Showing posts from 2017


Afterwords from B4 films on Vimeo.
The connection between science fiction and (eerie) landscape is one that my colleague Bruce Bennett and I were keen to investigate when we were making Afterwords, a short film about a young woman traversing an empty, post-peak oil landscape. In particular, we use both visible signs of human presence in landscape, connected with energy infrastructure and networks: wind farms, pylons, power stations. The soundtrack we composed refers directly to modes of music identified with an electric modernity: Kraftwerk (another ‘power station’), analogue synths, glitches, electric white noise and hum. It’s not the kind of electronic distillation of the sound of folk horror and hauntology identified by Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher in the work of The Advisory Circle, The Focus Group and Belbury Poly, all on the Ghost Box label. Belbury Poly’s name, of course, refers to CS Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, a novel at the science fantasy/ planetary romance end of the …

Fantastika (and After)

Having returned home from this year's Fantastika conference, organised by my (now former) PhD student Chuckie Palmer-Patel, I feel tired but invigorated by the papers and talks I heard, and also much heartened by the supportiveness and engagement in evidence among those new to the conference and those who (like me) returned for its fourth year. That's been the mode of the Fantastika conference from its inception some four years ago, and the community that Chuckie has helped build up at Lancaster and elsewhere, where scholars of science fiction, fantasy, Gothic and the Weird can come together and talk across and between different modes in a fruitful conversation.

This year's conference, for me, has also been coloured by a kind of wistfulness as Chuckie is leaving the UK and returning to Canada, to Edmonton in Alberta. Chuckie's always been a source of great energy and purpose since she arrived at Lancaster. Chuckie's vim and vigour meant I always had a lot to read,…

Post(card)s to Morecambe

A few years ago now, I attended an event in and about Morecambe, and later wrote a blog post about it. Next week I'll be going again for a related gathering of colleagues called Sandscapes, and in thinking about it I looked through past work to see how often I'd looked at the sea, seaside or the beach in my own work. It appeared more often than I thought.

I grew up by the sea, if one calls Estuary Essex the seaside: Leigh-on-Sea, Westcliff-on-Sea and Southend-on-Sea certainly think they do. The water is certainly briny, the expanse of water broad, the air full of the tang of salt. True, you can see the North Kent coast, or the Isle of Sheppey, on a good clear day. It's not the wide Atlantic, nor yet the cold North Sea where my forebears fished for oysters, up the Essex coast at Tollesbury; but I do feel like I have salt water in my veins, and though I now live in the Welsh hills and mountains, the sea always calls me away from the uplands.

Here, then, a four postcards whic…

A rich man in a poor man's shirt (Springsteen part 2)

In 1984, Bruce Springsteen released Born in the USA, which broke him as a major star in Britain. I’ve never been a particular fan of the title song, nor of ‘Dancing in the Dark’, and the latter seemed to anticipate a wider shift in the charts to an American pop and AOR that I had no love for. Two of my formative music shows of the early 1980s, The Tube and Whistle Test, both eclectic and with regular live performances, were soon to be cancelled, the latter in favour of a horrid Jonathan King confection called No Limits, full of pap. I remember hearing people on the radio who had been to Springsteen’s live shows and were wowed, but the rhetoric of ‘the Boss’ put me off. That is, until I heard ‘I’m on Fire’ on Top of the Pops, when it showed a couple of minutes of the video as it became a minor hit. And I thought: this is subtle, especially compared to the bombast of ‘Born in the USA’; I liked the dark persona, the spare instrumentation of ticking rim- shots and picked guitar. And I th…

Black and White

I’ll start this post with Roy Orbison, though it isn't really about him. On 30 September 1987, along with contemporary luminaries Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, kd lang, Bonnie Raitt, and Elvis’s TCB Band, Orbison gave a concert to a select crowd of celebrity fans and well-wishers at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles. It would be broadcast early in the new year as Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night, and it was indeed shot in black and white. I remember it well, not least because my Dad was quite a fan of the ‘Big O’ and I’m pretty sure I would have watched the concert with my folks when it was broadcast in the UK, when I was home from university. Most of the songs are now on YouTube and look, and sound, wonderful, Orbison’s voice at age 51 as powerful and smooth as in his prime. And what a prime that was: from 1961 to 1965 he had hit after hit after hit in the UK and the US, culminating in ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’, his most famous number, which sp…