Archive for March, 2014

Laser Eraser

In an interview last year, comic doyen Alan Moore explained that the objective of the British publications in the 1970s/80s was to, “actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience.” Now, with the announcement of the death of writer Steve Moore, the light let into my pre-teen brain suddenly seems to have tragically dimmed.

Among his many achievements, Steve was a key writer on Warrior (1982) which offered a more radical, more adult approach to many themes that he and Alan had broached through their work on 2000AD. (In fact, for fans of this earlier publication, it’s interesting to note that Tharg’s Future Shocks may not have come about had it not been for Steve’s influence.) It was at Quality Publications, alongside Alan, that Steve penned such characters as Father Shandor Demon Stalker, the decidedly Heavy Metal-esque Zirk and Laser Eraser and Pressbutton.

In the last of these strips the heroine, Mysta Mystralis, was a rarity of the 1980s; a strong, female, sci-fi protagonist. Prior to her arrival, Laura Varn had been the only other sister in a comparable lead, so it’s fair to say that Steve’s creation definitely opened the way for the likes of Halo Jones (1984) and Tank Girl (1988).

Away from comics, Steve was an editor on Bob Rickard’s and Paul Sieveking’s journal of strange phenomena, The Fortean Times – which is where I met him. His focus during that period was the I Ching which he consulted daily, and he condensed his vast knowledge of the subject into the Trigrams of Han (1989) – he subsequently became a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society thanks to the strength of this work.

His final literary endeavour, published while he was still alive, was Somnium (ntposition press, 2011). In this he took his belief of that real magick could literally be spelled out through words while engaging with the topic of perceived reality within waking and dream states. In a similar mystical exploration there was one, final collaboration with lifetime friend Alan Moore, and it’s hoped that The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic will be published imminently.

Anyway, that’s my small contribution to keeping his voice alive within this machine. As Steve himself said in the playful Zirk, “Her voice, wave-transmitted across the entire electro-magnetic spectrum, is like the liquid note of an amber bell.” Here’s to you Steve, may your resonance continue.

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Dren

There’s been a positive reception to Jonathan Glazer’s foray into science fiction. Under the Skin, starring a dead-eyed Scarlett Johansson as an alien invader who preys upon men, is a muted and odd affair. High FX set alongside domestic modernity, the uncanny paired with inscrutable motivations that undercut a typical, two-dimensional representation of the femme fatal.

It’s a far cry from the misogynistic titillation of the Species series which, depressingly, generated enough financial interest to stretch to three sequels. That said, the deeper vein of body horror – and the invasion of said body by the alien/mutant/outsider – is a unifying theme that runs straight back through the early work of David Cronenberg.

Look at Shivers as the well-spring of the director’s fascination with this idea, and then follow it onwards to the epitome of the SF femme fatal with Marilyn Chambers in Rabid. There are sexual themes throughout, undoubtedly, but ones that pave the way for interesting reinterpretations of filmic sci-fi, especially from critics interested in a more feminist perspective.

Interestingly, a Shivers remake was announced at the Toronto International Film Festival – already a promising start. Perhaps, with the signing up of Danish director Rie Rasmussen, we’ll be in for an ambiguous and uneasy experience to rival the likes of Vincenzo Natali’s Splice.

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Teeth of the Sea

It’s the rock and roll post! All part of a Drozbotian master plan initiated with ‘cybersex’ and followed through with the rapid consumption of all the pharmaceutical delights last time. A triptych, if you will, that could now easily stray off into the aural backwaters of Visage’s In the Year 2525, but won’t. No, instead we’re going to wind everything back to the microcosm of fantastical film soundtrack remixes. I know, I know, contain yourselves.

Meco Monardo’s ‘Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk’ is probably as good a starting point as any. Back in 1977 this enterprising US producer decided to jump on the Lucas hype wagon by securing a contract with Millennium Records. The rest is dance floor history, followed by a subsequent disco-fication of yet another John Williams classic in ‘Encounters of Every Kind’.

Georgio Moroder’s 1984 re-mastering of Fritz Lang’s SF classic Metropolis continued the trend, most memorably through the song ‘Love Kills’ and the inclusion of Freddie Mercury on vocals.

Next stop, for us at least, is War of the Worlds ULLAdubUlla The Remix (2000) with various artists combining aural DNA with Jeff Wayne and the words of H.G Wells. Apollo Four Forty, N Trance and Max Mondo all take a turn at the mixer with, erm… mixed results.

Eleven years on and we’re floating in deep space along with the Sheffield crew of 65 Days of Static. Commissioned by the Glasgow Film Festival to rework the soundtrack to Douglas Trumbull’s 1972 Sci-Fi oddity, Silent Running, the resultant score added a fresh power and poignancy to this tale of one astral eco warrior and his droids.

But it’s with Teeth of the Sea that the remix practice stamps down on the overdrive peddle. Not only have they already re-scored soundtracks for Neil Marshall’s Doomsday and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, they’re now working on a refresh of Michael Radford’s 1984 for the 2014 CineGlobe festival. All this and also finding time to engage with Ben Wheatley’s wonderfully warped A Field in England, where they accompanied the black and white visuals with a live remix – originally performed at the Cork Film Festival 2013.

So, not the most expansive of timelines, that’s for sure, but it’s really no surprise that Sci-Fi finds such a malleable sense of mutuality within these musical re-workings. It is, after all, the genre where reinvention is positively encouraged. Plus, it’s a great format for preservation. Hopefully, through this ongoing work, something fresh can still be brought to visuals that may well have lost their impact on contemporary audiences.

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