Do you sit in your home, with friends or alone,
And think that your chairs are not great?
Are they threadbare and crude? Have the legs all been chewed?
In short, are your seats in a state? Continue reading

Glory to Them – Anderson M. Scruggs


“A hush of reverence for that vast dead
Who gave us beauty for a crust of bread.”

I came across this quotation, mis-attributed, in an essay, and found it rather compelling. Tracking down the source, however, proved to be surprisingly difficult. The attribution didn’t help, of course, sending me looking for a poet who didn’t exist, but mostly the problem was that this poem, and its poet, are both rather obscure. Continue reading


“See? It just doesn’t work! No matter what I try, it’s a failure.” The young designer pushed his glasses higher on his nose, and sat back on his chair. On the table in front of him lay a model of the Sistine chapel.

“I don’t really see the problem, Harvey.” Across the table from him was a much larger man squeezed into a identically sized chair. He picked up the model and held it in his pudgy hands, examining it from multiple angles. “I mean, look at it. It’s fantastic. A perfect model.” Continue reading

Mindhunters (2004) – Review

mindhuntersMindhunters has a stupid title. It would be a weak title for a film about predatory psychics, and that’s not even what this film is about. The two words in the portmanteau do have relevance to the plot, but you could make an equally strong argument for almost any pair – Clockwatchers, Stringpullers and Dummystreet are all just as valid. They may actually have picked the title from a hat filled with relevant words.

It’s called Mindhunters because it’s about FBI profilers who try and track serial killers by understanding their minds. The basic idea should be familiar to anyone who has watched television in the last twenty years. Unlike every other show or film based around these profilers, Mindhunters takes an indirect approach to the whole idea of profiling. Continue reading

The Artist

I watch it flap, bonelessly on the floor. One wing is at a strange angle, and its eyes are crusted shut. If it had a mouth, I think it would be screaming, but its beak is just a blank cone, unable to open.It can’t move on its own, let alone fly. It lies there, in pain, shivering occasionally. Another failed experiment.

On the floor around me are the other ones – slimy, scale-less fish; a dog that breathes heavily through a deformed muzzle; a moose with antlers made of the same jelly-like black flesh as its featureless eyes. Every one an abomination, every one a crippled reminder of my failure. Continue reading

Three Reasons to Read Steve Alten’s “Meg” series

I’ve read a lot of books, and watched a lot of films, about monsters. In so far as “monster attacks group of people” is a genre, it’s one of my preferred genres. I have thrilled to tales of liopleurodons, Humboldt squid, sabre-tooth tigers and titanoboas. I have watched, due to the prominence of sharks as the antagonist, countless films with a two word title in which the second word is “shark” (or, to be fair, “sharks”). The first word of the title allows more variation, including “snow“, “swamp“, “Jurassic“, and “raging“. I’ve even had the privilege of enjoying a whole bunch of works which just jammed two words together to create the title, like Sharknado, Sharktopus, and Piranhaconda

I mention these works to establish that I know what I’m talking about here, rather than as recommendations. I’m not recommending them because, in all this time of monster books and films, a common element has come clear: most of these works are absolutely terrible. Sturgeon’s Revelation states that 90% of everything is awful, but I believe monster stories to be a special case; I think the percentage for this specific genre might be closer to 98%.

For some reason, authors seem to feel that they can get away with more poorly-written books than in other genres. This might be attributable to the fact that a higher proportion of monster books seem to be self-published than in other genres, so there’s no one to enforce editing and proofreading. I don’t think that’s entirely it, as there are many traditionally published monster books that are terrible, and several well-designed self-published ones. In general, it just seems that monster books are where authors dump all their plot holes and inconsistent characterisation – it’s not a genre that is taken that seriously, or regarded very highly.

Now, this doesn’t particularly bother me. I like monster stories enough that despite (and occasionally because of) their terribleness, I still enjoy them. I will struggle through countless clumsy coincidences and grammatical errors to read about a deranged businessman being devoured by ptero-wasps. However, I’m aware that not everyone is as forgiving of, or as engaged in, the genre as I am.

MEG1I thought I’d use this post, after trashing the genre as a whole, to recommend an author who not only writes monsters books, but does so well. One of the few authors who manages to write a coherent plot in coherent English that’s also about a shark killing people.

Steve Alten’s “Meg” series is one of the stand-outs of the monster genre. The books are based around the idea that Carcharodon Megalodon, an ancestor of today’s great white shark, survived into the modern era; when one of these antediluvian murder machines comes into contact with humans, it’s up to a tortured marine biologist to stop the carnage. Continue reading


“You paint the wall. Three coats, no more no less.” He holds up three stubby fingers in front of me, to emphasise the point. “Always the same colour – ‘Business Blue’, number 20211 in the warehouse. Never any other colour. It’s special paint – never dries properly, so the kids can’t do their graffiti on it.”

I nod. It’s not hard to understand.

“Three coats on this wall, then you move the rig round to the next one, and do the same thing. No changes. No exceptions. Every building in the plaza, the same. It’s a, you know, corporate style.”

I nod again, seriously, showing him that I’m ready to do the job. Mostly, I want him to stop talking, to stop droning on nasally.

“I don’t want any funny stuff, right? No patterns or colours or deviations from the plan. Stick to the plan. We don’t need your fancy art school nonsense here. This is a serious place. Serious people.” Continue reading