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Ripping Tales

ripper

Well then… that’s something and no mistake.

The picture above is taken from April Moon Books forthcoming Hammer Horror themed anthology Spawn of the Ripper. Every story in the collection is going to have a title page created by the talented editor and illustrator Neil Baker, all of which are designed to look like a retro film poster (hence the ‘directed by’ and ‘X’ rating).  Today I got to see what what Neil has come up with for my vampire-tastic tale ‘The Avenger Cometh’. This, I think, is the first time anyone has illustrated anything I’ve written, and I have to say it feels pretty cool to see someone’s interpretation of the characters. The April Moon Facebook page features a few other excellent illustrations for the other stories in the anthology, and I certainly recommend taking a look at them if your a Hammer fan.

As it happens, my writing hasn’t been going great recently. Due to an overabundance of the dreaded Real Life Stuff I basically have done nothing done whatsoever since April. I’ve still got a few sold stories to come out over the next few months and a few others that I’m waiting on responses for, but those are all stuff I wrote ages ago before The Block descended. ‘Avenger’ was actually the last short story I managed before the drought set in, so fingers crossed the boost of seeing this ace picture might be enough to get me going again. Time will tell.

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn, And So On

Not that I’m wanting to blow my own trumpet, but Alban Lake’s forthcoming Lovecraftian anthology has a fine table of contents…

The cover is pretty sexy too.

More information can be found here, on the editors blog.

The rather excellent cover to Alban Lake's Idolators of Cthulhu, by Michael Bielaczyc

The rather excellent cover to Alban Lake’s Idolators of Cthulhu, by Michael Bielaczyc

Oh, The Inhumanity!

WARNING!  HERE BE SPOILERS!  If you haven’t watched the last few episodes of Agents of SHIELD yet, I suggest you don’t read what follows.  Maybe you should go and look for some cute cat videos or pornography instead, or perhaps read the comments on a few Youtube clips – go on, there’s a big wide internet out there for you to enjoy without ruining your enjoyment of a rather ace TV show.

Still here?

Then let’s carry on…

I finally managed to catch up with the mid-season finale for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and I’m pleased to report that it was jolly good fun. The season so far has been rather excellent overall, I’d say.  It’s been a good mix of action and character development and for my money it’s been paced just right – it hasn’t moved so fast that it’s felt rushed, but it hasn’t descended into super-slow motion tar like the first half of season two of The Walking Dead, which is always a bonus.

The high point for me was the confirmation that Skye and Raina are in fact examples of everyone’s favorite Kree genetic experiment, the Inhumans.  Geekdom have long suspected this to be the case, but when the Diviner cracked open to reveal what were undoubtedly Terrigen crystals the theory was pretty much confirmed.   One quick bath in the Terrigen mists later (which are, of course, toxic to humans like the dearly departed Agent Triplett) and Skye and Raina are ready to emerge from their cocoons as fully fledged Inhumans.  This leads us invariably to wonder what special abilities our super-powered (and possibly horribly mutated)  butterflies will develop.  I guess we have to wait till the spring to find out, right?

Or do we?

I’m just spitballing here, but I think this episode may have contained some big clues as to the powers that Skye will acquire.  I know the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes some pretty significant deviations on occasion from the comic versions of the characters, but I think there’s a couple of interesting parallels showing up that deserve our attention.

Skye’s father (played by the ever popular Trey-From-Sex-In-The-City-Muad’dib-Twin-Peaks-Bloke) confirmed his name was Cal, and that Skye’s real name was Daisy.  This would seem to indicate that the good Doctor is in fact Calvin Zabo, AKA Mr Hyde, who in the comics had an illegitimate  daughter by the name of Daisy Johnson.  That Skye’s dad is Hyde is supported by his medical training and murderous short temper, so I’m pretty confident on that front.  Now, the comic version of Daisy acquired seismic superpowers via her dad’s mutated DNA and ended up working for SHIELD using the nom-de-guerre Quake.   Could Skye be shortly making the earth move with earthshaking superpowers?  She did seem to break her cocoon with a bit of boom, after all…

Also, let’s not forget that Marvel have confirmed that an Inhumans movie is in development for a 2018 release and given the interconnected nature of the Marvel products it’s not unreasonable to assume that the SHIELD TV series will contribute in some way to that movie, what with all the Terrigen action they’ve got going on.  But given the distant release date for the movie, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be getting a Vin-Diesel-as-Black-Bolt cameo on the show any time soon – the movie must surely be at a very early stage of development at the moment.  But there is a slim chance that we already have our first member of the main cast confirmed.  If Skye does develop quake based powers then comparisons to the earth-shaking Inhuman Royal family member known as Gorgon are inevitable.  ‘Hang on a minute,’ I hear you cry, ‘isn’t Gorgon a big hairy bloke with a beard?’ Indeed the normal 616 Gorgon is a burly hirsute fellow, but It should be noted that the MCU has been known to take a fair few cues from the Ultimates Universe (Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, for example) and I’m pretty sure that the Ultimate version of the character was in fact female.

So, is Skye going to rock our world with a simple stamp of her foot?  Will she be on the big screen in 2018 with a bunch of weirdos that live in a hidden city in the Himalayas with a teleporting dog?  Will she develop great big cloven hooves that will mean she has to throw all her shoes out because they won’t fit?

It’s a possibility, I think.  Of course,  it could be that I’ve got it completely wrong and I’m just spouting utter bollocks. Either way, I’m sure we’ll know more when the second half of the season kicks off.  Spring seems a long way away at the moment, but judging by what we’ve seen so far it’s going to be worth waiting for.

 

Edit 29/12/14 – A friend has pointed me in the direction of an interview with the writing team from the show that can be found here that came out shortly after the mid-season finale aired in the US.  It looks like I’m way behind the curve on the whole Calvin Zabo / Daisy Johnson thing, but at least it’s nice to know I’m right on that point.  It’s also nice to see words like ‘Terrigen Mists’ being used by the writers themselves.  And who knows, I could still be on to something with my Gorgon theory…

 

The Hate Triangle

I’ve had an odd little idea for a story bouncing around in my head for a while now, most commonly at about half two in the morning, which was a bit annoying.  In the end I decided it wasn’t going away and so I had a go at committing it to electro-paper in order to get the monkey off my back – the result is the following flash fiction piece.  I don’t really have any use for it or anywhere I could submit it to, so I decided to stick it on here so that it didn’t go to waste.  It’s a bit half baked and probably doesn’t make a lick of sense if you’re not familiar with a certain song by They Might Be Giants… but then if you’re not familiar with that song you haven’t really lived, so not understanding a short story is the least of your worries.

Enjoy!

 

The Hate Triangle

By Ben Stewart

I just wanted to be a hero, you know? I grew up reading comic books, watching cartoons… it filled my head with all these ideas about how the good guy in the cape got to save the world, get the girl, wave to the adoring crowds and all that…but those were just stories, right? I had a pretty mundane life for the first twenty or so years- average education, boring job, and so on. Nothing like those dreams of being a superhero I had when I grew up. I suppose every other kid in the world dreamed exactly the same thing. But then those kids didn’t have an alien artefact land in their back yard, did they? They didn’t find the Talisman of Nodens, did they? I did.

Imbued with the power of a thousand alien warriors who had battled unspeakable elder Gods from beyond space for countless epochs. Lost in the great war with Azathoth itself millions of years before humans walked the earth, the Talisman had been sent tumbling through the void, travelling across unimaginable gulfs – and it just so happened to crash down on to our planet and it just so happened to do so in my back garden. Before that happened I was a car salesman, and a bad one at that. But once I found the Talisman and it whispered it’s storied history into my ear and explained to me it’s awesome power… then I knew things we going to change. But I needed a name, didn’t I? Every hero needs a name. A secret identity to go with the cool-looking costume. But hey, I’m no writer, I’m no creative genius. If I was, and if I could have thought of a better name, then maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess. But as it was, I could only think of one name. The Talisman was a triangle. So that decided it – I’d be Triangle Man, the hero the world was crying out for.

Of course I hadn’t heard the bloody song. I’d never even heard of the daft indie band that sang it – I was always more into stuff like Def Leppard, you know? But it felt like everyone else in the world had had heard it, or at least they ended up hearing it once I’d been on the scene for a while. It didn’t matter what I did, people would just not stop referencing that stupid song. When I defeated Doctor Koloss at Düsseldorf and rescued that bus full of hostages from his Earthquake Labyrinth one of them said ‘hey Triangle Man, what have you got against Particle Man?’ as I carried the bus to safety. When the newspapers caught on it spread like a bloody virus, even to places where the song hadn’t been popular before. Last year I fought my way on to that Nazarkan battle cruiser that had kidnapped the Indian Prime Minister, and even he made a crack about me leaving Person Man alone. When I stopped Mako-Ra after his destructive rampage across the West Coast of America, I didn’t hear cheers from the crowd. No one shouted out ‘Well done Triangle Man, thanks for stopping the giant bipedal shark that just ate half of San Francisco’ – they actually started singing the song at me! And some wit pointed to the dead monster lying a few hundred yards away and said something like ‘now we now there’s definitely giants!’ As if it was all some kind of joke! Can you believe it?

Actually you probably can. If anyone can understand what it’s like, it would be you. You’re like me in a lot of ways… you just want to help people and make the world a better place, and what do you get? Smart arse comedians taking the piss out of every little mistake you make, right? Cartoons in the papers that make you the fool? You’re the most powerful man in the world – well, except for me but you don’t have the Talisman of Nodens – and people think they can just mock you without consequences. Some people might say that’s the kind of thing you should have expected when you ran for president, but I don’t agree. People like me and you – we’re trying to make the world a better place, and what do we get? Ungrateful bastards making fun of us. Ungrateful bastards who live worthless, pointless little lives. Unlike me and you, the guys who are trying to save the world.

That’s what created another triangle, even more powerful than the Talisman of Nodens in it’s own way. It’s what I like to call Triangle Man’s Triangle of Hate. You know like the fire triangle they taught you at school, the three things you need to start a fire? Fuel, Heat and Oxygen, if I remember. Remove one of those elements and you don’t get the fire. The hate triangle is made up of my superpowers, my good intentions and the ridicule from ungrateful bastards that take me for granted and mock me rather than thanking me for everything I’ve done. Remove one of the three parts of the hate triangle you wouldn’t get the pure, incandescent loathing that burns inside me right now for those smug bastards that keep on singing that fucking song.

It’s not personal, you understand? It’s the only way I can think of to change things. It seems I can’t be a hero, since no-one takes me seriously because one stupid mistake when I picked a name. But they won’t laugh at me after I kill you. I’d like to see them sing that fucking song at me after I vaporise the President of the USA. And that’s just the beginning. Once I’ve annihilated all the tanks and soldiers that have surrounded this place in the vain hope of rescuing you they’ll really get the message, I think. And if they don’t then I’ll just carry on… the city, the state, the country…

Fuck Particle Man. Fuck Person Man. Now Triangle Man hates Everybody.

And don’t forget what the song says… we have a fight, Triangle wins.

Something Good, Something Bad, or a Little Bit of Both?

I’ll just mention this now, but this post is more than likely going to contain great big fat SPOILERS!!!! for Marvel’s new intergalactic epic Guardians of the Galaxy by the bucketful.

PS – SPOILERS! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Still reading? Did I mention the Spoilers? Good. Lets get on with it…

So we went to see the above mentioned film yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. At least, I enjoyed it while I was watching it. Afterwards… not so much. Allow me to explain.

We went to the cinema because it was my daughter’s (we’ll call her K for convenience) 9th birthday yesterday, and she really wanted to see GotG. Like, really really really wanted to see it. She’s enjoyed other Marvel films like Avengers, Thor and Captain America and also really likes Agents of Shield on TV, so when the trailers started appearing I showed her them on the laptop and it got her excited for the film to the point of delirium. I admit, I definitely stoked the fires of Hype for the film – after all, it’s great when you can have that kind of shared experience with your kids when you’re both really looking forward to the same film or whatever. I was a bit wary of the 12A rating, but when thought about the other films K had been fine watching and I started hearing reviews describing it as a fun sci-fi/fantasy romp I reckoned it would be OK, so we headed to our local cinema.

Even before we got to the cinema, K was asking me if we could buy the DVD when it comes out. ‘Why don’t you wait to see if you like the film first?’ I said. She looked at me a bit funny, and replied ‘how can I not like it? It’s a film about a thief, and assassin, two thugs and a manic who save the universe?’ At least we know advertising works, eh? When we were waiting in the cinema my wife asked her what she fancied getting to eat after the film. K said Subway, even though she doesn’t really like the stuff they sell. It turned out she said Subway because she wanted to get a Rocket Raccoon bag or similar from their GotG promotion.

So in we go to watch the film. As the movie progressed there were a few bits where I was a little bit concerned for K – when Star Lord’s mother dies in the first few minutes, for example. She can be a bit sensitive with that kind of scene. Then the prison scenes were a bit grim, as were the villains. The bit where the Collector’s servant gets vaped by the infinity stone isn’t very nice to watch, certainly. Rocket’s and Drax’s back stories were a wee bit harrowing too, as was the scene were Gamora almost gets killed by Nebula. But K seemed to be managing OK. As I said, she’d seen worse stuff. I recall her clearly bouncing up and down when Rocket did his ‘Awww Yeeaaah’ line, and being very amused by the whole ‘I need his leg/eye’ stuff. She also seemed to like all the bits with Groot, such as his stealing the battery thing and giving the little girl on Knowhere one of his flowers. Basically she loved Rocket and Groot… and therein, I think, was the problem.

I AM GROOT!  SORTA!

I AM GROOT! SORTA!

So we get to the climatic battle sequence… and Groot dies (well, sorta) heroically saving the rest of the team. Not only does Groot die (well, sorta) he does so in a way designed to get maximum emotional response from the viewer. And boy, did it work. Doubly so when Rocket breaks down and sobs while holding a handful of broken twigs that used to be his best friend. K’s spent the entire film enjoying the antics of Groot and Rocket, and now one of them’s dead and the other’s howling in despair. This, as it turns out, was too much for her. Like I said, she’d watched stuff with adult themes before and coped – she didn’t even get upset when Coulson got killed in Avengers – but the combination of how hyped she was for the film and how much she liked Groot and Rocket ending up backfiring with a level of upsetness that eclipsed even dying E.T. And Gandalf falling at Khazad-Dum combined. Even the rebirth of Groot / Dancing flowerpot sequence didn’t really help. The damage had been done at that point and K was still sat on my knee all teary when Howard the Duck turned up during the post credits scene. When we left there was no talk of going to Subway or buying the DVD. We just went home instead. Her disappointment that the film hadn’t turned out to be her favourite thing ever was palpable, and I felt it as keenly as she did.

So, I thought GotG was an excellent movie. Good story, good cast, good action sequences… the lot. If you haven’t seen it you totally should (and if you haven’t seen it why the hell are you reading this? Did you not see the spoiler warning?). But K’s reaction to it has really taken the shine of it for me. She was just so upset and disappointed that I feel like right bastard for getting her excited with the trailers and for taking her to see it, particularly as it was her birthday as well. I felt rotten for not following my normal 12A policy of making sure I’ve seen the film myself before letting the kids watch it, but even if I’d done that I’d probably have still taken her to see it as I couldn’t have expected her to react like she did.

At the moment I can’t think of the film without thinking of her being upset and feeling like it was my fault. Somewhat irrational, perhaps, but that about sums it up at the moment. It’s not the first time something other than the quality of the film itself has influenced my feelings about a movie.  When I went to see Hellboy at the cinema I ended up getting into an argument with a bloke behind me who wouldn’t stop yapping, and the foul mood that the altercation put me in soured the whole evening. For ages I couldn’t try to watch that film without remembering the disappointment of the ruined evening and the ugly incident, though I got over it eventually. Hopefully it’ll be the same with Guardians – maybe a second viewing in the safety of our front room in few months will help K see that she really was enjoying it until Groot’s sacrifice, and that there’s still a happy ending after all. We’ll see.

And if that doesn’t work… well, I guess I’m going to be watching the sequel alone when it rolls around. And I’m going to be heck of a lot more careful with 12As in the future. The kids certainly won’t be watching them until I can confirm them until I can be sure they don’t contain any living tree/anthropomorphic racoon-based trauma, that’s for bloody certain.

Oh, You Tease!

I think I’ll skip the normal lamentation about my lack of posting that has opened most of my recent blog entries this time, and just get straight down to business.  I’ve decided to post a sample of my current project today – a novella that I’m currently in the middle of editing with the working title of Gideon.  Personally, I hate editing with an unholy passion though I accept it as a painfully necessary evil part of writing.  It’s nowhere near as fun as the creative and exciting first draft stage, but of course it’s just as important to hone that first draft into something that isn’t a shambolic mess.  I fancied taking a break from the editing and tweaking slog so I decided to post the prologue here in the off chance doing so will garner some useful feedback.   I’m still not entirely happy with it and am vaguely considering re-writing it from scratch (and I’m confident it’s still strewn with typos), but this is how it stands at the moment.

So does this sneaky little teaser leave you wanting to read more?  Or does it leave you wishing you hadn’t bothered?   As ever, any feedback is most welcome.

 

Gideon

Prologue

The woman was drunk. Very drunk. She was doing a good job of hiding her inebriated state as she strolled through Newcastle city centre without significantly staggering or weaving from side to side, but Gideon was not fooled. Even from his hiding place amongst the chimneys and pitched roofs of Grey Street he could smell the haze of alcohol that surrounded her as she passed beneath him. Gideon watched as she turned off the main street and started to head into a side alley that would ultimately lead her to the Cruddas Park estate, presumably where she lived. The woman was like many of the others out and about at that time – early twenties, considerably under dressed against the harsh October chill and intoxicated after a Friday night of drinking in Newcastle’s lively pubs and bars. But unlike most of her fellow revellers she was alone, having left her large gang of friends about fifteen minutes earlier. Gideon had watched her leave the group from up on the roof, and had heard her friends saying goodbye to her without any obvious concern about how she would get home. He’d heard her name, too – Anne. Gideon had decided to follow her, confident that given she was all alone she would provide a suitable distraction from the terrible, nagging worries that drew him to the city centre every night.

Gideon nimbly and silently scampered over the tiled roofs as he made his way along the terrace, keeping the drunk girl in his sight at all times. Gideon reckoned she had chosen a rather foolish way to walk home. While the back alleys were probably quicker than sticking to the main roads, they were practically empty of people and quite poorly lit. Who knew what kind of dangers could be lurking in the dark corners, away from prying eyes?

Dangers like me, Gideon thought.

The other problem with the back lanes of Newcastle city centre is that many of them look very similar, and even a lifelong resident of the city could get themselves turned around or confused about where they were at times – if sufficiently fuddled by alcohol, anyway. This had evidently happened to Anne, as she paused at a T-junction, looking this way and that and casting the odd glance over towards her tower block destination as she tried to work out which way she needed to go. As she drunkenly considered her route she had no idea that Gideon was crouched on a metal fire escape mere feet above her head.

This is it, thought Gideon as he tensed, ready to pounce. Any moment now…

And he was right. Seconds later a burly man lurched from his own hiding spot behind a shop’s large metal wheelie bin and grabbed Anne, slapping one hairy hand over her mouth before she even had a chance to scream. The man lifted her clean off her feet as she kicked and fought in vain, and made to drag her into the secluded corner he had emerged from. Gideon had known the man had been lurking there for several minutes now – the odour of cheap deodorant and whiskey was detectable by his sensitive nose from a hundred yards. Gideon been aware of the lurker before Anne had even left her friends, and had suspected the man’s reasons for being in such a location were nefarious. Gideon had followed the drunk woman in case she blundered into the trap, and now that the miscreant had confirmed he was up to no good, Gideon struck.

He dropped the eight feet to the the alley floor, landing easily on all fours, and grabbed the attacker’s arms from behind. Gideon’s long, powerful fingers dug into the man’s biceps with an iron grip, causing him to cry out in pain and drop Anne, who landed face first with a heavy thud. With great effort the attacker managed to wrench his arms from the crushing hold and turned to face his mysterious attacker, swinging a wild right hook as he did so. Unfortunately for him, he had severely misjudged Gideon’s height and the the blow whiffed harmlessly overhead. Gideon responded with a savage one-two combination to his opponent’s ribs, and as the thug bent over gasping for breath the body shots were followed by a backhand swipe that sent him staggering into the brick wall. With that last blow the man fled, making a staggering retreat on wobbly legs without looking back. Gideon let him go – he had other problems to deal with. The whole altercation had taken just seconds, and the woman was only just starting to struggle to her feet from where she had been unceremoniously dumped onto the cold, hard concrete. Seeing her move, Gideon quickly hopped into the metal bin and burrowed down into the discarded pizza boxes and waste food before she could see him.

Dazed by her fall and with shock adding to her alcohol-induced confusion, Anne looked around the alley and tried to make sense of what had just happened.

‘Hello?’ she called out, her voice cracking with emotion. ‘Hello? Where are you? I k-know there’s someone there… you just saved me from… from… well, from him.‘ she gestured vaguely down the alley. Gideon hunkered down amongst the refuse, staying as still as he possibly could.

‘Hello?’ called Anne again. ‘I know you’re round here somewhere…. please, I need help. I hurt my wrist when he threw me and I banged my head… and I think I twisted my knee, I can barely stand on it. Please, can you help me?’ Tucked away safely in his hiding place Gideon tried to ignore Anne’s voice, but even without his preternaturally sharp hearing he would have found that impossible. He couldn’t help but hear the pain and fear in her words… and she was asking him for help. Surely he couldn’t just leave her to wander away, injured, alone and afraid? And given he had saved her from being assaulted, and given that she was now in need of further help, would her gratitude for his assistance help her to be… well… to be a bit more understanding that she otherwise might have been? Could this finally be it, a chance to actually reveal his true self another person who’d see him from the hero he so desperately wanted to be?

Excited and nervous at the same time, Gideon leapt from his hiding place and landed in a crouch a few feet in front of Anne. She jumped at his sudden appearance but then froze in place with her eyes wide and her mouth slowly forming an ‘O’ of shock. Gideon smiled what he hoped was his friendliest smile, and decided he should probably offer a few words of kind words to reassure his new friend that everything would be alright.

Doan beee affraay...’ was all he managed to hiss in his guttural whisper before Anne unleashed an ear-spitting scream as she turned and sprinted down the alley in blind terror, her injuries seemingly forgotten.

Go Go Gadget Self Promotion

I might not be updating this blog as often as I should, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle of late; time spent not writing for these pages has been spent writing for others.  Those most excellent chaps over at Dagda Publishing kindly posted one of my flash fiction efforts over on their blog, a short piece with a bit of a mythos feel entitled Good Old Mr Clock.  If you fancy a read of it, just click Here. As well as my story you’ll find a load of first rate poetry and flash fiction on the Dagda blog – and all for free!

Actually, if I’m taking about Dagda Publishing while  in a self-promoting mood, it would be remiss of me not to mention All Hail The New Flesh again, wouldn’t it?  My short story Wireless Sedition features in this rather nice anthology that explores the perils of technology gone mad.  If you do pick it up and find it suits your taste, then you may wish to explore some of Dagda’s excellent novels – I can personally recommend The Dogs Don’t Bark in Brooklyn Any More  by Eric Robert Nolan or To Touch The Sun by Laura Enright.  I was lucky enough to snag these two in Dagda’s first birthday sale a few weeks ago, and I really liked both of them.

Go on… try something new, and by something new I mean Dagda Publishing. You know it makes sense.

Chump to 5k

I’ve noticed that a fair few of my friends are doing a program called ‘Couch to 5k’ (normally abbreviated to C25K) at the moment, which is a scheme for getting people into running for fitness. The idea is that the program is a structured plan designed by experts to build up a person’s fitness over a period of time in a manageable and incremental manner until they are able to run five kilometeres (three miles in old money).  This is, of course, an excellent idea and though I don’t have firsthand experience of the scheme it appears to be a sensible way of transitioning from an inactive lifestyle to being able to run what is considered a decent distance for a beginner. I considered giving it a go myself, as I’ve certainly let my fitness slip in recent years, but being a busy type of chap I wasn’t sure I could commit to the nine week program.  Luckily, I was able to use my experience of being an impatient goon to come up with an alternative plan for getting from ‘Couch to five KM’ which is much faster.    My version – which I successfully implemented last week – is as follows:

1. While sitting on the couch one Friday night, decide out of the blue that you’re going to run 5k the next day.  This is as simple as thinking to yourself  ‘Hmmm… I think I’ll run 5k tomorrow’ while you are sat watching Mega-Shark Vs Crocosaurus and eating a doner kebab.   Be sure to give zero consideration to your level of fitness or when you last did any exercise.  Oh, and don’t consult a physician either – those nay-sayers will only try to bring you down. 

2. The next day, attend one of your friendly local Parkrun events. There’s likely to be one of these excellent free events near you, but it’s important that you ignore the fact that walking  the mile to the race location has left you out of breath with aching legs.

3. Once at the event you should run, jog, walk, lurch and stagger your way around the 5k course in a godawful time. Don’t worry about the fact that eight year old kids and blokes pushing prams are overtaking you, or that you cross the finish line like some kind of wheezy, chubby zombie – as long as you manage to keep down the previous night’s kebab, you’re doing OK.

4. Well done!  You’ve just ‘ran’ 5k!  Now take a moment to catch your breath and relax for a moment while sweating like a hog on heat. Be careful not to relax too much though – that kebab may try to make another break for freedom.

5. Your shoddy recovery is just as important as your shoddy preparation, so once you’ve finished the race you should limp home and eat some high-protein, low-fat food – custard creams are ideal, but if you don’t have them available any biscuits will do.

6. You may find that you spend the next few days walking funny and that you struggle to climb stairs due to the fact you’ve aggravated an old knee injury.   This is perfectly normal and just a sign that you need to build up your ‘stamina’, whatever that is.  Therefore you should resolve to run regularly as this is rumored to  improve ‘stamina’.  This resolution should then be completely ignored till six or seven weeks later when you decide to give the Parkrun a another go.

So there you go – the Patented Ben Stewart C25K program. Why not give it a try? I mean, ‘why not’ apart from all the obvious reasons of course.  Or if you aren’t a hairy Cumbrian eejit and have time to do things properly, maybe you should look up the sensible version instead.

Though if the old saying ‘no pain, no gain’ has any truth to it, then I must have gained a hell of a lot from my version…

 

 

Samson and the Cast of Many Colours

Over Christmas last year the British TV station Channel 5 put on a fancy, big budget American mini-series about The Bible, with the rather imaginative name The Bible.  Being a fellow who finds that kind of thing quite interesting, I recorded it on the off-chance I would get an opportunity to fit it it into my busy telly-watching schedule.  The series has been lurking in my Sky+ ever since, as I struggled to keep up to date with my various TV commitments, but last week I decided to stick it on.

I know mate, I just as shocked by all the fuss

I know mate, I was just as shocked by all the fuss as you are

You see, I’m currently working on a pulp-fantasy style short story that’s sorta based on David and Goliath.  While I was working away on it I thought I’d stick something appropriate on the TV to provide a bit of atmosphere and background noise, so I booted up the second episode of the series which covered the whole Goliath incident.  The business with Saul, David and everyone’s favourite six-cubit tall Philistine happened to form the second half of this episode, while the first half covered the story of another giant – Samson, the Biblical Superhero who’s missus was the subject of a classic Tom Jones song (not really).

The guy playing Samson struck me as looking a bit familiar, so I set about Googling him to find out what else I’d seen him in. I didn’t manage to find that information right away, but instead I found a lot of stuff querying whether or not the producers were right to cast a black man as Samson. There was a lot of soul searching about whether it was ‘historically’ or Biblically accurate and about whether it mattered that they’d got it wrong or not.  There was also a fair amount of outraged invective about it being yet another case of  ‘affirmative action’ gone mad and protests that there wasn’t ‘any black Hebrews’ too.  One outraged commentator even claimed the casting was as crazy as casting George Clooney to play Martin Luther King Jnr, and went on to say he was so peeved he wouldn’t be watching any more episodes.  

Some of the posters on one of the blogs I read went to great lengths to argue that Samson couldn’t have been black – One of the best nutjob arguments I found is presented here from without editing on my part, so you get an understanding of the level of thinking we’re dealing with:

‘The tribe of Dan was prophetically the tribe that would become great warriors and be known as the people not of God. They would leave their name and/or mark wherever they went. This is a scriptural fact. The Vikings of Denmark (Danmark) were descendants of the tribe of Dan that was captured and enslaved. Now, when have you seen a Scandinavian that was black with course hair? The country Denmark couldn’t have a name easier to allow us to see where the Tribe of Dan left its name and mark.’

So the Vikings are Israelites that got really, really lost?  Oooooooooh-kaaaaaay. Sounds Legit.  That totally explains why Jerusalem was packed with blond-haired, blue eyed Chris Hemworth look-a-likes.

Now, in the interests of fair disclosure, I should make a few things clear.  First up, I’m not a Christian.  I am in fact, it would be fair to say, a card carrying Atheist.  As I’ve previously said I find Christianity and religion in general rather interesting, but only in the same way I find stuff about the Norse or Egyptian gods interesting – as mythology.  That said, I’d never deny anyone else’s right to go off believing whatever they want to believe as long as they don’t force their views on others, etc. etc. so on and so forth.  So bearing this in mind, I’m not going to get stuck into the fact that people were worrying about anything in the series being ‘historically accurate.’  Given the first episode would have featured the Garden of Eden and Noah’s ark, I would have thought historical accuracy would have been the last thing on anyone’s mind.  But like I say, I’m not going to get stuck into that thorny issue. Instead I’ll tackle two other points that occurred to me.

Firstly,  as understand it Samson could possibly have been black.  As our imaginative friend points out above, Samson is meant to be one of the descendants of Dan, who was one of the sons of Jacob who didn’t get his own song in Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I’m no expert Biblical scholar – though I probably know more about it that certain Christians out there, which is a sad state of affairs – but I do seem to recall that the Danites were meant to have some association with Ethiopia or North Africa.  Bearing that in mind,  maybe him looking African isn’t too outrageous after all.  And reading some stuff written by people who are far more learned than learned than me it turns out that Herodotus wrote some stuff that indicated that there certainly dark skinned individuals among the tribes of Israel. Either way, his skin colour isn’t explicitly stated in the good old ‘Good Book’, so black is a valid choice as any other given the geographical area and the time period.

At least they stuck a bit of false tan on him in the series

At least they stuck a bit of false tan on him in the series

The second and more significant thing that I found odd was the fact no-one seemed to be at all bothered that the same episode featured a Caucasian, blue-eyed Samuel.  Jonathan and plenty of other characters were played by European or white American actors too. Even Goliath was played by an Australian chap of German descent, and I’d wager there wasn’t too many people of that particular lineage knocking around in the Philistine army.  While Samson’s ethnicity might be debatable, I’m pretty damn sure Samuel wouldn’t have been a white guy with an upper class English sodding accent.  A picture of the actor in another role can be seen to the right  for reference. Paul Freeman is an excellent actor with a top notch resume of work (including the excellent role of Ivan Ooze in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Movie), but he doesn’t look very Israeli to me.

Given these points, could it be that the people complaining about a black Samson have a different agenda than ensuring the program is historically accurate?   Maybe… just maybe, might there be the tiniest little smidgen of underlying racism creeping in to people’s thought processes?  I know in this day and age it’s hard to imagine, but it looks like some folks still get a bit twitchy for no other reason than they think they they might be seeing  more people of colour in something than they absolutely have to.  It’s no wonder there was such an uproar when Micheal B. Jordan bagged the Human Torch gig in the new Fantastic Four film – it looks like some parts of the Christian community are just as prone to knee jerk bigotry as some comic fans are.   Though at least  the comics fans can say with certainty that their made-up character was definitely white originally, for whatever that’s worth,

Overall I think I can quite easily cope with Black Samson (and not just because that sounds like the name of a blaxplotation style Marvel hero from the 70’s who would team up with Luke Cage).  It’s not impossible that it’s an accurate portrayal, and honestly it just doesn’t seem to be a big deal given not everyone in any given Biblical epic will be of an appropriate ethnic descent, as you’d probably struggle to find enough name actors to achieve that.  And besides, I’m pretty sure there’s meant to be more important things for people to think about when it comes to Bible stories anyway.  Aren’t there meant to be morals and all that as well?  And didn’t another dark skinned guy who comes along later in the story have some things to say about tolerance and loving thy neighbour?  Like I said, I’m no expert.

Anyway, as it turns out the bloke that played Samson that looked so familiar was the chap that played Xaro Xhoan Daxos in Game of Thrones.  He also played a Pirate guy in the recent Jason Mamoa version of Conan.  Next time I want to find out what I’ve seen an actor in I’ll just go straight to IMDB instead of Random Googling.  Hopefully that way I won’t run into quite so much crazy nonsense in future.  Lesson learned on that front, I think.

 

Blog Infidelity

I’ve been neglecting my blog terribly of late, and to make matters worse I’ve now gone and cheated on it with another website. Those lovely fellows at Dagda Publishing have kindly let me clutter up their blog with a guest post about getting started in writing, which is linked here if you fancy having a look at it.

By the by, Dagda will be publishing a short story of mine in their forthcoming anthology All Hail The New Flesh which will hopefully be released next month.  If you have a thing for harrowing tales of technology gone mad it may be right up your alley.