Sentinel Issues 5 & 6

I’m still reading my way through the PDF issues provided by the good people behind the indie comic Sentinel (see also issues 1 & 2, 3 & 4) and I’m still impressed at how the team’s been keeping up a good level of variety while remaining within their general retro-eighties remit.

In issue 5, regular writer Alan Holloway partners with co-plotter Chris Atkins and artist Ed Doyle for the comic’s first (and so far only) full-colour issue. The story is a traditional sword-and-sorcery outing in which a Schwarzenegger-esque hero teams up with a local blacksmith to save a village from demons. The comic owes a good deal to Frank Frazetta iconography; but it also borrows a few leaves from Ray Harryhausen’s book with an army of skeletons, particularly the skeleton army.

Issue 6 is a collaboration between Alan Holloway and newcomer Morgan Gleave, who brings a bold and stylised style of cartooning to the series. In terms of story, the issue jumps from the straight-faced sword-and-sorcery of the previous instalment to something rather sillier: the main character teams up with a talking dog whose family is being picked off by an extremely vengeful cat.

That covers all of the Sentinel issues presently available, but as I type, a seventh issue is currently doing rather well on Kickstarter…

Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists

Well, this year’s Hugo ballot has been announced, so here are a few quick thoughts…

I strongly suspect that Best Novel will boil down to a competition between the Jemisin, Clarke and and Wells books, and I won’t place bets on the winner.

I’m very happy to see Isabel Fall’s helicopter story make Best Novelette. Having written about the controversy surrounding the piece, it’ll be refreshing to take a step away from the discourse and talk about the story as, well, a story.

Finally, the main thing I’d like to talk about…

I think Best Related Work needs an overhaul. Traditionally, it’s been a category for non-fiction books with the occasional miscellaneous finalist thrown in, but now the miscellania has almost taken over. Lynell George’s A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler is the only non-fiction book in the category, although I suppose you could count Maria Dahvana Headley’s translation of Beowulf as being along those lines. The other finalists are a virtual convention (the inaugural Fiyahcon), a livestream series adjacent to a virtual convention (CoNZealand Fringe), a feature-length YouTube documentary (The Last Bronycon: A Fandom Autopsy) and a ranty blog post (Natalie Luhrs’ response to George R. R. Martin’s much-derided hosting of last year’s Hugos).

Let’s be honest here: in its current form, Best Related Work is a chaotic grab-bag of things that can’t possibly be compared along even lines. Yes, it’s fun to have an odds-and-ends category, but surely it’s fair for non-fiction books to have their own award? Or perhaps Best Related Work could be divided into long and short form, so that books and documentaries that go into depth about their topics aren’t forced to compete with ranty blog posts? The Bram Stoker Awards recently introduced a category for essays to go alongside their existing award for non-fiction books, and I’d say it’s time the Hugos looked into setting up a similar division.

Exploits in Non-Fiction

You won’t find a writer who lacks their fair share of bad habits, and Lord knows I’ve got mine. One is my tendency to hit on an idea for a non-fiction book (generally related to fantasy, horror and science fiction) and start work on it, even when I’ve already got a number of similar projects on the boil.

These are the books that were in progress when I came into 2021…

Thoughts & Fears: Essays on Horror and Culture
The idea here was to gather together my blog posts about horror media, with some original writing on the side. The complicating factor? That original writing required me to delve into some very deep rabbit holes. Right now I’m working on an essay about the early horror fiction of Whitley Strieber, in relation to his claims to have been abducted by aliens…

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Sentinel Issues 3 & 4


Last week I looked at the first two issues of the retro-flavoured British indie comic Sentinel, graciously provided in PDF by the creative team. Since then I’ve had a look at the next two issues, which feature two more self-contained stories scripted by writer Alan Holloway.

Paul Spence draws issue 3’s story “A Fare to Remember”, which is a comedic tale even sillier than the first issue (which, as a reminder, starred a Han Solo-like character who fired his friend’s detachable testicles from a slingshot). The plot deals with the bitter rivalry between two alien taxi companies, a feud that grows worse still once organised crime gets involved.

Continue readingSentinel Issues 3 & 4″

Baen’s Bar: The Utterly Incompetent Case for the Defence

By now, anyone who keeps up with SF/F disputes online will have heard more than enough about the controversy over violent political rhetoric being posted at Baen’s Bar (the currently-offline forum of publisher Baen Books). But there’s one thing about the whole scuffle that’s been sticking out for me: just how utterly inept the case for the defence has shown itself to be. There’s a considerable amount to say here about how Internet arguments tend to devolve into scapegoating, so I’ve decided to take a closer look.

First, a bit of background. When it was active, the Baen forum was viewable to registered members only, so any discussion there went on behind closed doors unless a member decided to bring it to wider attention. In January this year, the prominent science fiction blog File 770 reported on a particularly incendiary message from the forum, while a Twitter user screencapped a number of similar posts (see here, here, here and here).

As you can imagine, this led to a degree of concern about the forum’s contents and it was only a matter of time until somebody decided to investigate the board and write an article about it. Author Jason Sanford was the person who happened to step up to the task, publishing an article on 15 February about violent rhetoric at Baen’s Bar; and, naturally, it was Jason Sanford who was attacked with volley after volley of ad hominem arguments.

One of the most recent manifestations of this was an attempt to smear Sanford via his fiction, something I wrote about here, here and here. This was merely the latest in a long line of attacks on his person, however.

Continue reading “Baen’s Bar: The Utterly Incompetent Case for the Defence”

Midnight Widows Issue 2 is Out Now!

I’m proud to announce that the second issue of Midnight Widows is now available! I teamed up with artist Marcela Hauptvogelova, colourist Jio Butler and letterer Rob Jones to create it, and each of us poured our heart into the project. If you’d like to get hold of both issues in PDF form, then place a donation via Ko-Fi or Patreon! If you’d like to know more about the comic, well, it now has its own dedicated page on my site…