Sunday, October 23, 2016

Legend (1985) #movie

A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from both destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves.

Every once in a while I have that one film or book or something or other that I've been meaning to read or watch for simply ages that I've just never gotten round to. Legend, the 1985 film directed by Ridley Scott, was one of them.

I've watched pretty much all the important 1980s fantasy films – Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, Willow, Highlander, Ladyhawke... Just not Legend. And always, my husband said to me, "No, really, it's crap. Don't."

I never listen to him.

I eventually got my way to see the film on Netflix. I regret that I will not be able to get the 125 minutes of my life back. As much as I do attempt to give films the benefit of the doubt, I couldn't help but wonder, the entire time that I was watching, whether Scott and his crew had been taking some really mean hallucinogenics while in production.

Yes, this is a quest Рyoung dude Jack (Tom Cruise in a really, really risqu̩ golden tunic that leaves very little to the imagination) goes to rescue the princess Lily. There are unicorns. Tim Curry, of course, steals the show as what appears to be Hellboy's grandpappy. There are dwarves too. And Tinkerbell. Oh, did I mention unicorns?

In fact, everything hinges on the unicorns that will act as a sacrifice to ring in Eternal Darkness. Muhahahahahahaha.

Nothing makes sense while our intrepid, nattily garbed young hero prances about in his gilded togs waving a sword he clearly has no idea how to use. There was one, weird scene where a dark Lily dances with the Evil Overlord, which I thought was quite pretty and surreal, but as for the rest – I suspect it will make more sense to three-year-olds who've grown up on a fare of The Magic Roundabout and Teletubbies.

And seriously? What the ever-living fuck was with all the glitter? Glitter EVERYWHERE? The cast and production crew must've found glitter in their pubes for weeks after. Glitter is insidious that way. I suspect this film must've resulted global '85-'86 Glitter Shortage.

The blurb sums up this hot mess of a fantasy cinema entirely. I'd rather watch YouTube clips spliced together from the Tim Curry scenes again than ever endure this disjointed, cobbled-together "let's attempt epic fantasy though we don't have the first clue how the hell to make it work".

I guess if you're tripping off your tits, this film will be amazeballs, but alas I'll not be tripping off my tits again anytime soon and life's too short to endure something that left me feeling a whole lot of what the fuck.

Last Wish & The Gulf by Poppy Z Brite

Title: Last Wish & The Gulf
Author: Poppy Z Brite

There are very few authors in the world who'll immediately make me drop everything I'm doing to go and purchase and read their work immediately, and Poppy Z Brite is one of them. Brite's writing was HUGELY influential on me when I was younger. He's not so much heavy on plot but more on atmosphere and description, with settings that are so tangible, you can smell the miasma of the river water and feel the stickiness of the grains of sand while you walk along the banks.

These two sort stories represent and ending and a beginning (I hope) as Brite hasn't released new fiction for a decade. "The Gulf" was the last piece he worked on before he went on a hiatus, and examines the sense of place that creeps into a person. Mired in nostalgia, it evokes environment and personal nostalgia in the aftermath of Katrina.

"Last Wish" is a deceptively simple flash piece with a wicked little hook at the end that made me gasp in delighted horror. It's short, it's nasty and it's *tight* and I truly hope that this marks the author's return to writing because this piece is *good*. The writing is tighter, has more punch than older works but features all the characteristic mood.

Brite remains my go-to for descriptive writing that paints a vivid, visceral environment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In Conversation with Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso

An anthology that's worth looking out for when it comes for available, Lights Out: Resurrection features a crop of African authors of horror and dark speculative fiction, edited by Wole Tabali. Today I welcome Ezeiyoke Chukwunoso for a little Q&A.

I realise we know very little about each other. Tell me more about you and what you love writing.

I am Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, a charter member of African Speculative Society. My collection of short stories, Haunted Grave and Other Stories was published by Parallel Universe Publications during August this year. Prior to that, I have published stories in anthologies such as Emanation: 2+2=5, Emanation: Foray into Forever, Future Lovecraft, Lost Tales from the Mountain: Halloween Anthology Vol. II., African Roar and in so many other places. I was shortlisted in IdeasTap Inspires: Writers' Centre Norwich Writing competition, Ghana Poetry Prize, and Quickfox Poetry Competition. 

I love to write horror, fantasy and science fiction stories although not hard sci-fi. I write literary fiction too but tend to love genre fiction more.

Apart from fiction writing, I am a literary critic and I investigate literature with the lens of a philosopher. I developed a penchant for this during my BA where I majored in philosophy. I discovered that most of contemporary African Literature is useful, functionalist. It is an art that has a socio-political or anthropological relevance. If it did not tend to fight colonialism, it was post-colonialism or it was written with a moral education in view. Practically, art for art's sake, aestheticism was an endangered species. Critics like Achebe, Senghor, Ngugi wa Thiong’o favoured this. Achebe said ‘I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them. Perhaps what I write is applied art as distinct from pure. But who cares?’ And I discovered that that sort of metaphysical assumption made literature predictable and more so hindered aestheticism and the development of genre fiction in Africa for a long time. My writing and research were to propose a better metaphysical assumption that will foster the growth of literature in which art for art sake is prior to functionalism. I have published essays about this in Episteme Journal, and Savvy Journal of Contemporary African Arts.

How does living in Africa inform your writing? Tell me more about your environment, and a day in your life. 

Most of my stories are based in Enugu State in Nigeria where I grew up. In as much as fiction relies on the imagination, I often like to write about setting I am familiar with, a place I can manipulate. I like to have a strong sense of a place in my writing. Apart from the setting, my writing is often influenced by the oral and mythical thoughts of the Igbo people in Nigeria, mainly with regard to religion. I have been fascinated with religion since I was a child, once I was in the seminary hoping to become a Catholic priest. *Laughing* Religion in Nigeria and its superstition still hooks me more than ever although now intellectually. And it is this superstition and the fear inherent in it that I explore often in my horror or fantasy writing.

I currently live in Manchester. My house is near a park. I love the park. I often sit there watching people playing with their dogs. I am still wondering why I haven’t owned a dog yet.
What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading Making Wolf by Tade Thompson. I recently reviewed his Rosewater and I fall in love with his writing especially the pacing, quick page turning. Azanian Bridges by Nick Wood is what I am currently reading whenever I am commuting on the bus. I like reading on the bus, makes the journey quicker. I will be reviewing it soon. I just finished reading Dark Lullaby by Jessica Palmer, I am writing the review currently. Horrorology edited by Stephen Jones is on my bedside. I read bits of it to sleep.

Tell us more about your story as it appears in Lights Out: Resurrection.

"Eaters of Flesh" was inspired by a real event. A relative was undergoing a depression that came with some mental issue. There was this allusion among her family members that what was wrong with her was a demonic attack. Seeking for a scientific medical aid was taken out of the option. Anyway, she later met a psychologist, had a professional help and recovered. The incident, however, stayed with me and formed the basis for the story, "Eaters of Flesh".  The story appeared first in my short story collection, Haunted Grave and Other Stories

What are you writing at the moment?

I am working on my debut novel. The first chapter of the novel actually is the story that appeared in the Lights Out: Resurrection. In between the novel, I research on my philosophical essays on literature. I am writing a couple of short stories too. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

In Conversation with Raymond Elenwoke

I've recently had the pleasure of being included in a horror anthology of fabulous African authors, Lights Out: Resurrection that was edited by Wole Talabi, so I thought I'd take a little time to get to know my fellow authors. Today it's Raymond Elenwoke who's over for a little Q&A...

I realise we know very little about each other. Tell me more about you and what you love writing.

My name is Raymond Elenwoke, and I am a Nigerian writer. I am also an auditor and financial consultant, currently residing in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. I love writing stories that explore a variety of genres, mainly horror, thriller, speculative fiction and sci-fi.

How does living in Africa inform your writing? Tell me more about your environment, and a day in your life.

For me, the phrase “living in Africa” feels very vague, because Africa is too big and diverse to be classified as a single place. I live in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Nigeria, and even then, living there is very different from living in, say, Elele, in the same Rivers State, because these towns/cities have very distinct personalities.

Having said that, living in Port Harcourt is an exercise in patience, both with yourself and your environment. This has affected my writing in more ways than one. In the sense that I am (still) learning to infuse the identity of the town I set my stories into the story, no matter the genre. My environment helps inform my thinking, both in terms of character development and in terms of setting. Being someone who learned his trade from consuming books and writing advice from foreign (Western) authors/movies, living in Port Harcourt helps me realise that the police procedures in Phoenix, Arizona or Luton, United Kingdom are very different from the police procedures in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. This helps me also realise that my characters will have certain challenges unique to not just the environment in which I set them, but also unique to the culture of the place AND time the story is set in.

My environment is quite dynamic. I may start the day at my desk and end it in a client’s office halfway across town, or in class, studying for my professional exams. My day usually starts at about 4.30 am, and after my morning devotion, I have to study for a bit before training/exercising for a few minutes, and then leaving the house for work. If I get to work early enough, I can write a bit, if not I have to wait until the close of work to be able to let my imagination run wild. In between this, when I am on break I could read a story or two, or watch a show to relax.

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment, I am studying for the final round of my professional exams, so this has limited my literature reading time. However, one I am reading now is Breakers by Edward W Robertson, which is a surprisingly good book about the end of the world. Before this I read the amazing Doctor Sleep by the effervescent Stephen King, and I also reviewed the excellent Rosewater by Tade Thompson, published by Apex Publications, the smartest story about an alien invasion I have ever come across. Pre-order it as it comes out in November 15, 2016. You can read my review of it here.

So is it courage or strength, And is that what I’m waiting for… I once said Rosewater would make me wax lyrica...

In addition to my professional reading, I am reading, you guessed it, Lights Out: Resurrection. Amazing collection. Seriously.

Tell us more about your story as it appears in Lights Out: Resurrection.

My story is titled "Koi-Koi". The title is derived from the sound any person who attended Boarding School in Nigeria will most likely recognise. The story revolves around Lady Koi Koi, the Secondary School Legend.

When I was approached to write a story for the collection, I had no idea what I was going to write, to be honest. I saw the email on Monday morning at the office, and realised that I had until Friday to write and submit a story. Even though I had nothing, I joyfully accepted the story, because I had been waiting for the literary event. I had a story that had been swimming beneath the surface,so I started writing. 80% into the story and about two to the deadline, I realised this was not the story for the collection, so I left it unfinished, and spent most of the day letting the story tell itself to me. When it was ready, I set about discovering it.

Koi-Koi is an imagining of origin of the Lady Koi Koi mythos, because why not? When I first heard the tale, all I could picture were legs in a pair of black heels. No body. Just from the knees down. There were more ghostly/supernatural tales from my time to choose from, but this one…this one had a silent menace about it. You always seemed to hear it, only in the dark, only at night, but you never saw it. Those who did…well, I would imagine they were either dead or too far gone t really tell us about their experience….

*sinister laugh*

What are you writing at the moment?

At the moment, I am working on a number of projects.

First off I am working on a serial story I started writing when I was studying in London a few years back. It is time for the story to come home.

I am also working jointly on a project with another amazing writer friend of mine, Seun Odukoya. The project involves Sango and Amadioha, the Yoruba and Igbo gods of thunder.

I am also finishing my novel, Rising Night, a story that has detectives, angels, demons and yes, ninjas.