to the point of remaking language; let the inexecutable unfold!

At least with my Bradventures, my imagination dares to be adventurous! It’s about time those judges experienced what my writing has become! 

Is it not…? 

“The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor,” Vonnegut continued. “She broke practically every one of my rules… Great writers tend to do that.”

Hmm, in order to get ahead, Brad has to break the rules? 

Ha! So what else is new…?! 

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water… 

“Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of…” –  Kurt Vonnegut.

Wish me luck! 

 

“Pardon My French!”: It’s Tremors!!

Nothing Like Taking Regular Trips Back To Perfection!

Earl Bassett: “I ask ya: is this a job for an intelligent man?” 

Valentine McKee: “Well, show me one and I’ll ask him.”

“I can’t believe we said no to free beer!” 

Brad can’t believe that it’s 27 years to the day since Tremors – one of the most enjoyable monster movies of recent times – appeared in cinemas. So, how about a retro-review? 

This is a prime example of a movie that sunk without trace at the box office, yet became a smash hit on the video rental circuit and is now regarded as a cult classic – still holding up with a respectable 85% on Rotten Tomatoes!

It’s not important that the origins of the (prehistoric?) crypto-beasties here – giant worm-like creatures nicknamed: “graboids” – are never explained, this captivating tribute to 1950s low-budget desert-based sci-fi-thrillers such as Them! and It Came From Outer Space boasts a stellar, better-than-expected script that works wonders in developing such entertaining central characters – who must be (two bums-with-hearts-of-gold) Val and Earl.

“We deny everything!”

Fred Ward is Earl Bassett, while Valentine McKee is played by Kevin Bacon – oh yes! Kevin Bacon!

No one handles garbage better than they do!

And they always determine which one is going to do something by playing rock-paper-scissors… 

A clever mix of action and humour, and along with its catchy old-timey harmonica score, Tremors alwaysno matter how many times you watch it! – offers a real feelgood movie experience. 

“We decided to leave town just one damn day too late!”

“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya, you bastard?!” – Burt Gummer. 

The “City” of Perfection is, literally, stuck in the middle of nowhere, consisting of three buildings and the odd shack or “mobile” home; population: 14. With the phones out and exit-road blocked, naturally, the sense of isolation accentuates the fear factor. The unprecedented action that ensues centres around Walter Chang’s Market. 

Interstingly, the monsyers – or “motherhumpers” as they are referred to – take their time before they get to hog the cameras. Gradually, in good ol’ monster-movie tradition, the tension builds; something sizeable and sinister lurks under the ground… Somehow, seismographs become scary(!) the boys are shocked to discover a nasty snake-like thing attached to the back of their truck.

“Goddayamn! What the HELL are those things?!”

Then the “snakes” attack their horses…

When the creatures are revealed to their full extent, for the rest of the movie the fx team utilize an impressive array of animatronics, puppets and miniatures. 

The appearance of Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) the “new seismology student” moves proceedings in a charming direction, especially for Val who’s been expecting his Dream Girl to just turn up there out of the blue! Of course, on the very day they decide to drive out of Perfection for good, Val and Earl start to uncover all kinds of crazy shit: that damned ol’ boozehound Edgar stuck high up on a pylon; slaughtered sheep; and a whole station wagon – with both its headlights and radio left on! – buried boot-first in the sand…

Makes a drastic change from their usual humdrum baloney-an’-beans lifestyle! 

They even get a chance to do a spot of pole-vaulting with Rhonda! Groovy… 

Among the unlucky fourteen, there happens to be doomsday prepper couple: Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) and his wife: Heather (Reba McEntire) with their own extensive range of rifles, sub-machine guns and flare pistols(!), ready to blast away at whatever bursts out of the ground…

“Yeah, but where do they come from?!”

Quite clearly, the cast had fun making this; fortunately – in one of those rare cases – the enjoyment is easily passed on to the viewer. 

“You didn’t get penetration even with the elephant gun?” – Heather Gummer. 

Tremors also holds a rather more personal distinction:

Honestly, yours truly does NOT NEED his own copy, for he can – and has, on numerous occasions – watched this movie in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Ely (the Cambridgeshire cathedral city famous for its eels – how cool is that?!)… as well as Palembang. 

Whatever mood/situation you find yourself in, whatever country you find yourself in, nothing can put your mind at ease quite like Tremors – one of the most universally-broadcasted Universal Pictures ever!

Almost ten years ago, having flown into Palembang, a city on Sumatra – Indonesia’s largest island – to present my research paper into that region’s “lost” pre-Islamic civilization at an Archaeological Conference, everything seemed quite daunting. As you can imagine: a lone, golden-haired stranger landing in the most remote – and rain-lashed – part of the Third Rock From The Sun; hoped the (non-English-speaking) cab driver knew the location of the (right) hotel; had received no confirmation that the moderators had received my power-point presentation as requested; and, ugh, too many more concerns to divulge here! 

However, that first evening – while the monsoon raged on into the night – all my worries dissolved as soon as a delicious dish of nasi lemak was delivered straight up to my plush, air-conditioned room from the in-house “ristorant,” and – oh yes! you guessed it! – it was really comforting to find Val and Earl saving Perfection once again (on Channel 38).

HUZZAH!

Valentine McKee: “Hey, check this out! I found the ass end…!”

Earl Bassett: Man! That’s one big mother...”  

 

“In Reflection Of How It All Came To Be”: The Saga Of J’Son, Meredith And Peter

They Talked, And Came To Know Each Other,

They Touched, And Came To Love Each Other…

“After all, he is Star-Lord… my finest creation… my one true moment of glory… how it has all led up to this moment…?” – The Master Of The Sun. 

“Our destinies, mine and Star-Lord’s, were first glimpsed when a craft alien to the planet Earth crashed in the Colorado mountains…

“Meredith Quill was the sole witness…”

Quite unlike anything heretofore seen in Marvel Comics, this “saga” is narrated by a benign and bearded humanoid known simply as The Master Of The Sun.

Ever since the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie enriched our lives in 2014, this has been The Essential Star-Lord comic to acquire! Unfortunately, it has become such an obscure ish; moreover, it has taken AEONS just to discover the title and the date of said rarity. And establishing the identities of its co-auteurs of awesomeness was something else… Curse your shorts, boy! Why, oh why, couldn’t you have remembered these details?! Better still, just KEPT the comic… 

Three years ago, most critics believed that Marvel Studios had produced their first turkey – taking such a huge risk, introducing characters that NOBODY had ever heard of before. Ha! Yet again, you see, they had underestimated Brad. To me, there seemed to be something very familiar about that name: “Star-Lord”…

Confusingly, in 1978, a (short-lived) weekly science fiction comic called Star-Lord was published in the UK, but it had absolutely no connection to Peter Quill. No, not that – pretty certain that the cosmic hero to grab my attention was indeed Peter the halfbreed. After an epic marathon of deduction, the ish in question just happens to be Marvel Spotlight #6 (May 1980). With a script by Doug Moench, and art by Tom Sutton: “The Saga Of Star-Lord falls well within my initial comic collecting spree.

In this yearlong BA quest, this proved to be one of my most elusive targets…

Instead, Future Tense – another science fiction weekly from Marvel UK – had to suffice; the Saga had been reprinted through the first four ishs (all appearing during November 1980). Incidentally, the front cover of the much-coveted debut ish features that now-classic portrait of Nick Fury In Space (by Jim Steranko) – but named here as Star-Lord! It has taken until just last month(!) to finally track down this particular monumental mag. (The original cover for Marvel Spotlight #6 was reproduced as the cover of Future Tense #4).

Here, on the classic page 3, savour the romance of how an Earthwoman named Meredith Quill found – and fell in love with – a man from beyond the stars. 

Ah, bless the Bronze Age!

Surely, there is nothing in today’s Marvel Comics that can compare with that achingly beautiful fourth panel…? 

“Whoever this is, wherever he’s from, I can’t just stand aside and let him die!” – Meredith Quill.

“Nine months later, a male child was born to her. She named him Peter Jason Quill and one night soon after his birth, for a reason she could not explain… 

“She took him outside and held him up to the stars.”

‘Tis unfortunate how J’son has “disappeared without trace,” relegated to further obscurity in the annals of Marvel history – and has now suffered the ignominy of exclusion from the movies. The impact of this misstep is lessened somewhat when you take into account that he appears in only five panelstwo of which he is unconscious! Following in the tradition of Marvel’s innovative series: What If?: supposing he had fought that space war victoriously, would J’son have returned to Earth…?  

Disgruntled at the realisation that he doesn’t have a father like the other schoolkids – a bitterness alluded to briefly onscreen during Vol. 2, at least – not surprisingly, Peter becomes a loner, refusing to play shortstop with the other kids; there he is, reading a Weird Science comic all by his lonesome…

Going for “long solitary walks”anticipating, perhaps, the return of his father – one day, amid dense woodland, the boy is: “…visited by a celestial light… by a miracle from the beyond.” Surely, unmistakably, this spaceship can only belong to ONE very special person… 

“At once terrified and ecstatic,” he runs home to tell Mom…

 

And take a look at that dynamic page 26 (the pen-penultimate page of this ish, below).

That first panel showing an irate trio of Ariguans looks oddly familiar; a feint memory of this scene may very well have lodged in my frenetic infant mind – “zheor,” indeed!

Also, get that middle panel: that should have been etched onto my brain long ago – such an ultracool pose by the adult Peter in his full Star-Lord clobber (but note how he is strangely without his trademark helmet throughout this ish).

Aha, and that killa line!

“I don’t think anything, “Ship.” I know what it is and who’s inside it. Don’t ask me how, but I know. The occupant of that craft is in danger. He’s also the closest thing to a father I’ve ever known…” – Star-Lord.  

“I have done both good and wrong. One has led to the other. I was entrusted with the ultimate secrets of science… A science so advanced it approaches sorcery. 

“I chose my path and I do not regret the way, though I do repent it.”

And so, The Master Of The Sun must prepare to relinquish his human form, having failed to fulfil the higher purpose expected of him. Yet he could take comfort in his sole achievement: turning a halfbreed Earthboy into the Star-Lord. 

As is the case with most classic comics: some really jaw-dropping details hit you on the last page. This one startled me:

“Know that you were to be only the first of an entire legion of Star-Lords…

to ensure peace and seek justice throughout the vast cosmos.”

Thus, the story concludes with Peter honouring the memory of the being who was The Master Of The Sun: by obeying his will “to accomplish good works.” “Ship” blasts off into space, sending the Star-Lord to seek his destiny among the stars…  

Ironically, this used to be the sort of awesome ish that made me speculate what it would be like if made into a movie… Now, my wishes go… in the opposite direction. For all the intricate complexities that modern sfx can offer nowadays, the best “blockbusters” play in our minds…

Perhaps we were all mesmerised by a CG-regenerated Kurt Russell but, ultimately, it is still a tad unsettling to consider how this… this non-J’son individual steals the show. No matter how enjoyable he made both Guardians movies – yes! What we really needed was a space opera starring a groovy fella wielding a Walkman!how…?

How can James Gunn justify fiddling around with a back-story like this?

How can a completely different Marvel character be presented in J’son’s stead?!

Are such revisionary tactics acceptable…?! 

Approaching halfway through this year and does Mr. Gunn respond to ANY of my e-mails?!

Does he fairy cakes…

Theoretically, one would be… quite flattered if another writer attempted to create their own Fartlighter Bradventure. 

Yeah-es, buh-ut…

Kill off any member of Brad Company via something as wretched as a brain tumour… uff, that’d be REALLY PUSHIN’ it, fella… 

Honestly, on some occasions, my viewing of the first film has begun by skipping to the point where distraught Peter is whisked off the hospital grounds in Yondu’s ship…

Not only is the opening scene JUST WRONG, but tonally too bleak to connect concisely with the otherwise frivolous nature of what follows…

And 10CC’s I’m Not In Love is my FAVE track on Awesome Mixtape Vol 1 – goldarn it!!

So… (catch yer breath ya ol’Brit loon, fercake’ssake…) after two Guardians movies, it seems an injustice that Miss Quill’s extraordinary story has not been sufficiently told on the big screen… 

Still, thanks to the wonders of Bronze Age comics – it’s out there (if you can find it). 

She enriched her life trying to save J’son; 

she sacrificed her life trying to save Peter… 

This is for Meredith…

“I just don’t like the character [J’son] very much. I also thought it was too much like a Star Wars thing because of the royalty and all of that…” – James Gunn.