Kabaret und Gläs – a performed reading

Kabaret und Gläs, by James Bennett - a performed reading

‘And now, meine damen und herren, prepare yourselves! Here at the end of this Periclean Age, feast your eyes on our main attraction!’

Berlin 1936. The Weimar Republic is crumbling. Darkness is on the rise. In the fading decadence of Club Zauber, the mysterious Von Hart puts on quite a show.

Through the smoke and the spotlights, will his assistant Milosh see the final curtain fall?

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Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2)

Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2))

I’ve had some difficult conversations with clients (and prospective clients) over the years. People can be…resistant to constructive criticism, despite the fact they’re paying for it—all the more so if there’s an inherent issue to the writing that stains character and plot. Some of the most delicate conversations, I find, are those in which the issues of subconscious misogyny, racism or bigotry must be raised. Writing is intensely personal, after all. But look, horror fiction is my bread and butter; *context matters, so I’m here today to help parse the difference between portraying repugnant things and absorbing them into your writing.

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Foundation – tv review

Foundation - AppleTV+

Foundation is one of the Apple’s tent-pole tv series and, frankly, the only reason I thought it might be worth the free trial. I’d heard good things about For All Mankind and Ted Lasso, but nothing caught my attention like Foundation when the project was first announced. Pretty strange, considering I’ve only read the first of Isaac Asimov’s novels – once – and that was 30-odd years ago. Anyway, I have now watched the first four episodes of the tv series, cursing the fact I’ll have to pay in order to see the last six. (Because I will pay, goddammit.) Here’s why…

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Re: Con-nection

Kelly White, Pippa Bailey, Myk Pilgrim, Joe McMahon, Nick Parkinson, Dion Winton-Polak

First up, I have to confess that I attended very few actual panels, no readings, and I avoided the karaoke bar like the very-literal plague. Well, here’s the Dion’s-eye view, anyway… The first day of FantasyCon was a wobbly affair, full of awkward moments and anxiety, calibrating and recalibrating as we came together for the …

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FCon-templation

Horrific Tales

I was going to focus this post on FantasyCon 2021, which I attended in Birmingham last weekend, but I found that I couldn’t engage with the event in the normal way. This is not a criticism – with Covid-19 still very much on the rampage, I’m not sure any of us felt entirely comfortable. Instead, I’m going to talk about the significance of the event to me past and present, my mental state leading up to it this year, the fears and hopes I carried, and the final actual experience of reconnection with my tribe.

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The Room Next Door – performed readings

The Room Next Door - performed readings

‘I always stood a rapt audience when he spun these tales, and he relished the attention, I could tell. It made us so happy to be a part of the telling together.’

Instead of a single story this week, I’m giving you some snippets – flash fiction from the mind and the pen of a friend of mine. The styles and subjects vary, but there’s a connecting theme between the pieces I’ve selected: the relationship between father and child. I hope you enjoy them.

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Raising my game

Raising my game

What makes somebody a professional? At the most basic level, it’s earning your stripes well enough that perfect strangers will pay you to work for them. By those broad standards I already consider myself a professional editor, but there’s more to it than that. Laurels aren’t for sitting on. It’s one thing to be approached by indie authors or hired by small-press publishers, but quite another to be recognised by industry peers and leaders in the field. To that purpose, and to boost my ongoing professional development, I have now joined the CIEP.

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Mythic Quest – tv review

Mythic Quest

Mythic Quest is an American sitcom about the creation and running of the titular computer game. It’s not the first time MMORPGs has been brought into the realm of comedy, but this does something a little different. Where The Guild and Dead Pixels both focused on the *consumers, Mythic Quest takes us behind the scenes, to the very offices where the fantasy world is made. Yes, finally, it’s a show about creatives—Hallelujah! I think you’re gonna dig it.

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Acting on instinct, finding new roles

Acting on instinct, finding new roles

I was too shy for the bug to bite properly, but I always enjoyed Drama classes at school. I was good at remembering lines, and there was something quite fascinating to me about climbing into somebody else’s skin. Actors are the ultimate practitioners and conveyors of living-empathy. Were I to take another spin around life’s wheel, I’d like to give it a real go, but in the meatime, I’ve found a few other ways of scratching that itch.

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How to win at (almost) everything

How to win at (almost) everything

The search for that golden status known as ‘successs’ haunts our society. We judge ourselves constantly, comparing our lives to others, seeking their approval, trying to drown out our own insecurities. From an early age, we are taught that there are Winners and Losers in life, and that there’s nothing worse than a Loser. It’s utter bunkum of course; what matters is perspective.

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We, the Remedials – a performed reading

Giant housefly. Text reads: We, the Remedials - a performed reading

Hello! We, the Remedials, welcome you to our humble hotel. We trust you will have a pleasant, comfortable and enlightening stay with us, however long it may last. If you find that you need anything, be sure and ask – that is why we are here, after all!

This is the latest of my performed readings, bringing your writing to life and hopefully helping to find you a few more readers. In this peculiar tale, our unremarkable hero finds himself out of his depth in the big city and trapped in a waking nightmare. Welcome to The Remedial. It’s been waiting for you.

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Principle, promises and values

Quill on parchment. Text reads: Principles, promises and values

Writing is a very personal business, and entrusting someone with your manuscript can be a daunting prospect. It feels appropriate therefore, to set out the principles that guide me and the values I hold personally. You may judge me by them and hold me to them.

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Little Nightmares – game review

Little Nightmares - game review

It’s always awesome when a friend recommends something new, but there’s a special joy to be had when a: you’d never heard of it before, b: it’s not the kind of thing you’d usually buy, and c: it turns out you frigging *love it. So it was for me and Little Nightmares, a cute yet terrifying game from Tarsier Studios.

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Geek families (Finding Me, part 3)

Geek families (Finding Me, pt3)

I threw myself into fatherhood with great enthusiasm. We didn’t know what we were doing – who the heck does? – but Clo and I supported each other and figured things out as a team. One of the things we figured out early on was that children are adaptable. So long as she was loved and cared for, Summer-Rose would be perfectly able deal with whatever world she grew up in—and if that happened to include weekends camping in ruined castles while Clover and I got our medieval groove on, then all the better. It provided a change of scene and gave her some childhood magic.

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Le Mort Vivant, pt2 – a performed reading

Image of The Phantom of the Opera, unmasked and burning. Text reads: Le Mort Vivant pt2, by Steven Chapman, performed by Dion Winton-Polak

Welcome to the second part of this month’s performed reading: Le Mort Vivant. Fleeing the hypnotic Violet, our monstrous youth returns to the questionable safety of home. Confronted by a scene of bloody murder, he finds the net closing in on all sides. Can he protect the girl from his mother? Is the mysterious stranger really his father? Can anything be salvaged from the conflagration? This is the conclusion of Steven Chapman’s secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. (Oh, and here’s the link to part 1 in case you missed it.)

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Le Mort Vivant, pt1 – a performed reading

Mask of The Phantom reflected in water and flame

This month’s performed reading is Le Mort Vivant, by Steven Chapman. It’s the tale of a monstrous youth. Hiding in the shadows of the Palais Garnier, a masked figure looks longingly at a world he’s forbidden to touch—until he chances upon a precocious girl at the heart of his lair, and a ghastly family secret. Yes – this is the secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. The story is longer than usual, so I’ve taken the decision to split it in two, breaking off at an appropriate point. Fear not, pt2 will arrive next week, so you won’t have to wait long.

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Anna – book review

Anna - covers

Anna is a dystopian novel, set a few short years from now. War has devastated us to the point of societal collapse. It’s a lawless, bleak and wretched place out there, but our protagonist has managed to survive it, picking her way through the Unlands and trying where possible to avoid the remnants of humanity. Her capture happens with shocking speed, and we are dragged along with her into a living nightmare of enslavement, degradation and manipulation in a cold and bitter world.

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Splashes of Darkness – July

Comic-books are a medium, not a genre; they can tell any story and suit any palate. You want horror? I’ve got bottles of the stuff. Welcome to ‘Splashes of Darkness.’

Hi folks, I’ve recently started a column for the Ginger Nuts Of Horror site, reviewing comics. This is partly to give me an excuse to get back into the medium as a reader, partly because reviewing is good exercise for the old analytical muscles, and partly just because I wanted to give something back to a community that has welcomed me with such open-heartedness.

I’ll be archiving here at The Fine-toothed Comb for easy access in case you miss any of them. There’ll be a separate post for August, September and so on.

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The Minotaur (Finding Me, part 2)

Minotaur in the labyrinth

It’s a funny old business, life. Some people seem set up, right from the start. They know who they are, what they are, and how to get along. Some folk even seem to know what the future holds for them – or at least they have firm plans. I was a late starter; blinking, dazed, and unsure of myself. University gave me independence and self-confidence, my girlfriend gave me love and companionship, and I thought that was all I’d need. It was stability, but I still hadn’t found ‘me’. Not yet.

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Seeking Resolution

I recently discussed ways in which we can avoid conflict when editing (or being edited) in a blog post called ‘It ain’t what we say’. You might think of today’s post as something of a follow-up, though it has applications in the real world too.

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