Book Talk: December 2016 (Part Two)

Short Stories

*This here is part two of my Book Talk: December 2016 post. This covers the short stories that I read in December, and a quick overview on what I thought of them.

Compared to November, I read a whole lot more short stories than just the one. I read five short stories from four different authors on different sides of the speculative fiction genre; from the 20th century American pulps, to ones inspired by Australian aboriginal mythology.

The Return of The Sorcerer by Clark Ashton Smith

This was the first story I’ve read from pulp author, Clark Ashton Smith. I found this one in a collection of old stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. I have wanted to explore this author for a long time, and I saw this as my opportunity. The story, however, didn’t work too well for me. I had a lot of trouble following the story and I found it difficult to connect with the characters. It just didn’t do it for me and was not the introduction to Ashton Smith I was hoping for.

2/5

Once a Month, On a Sunday by Ian McHugh

I came across this story while reading a copy of Australis Imaginarium. I found it to be very well written and quite mystical, which made it a unique experience for me. I had fun while reading it, and found its Australian setting fresh and unique.

3/5

Night Heron’s Curse by Thoraiya Dyer

I came along this story as well in Australis Imaginarium. I had a lot of difficulty following the story to begin with, but I quickly came to love the aboriginal mythology themes mixed with the speculative. This helped make the story a lot more enjoyable for me. Most of the difficulty I had with reading this was primarily me not knowing who the protagonist was exactly. I forgot that in the end, favouring its strangeness instead.

3/5

Prey by Richard Matheson

Compared to the other short stories from the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection, I find it quite difficult to sum up with how I feel about this story. It certainly was frightening and had quite a bit of gore in it, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble trying to follow it. It just didn’t have that same kick like the other stories in the collection do. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though; in fact, I actually think it’s really good, and a good addition to Matheson’s horror works. It’s just only compared to the other stories in the collection, it felt a little bit of a letdown for me.

3.5/5

Likeness of Julie by Richard Matheson

And now we’re here: my favourite story of December. Like Prey, Likeness of Julie is also out of Matheson’s Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection. Holy shit, I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed reading this story. I really should start with how I really love the idea of horror stories starting out so sweet and innocent. The things that occur in this story, it’s quite brutal and horrifying to read, let alone even mention now. The story delves a lot into the idea of human sexuality, and how sometimes people don’t know how to control their sexual urges. This premise reminded me of the films StalkHer (2015), and Blue Velvet (1986), despite being written years before those films were made.

If you’re looking at an introduction to one of the greatest horror writers before Stephen King, then I recommend you read this story. It’s haunted, twisted, and sickening, three things, I believe, which make a great horror story. It’s also one of the stories which makes me remember why I enjoy Richard Matheson’s works so much, and why I believe the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection is a must-have for any fans of horror fiction.

5/5

No Man’s Threat: Death Threats against Video Game Developers

As a gamer, there’s nothing that annoys me more than a game delay. Seeing a game’s release date pushed back to me is like a failed date; just as you think you’re close enough they suddenly pull away. Despite me not liking them, sometimes a delay is needed to make a game better. This is where I see the developers care about quality and wish the make the game the best they can, which I find understandable. However, some people don’t see game delays how I do. Some thrash out at the developers, downing them and claiming them to be teasing them. Some even decide to use it as an opportunity to send death threats to developers.

Death threats against game developers, I believe, is a serious online and social networking issue in the gaming community. Whenever people outside the gaming community see this they get that impression that gamers are violent people, further making them think video games directly cause this. As a gamer, I hate to be compared to those people as that’s not who we are. They also make us look like a bunch of whiny spoiled children who crack it when we don’t get what we want. Having this doesn’t help our argument that a fair number of gamers are grown adults. Most of all, sending death threats through social media, in particular, is a sign of weakness. Does it really make them feel so awesome by threatening someone with death from behind a computer screen? Developers are people too and games are art; sometimes a delay or a tweak is needed to make it better.

For more on death threats against game developers check out these links below.

http://kotaku.com/death-threats-follow-small-call-of-duty-tweak-888324886

http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/games/no-mans-sky/41077/no-mans-sky-delayed-developer-receives-death-threats

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJaWpA9GFnE

Image link: http://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/vYVZabrC5BZb5tbEJNGfuU.jpeg

My thoughts: Oz Comic-Con

It was a coolish weekend in April and the clocks were striking nine. Some people were getting up to go to work while others got their chance to sleep in. For a number of people something was happening for them to get up at this early hour. They got up to go to the event held in the Adelaide Showgrounds; a little known event known as Oz Comic-Con. It’s a place where lovers of pop culture gathered together in all their nerdiness. Held over two days, Oz Comic-Con attracted people from all over the world, from the local comic book writer to well known stars like Lucy Lawless and John Rhys-Davies. One of those people that attended this event was this lucky person here writing this now.

I just want to begin by saying that I’ve not been to an Oz Comic-Con before; I’ve been to Supanova and AvCon in the past, which are similar nerd conventions. I wanted to go last year, but was over in China at the time and unable to attend. My reaction to my first Oz Comic-Con is WOW! This event was amazing in every possible way and certainly a place where I belong. The amount of things they had there on sale, and the overall atmosphere of the place was unlike anything I’ve experienced at the other conventions. I went in dressed as the Fourth Doctor from Doctor Who, and was almost besieged for photos as soon as I got in. I even got pictures with two other Doctor cosplayers; one of them bearing an uncanny resemblance to David Tennant. I managed to meet these other Doctors again by the Dalekjs builders, who had built their own TARDIS console.

If there’s one thing I love about these sort of conventions it’s the events and panels they have running. I went to a number of them, from a panel with Lucy Lawless to ones that talked about post-apocalyptic worlds. What I enjoy most about these events though is the numerous literary panels that are held. It’s mat these conventions where I can sit around and listen to authors in my favourite genres speak, something I wish there was more during major writers festivals. I learn a lot at these panels and find out helpful hints which help me in my own writing. Possibly the best part of these panels is that I get introduced to a list of new writers and stories. One noteworthy story I picked up is a comic called Maralinga. This comic is set in a post-apocalyptic Australia around 200 hundred years after the nuclear tests at the titular locations during the 1950s. I’ve yet to read it but I feel like discussing about it afterwards.

Perhaps one of the main reasons why people come to these conventions is the stars who they can bring down. In the past Oz Comic-Con had brought stars like Norman Reedus, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Billy Boyd down to Adelaide; this year was no disappointment. This year’s biggest star to attend was Lucy Lawless, actress from the cult 90s TV show Xena: Warrior Princess and new series Ash vs Evil Dead. I managed to get a quick chat and a signature from her, which is almost beyond awesome. I’d also gotten an opportunity to speak to fellow Ash vs Evil Dead star Ray Santiago, who as well was a friendly guy. One of my highlights though the whole day was getting a signature and chat with John Rhys-Davies, known best for his role as Gimli. I waited two and a half hours in a line from him and heard he was a bit of a talker. His tendency to talk made him even more entertaining and personal with the fans, which I like in a celebrity.

Overall Oz Comic-Con was a really fun and entertaining weekend. I loved everything about it; from meeting stars, to the fun, friendly, and safe atmosphere. I’m already counting down the days to the next one and can’t wait to see what comes next.

Down Under Horror: Talking about DECAY

(Please note the following may contain graphic content that may offend some readers. Readers have been advised.)

As I’ve probably have said before; I love horror! I love the feeling of terror, the nightmares that follow afterwards and the strange creatures that stalk us in the night. And as I’ve probably have said before as well, I love Australian horror. I’m a supporter of the Australian speculative fiction scene and there’s nothing better, in my opinion, than sitting down to read or watch one of our many great books or films. It was during my search for Australian horror that I came across the DECAY comics. Much like Wake in Fright, I discovered DECAY by complete accident. Much like Wake in Fright as well, DECAY has gone one to become one of my favourites in horror.

DECAY is a comic anthology series published by Adelaide based Dark Oz, who also publish Retro Sci-Fi (another series I’ll talk about soon!). First published in 2010, the series has seen twenty issues with, at the time of writing this, a new issue to be coming soon. The series is developed by Australian artists, but has seen help in the past from international artists.

I first discovered DECAY at my local Supanova, a popular culture convention, back in 2014. I walking by the indie stalls when the posters to these comics first caught my eyes. The art styles to the front of the comics reminded me heavily of the old pulp horror magazines of the early 20th century, and the EC Comics’ Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. It was right from that moment that my interest had been captured and I left there with a couple of issues in hand, thus beginning my interest into these comics, which has since then resulted in me owning most of them.

Ever since I first picked up DECAY, I took note of the quality of the series. A lot of love and passion is placed into these comics, which shows in the stories and art. It’s through this that I can see how much the creators love what they’re doing and how passionate they are to keep it going.

20160211_171446.jpg

(Some of the artwork from issue 18.)

Much like any anthology series, DECAY has had its fair share of the good and the bad. There’s been plenty of stories within the series that have wowed me in both art and storytelling, while some that have me scratching my head afterwards. There’s been times as well when the artwork in some of the stories has either been too crowded, or too superficial. Then there’s the in-between stories that I’ve read; the ones that have a good story, but not as good artwork and vice versa.

Don’t think I’m downing the comics by any means. As I said earlier, every anthology series has had its fair share in the good and the bad. It’s just natural.

I would like to spend sometime as well talking about one particular issue of DECAY that I’d have to say is my favourite from the series. It’s issue twelve, or better known as the CTHULHU SPECIAL ISSUE. I cannot begin to describe how much I love this issue; in my opinion, it’s got the best cover of any of the issues to have been released. Not convinced? Have a look at the image below and see its awesomeness. As you would suspect, this is an issue that’s completely dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. The Cthulhu Mythos is one of my most well loved mythologies within pop culture, and a comic of it developed by Australians only made my interest in this soar. There are less stories within this issue than others, but the lack of stories galore is overlooked by the artwork within. Want to see it? Head off now and go buy an issue of it now. Supplies of the original run are scarce at this time, but there’s a remastered issue that’s been recently released with all stories in colour.

20160211_170611 (Image: DECAY issue 12)

I’ve bought every new issue of DECAY almost right from they’ve been released, which at this moment is bi-annual. The eagerness of wanting to know what’s in next issue comes to me every time after I finish reading each one. Like a lot of things in life that happen by accident, coming across this anthology series has been a blessing for me. It’s allowed me to further fill my craving for Australian horror and given me something new to read. The pulp look and feel of the series also allow me to travel back to a time when pulp fiction was a lot more common. They also show off the talent Australian artists have to offer.

For those who are interested into looking more into DECAY, or wanting to get their hands on an issue, the link to their website is below. Australian residents can find issues of this series at certain comic book stores around Australia, or through the online store, which is found under the tab DECAY.  As for international people, best to contact to see if you can get them sent over since these comics are only printed physically and might be expensive.

Link: http://www.darkoz.com.au/index.html

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Cameron Lowe is an aspiring writer of speculative fiction. When he’s not writing he’s often either travelling the stars, slaying vampires, or being chased by dragons. His work has appeared in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times.

 

My Thoughts: Wake in Fright

Ok, I thought as this is the first non-introductory post that I’d talk about both a book and film that I can say, without doubt, is one of my all time favourites, Wake in Fright.

Written by Kenneth Cook, and first published in 1961, Wake in Fright follows John Grant, a teacher who journeys into a alcoholic and spiritual nightmare as he’s passing through an outback town on his way back to Sydney.

I first came across Wake in Fright back in 2014. I was doing a uni assignment about Australian horror and came across a clip from the 1971 Ted Kotcheff film adaptation by accident. The clips was only three minutes long, but it hit a note only a select amount of works in the past have. Seeing John Grant and Doc Tydon (played by Gary Bond and Donald Pleasence respectively) talking about sex, drinking beer, then go roo hunting in a 1959 Ford Fairlane got me curious about the film, and make me do research on it. It was in that research where I discovered the story was based of Cook’s own experiences in Broken Hill, when he was a journalist for the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) back in the 1950s. In that research was when I discovered its source material, which triggered a treasure hunt for it. Eventually I found a copy of it at a local book store and started reading it when I went away on a holiday. Topping that off I also finally managed to watch the film and came out of it almost completely changed. It certainly was unlike any Australian film  I’d ever seen.

So what do I think of Wake in Fright, and why do I consider it one of my all time favourite books and films? Well, I guess, when it comes to Australian fiction I’m kind of a mixed bag. Most of the Australian fiction I’d been introduced to before Wake in Fright had always been regarded as “high art” literary works, which I honestly find too pretentious and boring most of the time. At that same time as well I craved to try and find an Australian fiction book that was dark and haunting. Upon discovery of this piece I finally managed to fulfil that craving. I got a kick out of seeing John Grant turn from this sophisticated city bloke fall in with the wrong crowd and end up becoming broke and constantly drinking. It allowed me to also discover that not all “high art” Australian fiction is pretentious and boring.

As for the film adaptation, it’s a completely different tale. I’m a massive fan on Australian Cinema, particularly horror films. The discovery of this film came not long after I’d seen the then recently released Wolf Creek 2. Although not as great as the original film, or the prequel books (which are fantastic as well btw), it got me even more curious in Australian horror. Right from the first pan shot of Tiboonda and the music I felt an uncanny feeling. It was a land that was familiar to me, but at the same time felt different, more alien, more horrifying. Watching the film not only added to my satisfaction of discovering something new, but it also caused me to look at another side of Australian life.

My Final Thoughts: Wake in Fright, both the novel and film are a unique experience that I’m glad that I’ve experienced. They’re both classic in Australian literature and film, which I highly recommend to everyone. They allow a glimpse into the dark side of outback Australian life that’s rarely seen in books and film.

 

 

New Beginnings…

Hi all,

May I introduce myself, I am Cameron Lowe, or known under my online pen name, The Shadow King of Dawn. I’m a writer, a dreamer and an avid fan of Horror and Sci-Fi.

Why have I started this blog? Well, I wanted a central place where I can just talk nerd stuff all the time, share my thoughts on things and set up links to my previously published stories. What nerd stuff will I talk about? Well, just about anything that I find interesting or obsess about. Most of it will probably be me just talking about books, films, TV shows, games and music. Some of it may have me talking about outer space since I’m really interested in that stuff as well.

My goal is to post between one to three times a week on this site, possibly even more when I’m not writing my stories.

That’s all for now, I hope this gives a somewhat open idea on what this site is for.

Until next time,

The Shadow King of Dawn

07/02/2016