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Friday, April 27, 2018

Comic Cuts - 27 April 2018

This will be brief as I have little to report. I'm still on the lookout for work and have sent out a couple of applications, but I'm not finding a huge number of jobs that fit the criteria of being both interesting and something I'm qualified for. If I can discover nothing online within the next couple of weeks, I will start hitting up the local recruitment agencies to see what they have.

In between, I've been cracking on with another essay for what will eventually be Volume 4 of the Forgotten Authors series. This one is about someone I've been meaning to write up for years. I knew of him as a publisher and miner writer in the teens of the 20th century before doing a little digging many years ago. It turned out he was one of the subjects of a book called Wild Men of Sydney by Cyril Pearl, which I tracked down a copy of in 2001. I still have my handwritten notes from reading the book which painted him as a hard-drinking, argumentative, opinionated, crooked politician who eventually landed in the UK in 1911 and began writing mostly about social problems but with the occasional novel thrown in.

He is, of course, W. N. Willis of The White Slave Trade fame. I'm about 9,000 words in, but still have some way to go.

We've been ploughing through a few TV series lately. We've finally caught up with season 2 of Preacher and the Danish series Under the Surface. We've just started Lost in Space, which we're enjoying but I think suffers from having children in it. Yes, I know that it is meant to be about the Robinson family, and I know it's meant to be family-friendly viewing, but still...

We've reached a point where the SF aspects of a TV show should be seamlessly integrated into the storyline – so the spaceship looks great and the robot is truly marvellous, leaving the writers to tell an actual story. Unfortunately, I suspect every episode is going to involve the parents fretting about the kids, the kids will overcome some worry or fear by the end of an episode so that they do the right thing and make their parents proud, and an endless supply of countdowns. Everyone is going to do at least one dumb thing to keep the plot going, despite the fact that these are meant to be the smartest of the smart.

We're only three episodes in, although I suspect we've found the level that the show is pitched at. On the plus side we have a matriarchal set-up, with engineer Maureen Robinson heading up the family as career army dad John has spent so much time away.  Dr Smith is now Parker Posey, who is driven by self-preservation but hasn't otherwise stood out as a villain. And, talking of standing out, that robot may look great but he literally stood outside a door for the whole of episode 3.

Hopefully the show will pick up, but I dialled down my expectations of "science" the moment the temperature dropped so rapidly it froze the water around one of the daughters (so presumably at least -40°F), yet the others still had bare flesh exposed to these sub-zero temperatures and rain falls as rain. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the "fiction" bit – the plots and storytelling – makes up for it.

Also just started The Terror, based on the Dan Simmons novel. Now this is  more like it. Again, I'm three episodes in but I'm finding this gripping. The year is 1846 and two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, are sent to find the Northwest Passage. The expedition is led by Sir John Franklin, who is consumed with the need for success.

The two boats are trapped in ice over winter and deep into the following year with no sign that the ice is breaking up. Aboard the Terror, Captain Francis Crozier, more cautious than his commander, warns that the boats could be crushed if they are trapped for a second winter. Parties sent out from the boats find no evidence that the ice is melting and Franklin wants to send a party out to seek rescue. Franklin disagrees.

At the same time, it becomes clear that something is hunting the men. One of the men is lost and an Inuit is accidentally shot by one of the crew thinking him to be the creature. When the men return, they believe they may have led the creature back to the boats. Franklin sets a trap baited with rats, but the armed crew are unable to prevent Franklin from being snatched by the creature.

I'm finding this show absolutely gripping. There's not much to see when you have two sailing ships trapped in ice, but an air of menace quickly develops thanks to the freezing isolation, the tensions between Franklin and Crozier and between elements of the crew, and the attentions of the creature, which may be a starving polar bear or something more supernatural.

Brilliant so far, I may just have to binge watch the rest over the weekend while Mel is attending a show.

Rather than trying to sort out some random scans this week, I thought I'd repost my cover gallery for Dan Simmons, as it has been updated with a few covers since it was first posted on 2 November 2014. Just scroll down.

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