Book Talk: November 2016

Wow, what a month November was! We lost Shepard Book, saw the release of the NES Classic Mini, and witnessed an event that’s going to make dystopian fiction popular for another four years. With those aside, it was quite an unusual month for me in reading terms. Since I uploaded the last Book Talk there have been two events in my hometown which have increased the size of my already bursting library. Those were: Halloween Comic-Con and Supanova. It’s at these events that I got to talk with Australian comic book creators and writers of speculative fiction. My reading for this month was more set to Australian speculative fiction due to this influx of new books.

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Image: Just some of the books and comic books I picked up at Halloween Comic-Con and Supanova

Novels

Wake by Elizabeth Knox

It took me longer than expected, but I finally finished reading Wake this month. In the end this novel had a lot of interesting things in here, but I had a lot of trouble following it. I guess it just got a little confusing in the end for me, almost as though it was trying to be much more than what it should’ve been. There was just a lot going on the end between all the characters and it felt a little too cramped for me.

What I did like about this story was how it reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, only done in New Zealand. The backstory for some of the characters was interesting as well, and there are some interesting twists in this book. These alone is why I’ll recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading something different.

For more about what I thought, check out my earlier opinion here.

Vigil by Angela Slatter

Angela Slatter visited my university a couple of years ago, and I really enjoyed her blend of horror and fairy tales. It’s from this that I came to pick up Vigil, her first solo novel. Vigil is about a woman named Verity Fassbinder, a mixture of a human and a Weyrd who does what she can to keep the peace between the two races. This story is set in a fictional version of Brisbane, known more commonly in the story as Brisneyland.

As from writing this, I’m at page 263 of 351 of my edition and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. The story and characters remind me a lot of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, and the combination of real life and mythological creatures is enjoyable to read. What I love most about it though is how it is all set in Australia, something that I enjoy seeing in speculative fiction. I also like how the author portrays Brisbane in this romantic sort of way, while demonising the Gold Coast, a famous holiday destination south of Brisbane.

Verity, the main character, is someone too who I find a connection with. She’s an outcast of society because of her mixed blood origins. The backstory to her life and how the other characters see her is very interesting and helps in connecting with her. I also came to dislike particular characters as well because of their style of living, or through what Verity says about them.

Even though I haven’t quite finished reading it, Vigil is a book that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. If you liked The Wolf Among Us, enjoy detective stories with a twist, or something unusual then this is a book for you.

Short Stories

Kisses with Teeth by Allan Chen

My short story reading in November wasn’t great, having only read one story, but what a story it was. My lack of reading other stories means I get to speak about this one a little more than I usually would.

Kisses with Teeth is a story from volume 73 of the Australian short story magazine Aurealis by Allan Chen. The story follows someone who has lost his normal teeth and his gained these sharp ones mysteriously, which has significantly altered his appearance.

I really enjoyed reading this story, and reminded me heavily of David Cronenberg’s 1986 film, The Fly. I liked the graphic descriptions of how this character lost his teeth and his concerns of leaving the house. I also particularly liked when his girlfriend was coming to his for a visit, the tension of what would happen when they would meet was intense. The ending too was really well done and was a great way to conclude this strange story.

If you can get your hands on Aurealis volume 73 then this story is worth a read. It’s odd, has good character development, and a well-done ending.   

Book Talk: October 2016

Introduction

I read a lot of books. For years I have read books from a number of different genres, authors, and countries. It’s my love for reading is one reason why I wish to start this new monthly post series, which I call Book Talk at this point.

For those that have seen my “Reading” page I have all the novels that I’ve read since 2012. Thing is, I like having it there, but there are a lot of short stories that I have enjoyed and wish to add to that list, but would cramp the page. It’s because of that as well that I wish to have this Book Talk post, so I can add short stories I have read without displaying too much information.

So with no further delay, here is the first Book Talk post. I’ll be breaking it up between novels/novellas and short stories as they’re different from each other, and to avoid confusion.

Novels/Novellas

Since it was October, I decided to take the opportunity of reading primarily horror fiction.

The first novel/novella I read was The Shadow Out of Time, from classic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. First published in 1936, the story follows Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, a lecturer from Miskatonic University who attempts to uncover the Great Race of Yith, whom themselves caused him to suffer a mental breakdown early in the 20th century. I have read many of Lovecraft’s novellas before (At the Mountains of Madness, The Colour Out of Space etc.) and have enjoyed their storylines. This one came close to home for me; a decent portion of the story was set out in the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia. I really enjoyed being taken on a journey through this world, but there were a couple of things that held this back from being truly amazing for me. The biggest problem with this piece is Lovecraft’s writing itself. I adore Lovecraft’s imagination and enjoy the stories he tells, but his confusing writing style and strange dictionary of words made this a hard read at times. Despite this, The Shadow Out of Time still one of his most readable works and one I recommend people check out, if you haven’t already.

The second novel I read this month I’ve not even finished reading yet. The novel is called Wake, a 2013 novel from New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox. Set in a town in New Zealand, the story follows fourteen people who survive an outbreak of madness in that town. As from writing this, I’m at page 205 of 443 of my edition, so I can’t give a full opinion on it so far. I can say, however, what I think about the story so far. I really like a lot of things about this story; I love the New Zealand setting, the setup of the characters, and I really want to find out what happened in this town. There are a couple of criticisms I have with this story though, the main one being its pacing. I find this book to be slow with reading, which has caused my mind to wander a little whilst reading it. Despite this, I’ve liked it so far, and will have a full opinion by next month.

Short Stories

Keeping with the spooky theme of October, I also decided to read short stories from known horror writers. This month I read short stories from Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Jason Fischer, and Richard Matheson. There’s a few of them and I wish not to spoil their plotlines, so I’ll only give my thoughts on these, rather than a rundown.

From Stephen King this month I read ‘Afterlife’ from his recent short story collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015). I found this story really interesting and it certainly made me think what the afterlife could hold.

From Edgar Allan Poe, I read The Devil of Belfrey. I love Poe’s stories, but this one wasn’t exactly one of his best. I found it far too confusing and couldn’t quite understand what the story was about.

Now onto what is possibly my favourite short story for the month; Jason Fischer’s ‘Hunting Rufus’ from his short story collection, Everything is a Graveyard. I don’t wish to spoil this story, but this is how I will sum it up; pure Aussie horror! Gigantic kangaroo-like monsters and a bogan driving a Ute; two things I don’t see often enough in horror fiction. I recommend people go find this story and read it as it is unique and odd within horror.

To finish off, I’ll speak about the two stories I read from my favourite horror short story writer, Richard Matheson. The first, ‘Crickets’ I found to be odd at first and a little slow, but become a whole lot better by the ending. The ending was really creepy and had me shivering slightly by the end of it. The second story, ‘First Anniversary’ is my second favourite read for October. The start to it was a little weird as well, but it built on me over time and ended with yet another gooseflesh-inducing ending. Both of these stories can be found in his Nightmare at 20,000 Feet short story collection.

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.

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(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