Dredd – Let’s Love This Film (spoilers!)


I really like the Dredd movie.

I mean, I really like it. This isn’t all that surprising; I was an enthusiastic reader of 2000AD when I was a kid, and Karl Urban has yet to disappoint (he’s Bones, he’s Eomer, he’s the best thing in Doom the movie – he’s genre’s favourite actor!). The chatter from fans was positive despite not nearly enough people watching it at the cinema, and, let’s face it, it had to be better than the Stallone version.

Even so, watching it again at the weekend whilst tidying the living room (hyper-violence gives me the pep needed to remove the gravy stains from our coffee table) I found myself startled by how much I loved it; at the end I was grinning and nodding like a loon. I may even have bopped around the living room to the closing credits. I had to ask myself, what is it? Why does this film please me so much?

There is a lot to like. Visually, it is spot on. What I remember mainly of the Stallone version is that at first I liked the way it looked – Mega-City One looks crazy and you can see that it came from the comics – but as the film progresses it rapidly becomes less and less 2000AD and more Stallone’s Latest Vehicle, until you realise it is in fact unwatchable pap. Dredd seems to work in reverse; at first it feels too real, too gritty, like this is New York of a few years from now, but as you follow Dredd on the opening bike chase and into one of the blocks the atmosphere of 2000AD settles over you like a sooty cloud. Everything is soaked in sickly sodium yellow, and the Judge’s uniforms are dusty, lived in. By the time Dredd is striding through the precinct informing Control of “bodies for resyk” you are in that world.

The soundtrack! The soundtrack. I am in legitimate love with the soundtrack. I am listening to it when I’m writing and it’s fabulous; frenetic, doom-laden, anxious, ass-kicking. It’s pitch perfect, as important to the film as it’s visuals. Action sequences are cooler with it, more frightening, and the scenes where certain people take a dive from the top of Peach Trees are more beautiful, more horrifying. And I love Urban’s Dredd too. I expected to, really, but he’s more than just a grumpy chin – he’s stoic, relentless, and hiding a tiny twisted streak of dark humour deep within himself (very deep). I love LOVE that after he pushes Ma Ma off the balcony his only comment is “Yeah.” Because that’s all you need with Dredd.

But I suspect what lifted this movie above my usual general appreciation for a good, ass-kicking action movie was the female characters. The women in this film are great, and you know it makes me a little bit sad to say it, but that’s actually pretty rare in films at the moment. Yeah sure, you might get the token woman, and she might even be quite good at punching (usually kicking) people, but most of the time we will be viewing her through the Male Gaze – she will have her midriff showing or wear latex – and she will partially exist as a reward for the much more important male character.

In Dredd, we have Judge Anderson. This is her story, in fact – a rookie with questionable grades out for a final assessment – and we see her go through the wringer, but this is the thing; she is every bit as tough as Dredd. Olivia Thirlby has a sort of ethereal quality that initially gives Anderson a sense of vulnerability but we quickly discover that actually, this Judge can have you helpless and wetting yourself in seconds. The scenes where she a) demonstrates exactly how much control she has in the mind of the scummy perp and b) stands up to Dredd and makes her own Judgement made me cheer. At no point does Dredd patronise her, and at no point does the possibility of romance raise its perfumed head – my god, how refreshing is that? Not that I have a problem with romance, not at all, but so often it is a foregone conclusion.

And there’s Ma Ma, played with nearly uncomfortable intensity by Lena Headey. Like Dredd, she isn’t overburdened with lines but she manages to convey menace with just a certain way of standing, a particular frown. She is in charge of a lot of men who appear to respect her, or are terrified of her, and sex doesn’t seem to come into it at all. She isn’t using her sexiness as a weapon; she isn’t played for sexiness at all, in fact. She is just a serious Bad Ass, and one who will Fuck You Up.

Even the minor female characters get better treatment than usual. The woman who lets Dredd and Anderson into her apartment is brave and no-nonsense, doing what she needs to in order to save her family (for what good it does her). The Chief Judge is a woman too, and although you sense she probably has a better idea of what is going on than Dredd, this isn’t played as conniving or in any way negative; she’s just doing her job, and doing it well.

This is a great film, and it’s elevated further for me because at no stage did I experience that slight sinking feeling I often get these days when watching a movie; when a topless scene appears for no other reason than it’s assumed the audience is both male and straight; when a woman appears only as a prize or wish fulfilment; when whole chunks of the plot suddenly become very predictable because Romance. Dredd has female characters that are actually fully realised people, with interests and goals that do not revolve around a penis. I liked that. I loved that. And I loved everything else about it too.  



Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman: Pre-Order Competition!

You should know Emma Newman. She’s lovely, she drinks a lot of tea, and she has an excellent speaking voice. Oh, and she’s a fabulous writer too – evidenced by this rather nifty short story previously featured on this here blog.

And very soon her new book, Between Two Thorns, is coming out from the fabulous people at Angry Robot, and in celebration of this loveliness there’s a special competition for pre-orders. It’s going to rock people, so get your eyeballs below for the deets! 


Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns for a chance to win a great prize!


Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns and you’ll be entered into a prize draw. If you win, you’ll have a character named after you in “All Is Fair” – the third Split Worlds novel (released October 2013) – and a special mention at the end of the book.


How to Enter

Pre-order a copy of the book from your favourite retailer (if you pre-order from Forbidden Planet you’ll get a signed copy).


If you order from Forbidden Planet or robottradingcompany.com (for ebooks) you don’t need to do anything else – Angry Robot will take care of your entry for you. If you pre-order from anywhere else you’ll need to email a copy of your order confirmation to: thorns AT angryrobotbooks.com and they’ll assign a number to you.


Here are links to all the places you can pre-order:


Forbidden Planet (signed paperback) http://forbiddenplanet.com/97907-between-two-thorns/


Angry Robot Trading company – for DRM-free ebook http://www.robottradingcompany.com/between-two-thorns-emmanewman.html


Amazon (paperback) UKhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-Split-World/dp/0857663194/

US http://www.amazon.com/Between-Two-Thorns-EmmaNewman/dp/0857663208/


The Book depository (Worldwide free postage)


UK Edition http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-EmmaNewman/9780857663191


US Edition (bigger) http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-EmmaNewman/9780857663207


There are two UK launches and an international one using the magic of telephone conferencing. All the details are here: http://www.enewman.co.uk/real-world-adventures/between-two-thorns-launches-prizes-and-parties




Urban Occult: Pre-Order Your Copy for Infinite Win


As I may have mentioned before, I am dead chuffed to have a story in Urban Occult, a new anthology of weirdness coming soon from Anachron Press; on the scale of “effed up-ness”, I believe this story, Spider Daughter Spider, has an effed up factor of 11, and I’m very proud of it – not to mention that it’s appearing alongside some absolutely stonking stories by some tremendously talented writers. It’s going to be ace.

The good news is, you can pre-order this little beauty (and I mean really, the cover is a piece of fried gold right there) and the universe will smile upon you for doing so. Here be the deets:

Urban Occult Limited Pre-Order


Limited to 50.


Behind urban life, weird and horrific things fester. 

The whispers and chills of things long gone… the promise of power from the darkness… the seduction of those that lie in the shadows… the occult is all around us: in town houses, in mansions, and in your very own street.

Editor Colin F. Barnes collected together fifteen stories by a cast of critically acclaimed authors from around the globe who look into the stygian gloom, explore the dark corners of our houses, and peer into the abyss of human temptation.

Featuring stories by: Gary McMahon, Ren Warom, Gary Fry, Mark West, K.T. Davies, Nerine Dorman, Alan Baxter, Adam Millard, Julie Travis, Jason Andrew, James Brogden, A.A Garrison, Jennifer Williams, Sarah Anne Langton, and Chris Barnham.

Special Pre-Order Edition Limited to 50.

This pre-order edition means you will get the book at least a week to two weeks ahead of general release and:

A FREE ebook version (for any eReader)

and A FREE ebook of Day of Demons. (eBooks will be emailed to you on the 4th of March).

Just £9.99 (+£2.99 shipping anywhere in the world).

Pre-Order here: http://www.anachronpress.com/product/anthologies/urban-occult-limited-pre-order/ 


Random Reading Update

I’ve recently finished reading John Connolly’s The Burning Soul (the 10th Charlie Parker book) which was as good as ever – the cover confused me a little because (spoilers) no one actually gets set on fire in a cornfield, although in previous Parker books people have been set alight in unpleasant ways. This led me to contemplate the interplay between title, cover and actual book content, particularly with regards to Crime fiction; I don’t particularly want to see Charlie Parker on the front of the book because how he looks to me is obviously very specific to my imagination, and I don’t really want that tweaked by an artist’s impression (this is without going into how much of Charlie’s character comes from his voice and actions rather than the sparing bits of physical description in the books themselves – Parker is a shadowy soul in my head, a beloved character whose face isn’t always clear, but with whom I have walked some very dark paths). And, this being crime fiction, I also don’t want spoilerfic images on the cover – mob types wielding guns, hidden crawlspaces, Angel and Louis arguing. So what are you left with? Strange and unsettling imagery, essentially – covers that give you a flavour of the book without telling you exactly what it’s about, which is as it should be, I think, particularly for that genre. Anyway, if for some crazy reason you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it – crime fiction with supernatural elements and a lovely, mournful atmosphere (and a healthy vein of dry humour).



At the same time as that I’ve been reading Doug Strider’s SF pulp novella Space Danger!, recently made available in all good ebook places. As most of you will know, Doug (or Marty) is my partner, and he is very fucking funny; his surreal sense of humour is all over this – someone described it as the Navy Lark meets Douglas Adams via the way of Dan Dare comics, and I giggled mightily through it.



Before that slightly odd pairing I read Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World, a crazy jambalaya of a book about the end of the world and what comes after. It’s fabulous, meandering and yet not meandering – the story kicks off in rousing style, and we’re all set for an adventure into unknown territory… and then we leap backwards for an extended flashback. Except of course, that the flashback is the story, and all the meandering and, quite frankly, joyous footnotery are secretly immensely important. It’s impossible to talk about it much without giving too much away, but this is a vivid, bursting-with-ideas book, full of genuine humour and emotion (I’m beginning to think that a sense of humour is my one deal-breaking prerequisite for a book. If a book is utterly po-faced I just can’t get through it).



And now I’m on to Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks, which is one of those books where if you mention you haven’t read it, people will hiss at you and throw things. I went through a big Iain Banks phase in my early twenties, but somehow managed to miss this one, so I’ve some catching up to do.

            What are you reading at the moment? Anything good? Tell me, I’m horribly nosey.

Mass Effect: Take Out Those Hostiles! (SPOILERS for all 3 games)


I’ve clocked in a few more hours since my last update (er, about 6) so time to fill you in on how much of the universe Morrigan Shepard has saved so far.


Journal: I’ve been to Eden Prime, been assaulted by a beacon, made Kaidan look slightly bashful by saving his useless ass, and been Spectrefied. Filled with a new sense of universal responsibility, Shepard immediately stormed off to bum around some planets for a bit, consequently getting ambushed by a Thresher Maw and had to turn off someone’s life support (always fun). Finally remembering there’s a plot and stuff to be playing with, I zipped off to Artemis Tau and picked up the rather-more-girly-sounding-than-I-remembered Liara T’soni, and had my first proper brush with OH F’FUCKSAKE MAKO WHERE ARE YOU EVEN GOING?!


I also got Tali at some point. Did I mention that? I remember because I just had to sit through her telling me about her bloody pilgrimage in the engine room, which I punctuated with shouts of “Piss off you space fascist!” Tali is a bit of a fan favourite, a state of affairs I’ve never quite understood, and I have to admit I felt vindicated in the 3rd game where you see Quarian history through Geth eyes and realise what bastards they were. With this in mind, Tali’s insistence that they had to shut them down (i.e. kill them) before the problem got worse feels particularly callous, and if nothing else you realise that her character arc is a pretty good one after all (unless you manage to make her jump off a cliff in the 3rd game, which is mainly just hilarious). However, I have resolved to give Tali a chance this time round, and she is quite useful when it comes to making synthetics explode.


Right now I’m at the Zhu’s Hope colony on Feros, or as it’s otherwise known, Why Don’t You Ask Fai Dan About That? This is the quest that results in shooting both zombies and a giant plant anus, so obviously it’s one of my favourites, but I’d forgotten how annoying all the colonists were. All conversations go like this:


Shepard: So, that’s a nice hat. Tell me what you know about that hat.

Colonist: I don’t know really, you should ask Fai Dan. He knows more about it than me.

Shepard: Really? The hat on your head? Fai Dan knows more about the hat on your head?

Colonist: Yeah, ask Fai Dan.

Shepard: I have a fucking gun right here you know.

Colonist: ….

Shepard: I should go.


BUT, I get to shoot them all later so it’s fine.



I have missed all the random shouting your team mates do in the first game. Really, it’s not the same without Garrus bellowing “ENEMIES EVERYWHERE!” in your ear every five seconds.


Favourite Shepard line so far: “Big stupid jellyfish!” I’m fairly sure that’s xenophobic, Sheps, but it made me chuckle.


The Krogan seem faster in the first game, and regenerate health at a terrifying rate. They also seem very keen on running right at you, causing Shepard to shriek heroically “Argh, get it off me, get it off me!”


Mass Effect: In the middle of some… calibrations

If you’ve read this blog at all previously you will know that I love Mass Effect. You will probably also know that I’ve dedicated an alarming number of hours to it already, and you may be thinking, “Look, for chrissake Jennifer, what are you on about? Do we have to have an intervention again? Was the song we wrote* about your Dragon Age obsession a waste of everyone’s time?”

But, yes, I have decided to play Mass Effect again, starting from the very beginning. Yes I have. And I have decided this time round to blog about it. Why? Well, because I have a lot on at the moment…

(and here I can sense you getting quite purple in the face and narrowing your lips at me, because obviously this is a prime reason not to get involved in the best of all Space Opera RPGs, but please, my slightly goblin-faced friend, let me finish…)


 …and I find Mass Effect, with all its moral conundrums and shooting people in the face to be the most marvellous stress relief. At the moment my day looks something like this: editing and revisions in the morning, day job in the afternoon, editing and revisions in the evening, collapse in front of tumblr and drool whilst making distant whale noises. What I thought was, instead of the drooling and not achieving much bit, I could go back and explore one of my favourite and most beloved things of all time, with a mind to writing the occasional blog post about it; a little chat about the worldbuilding maybe, about the complex relationships and the building of tension, as well as the occasional gratuitous bit of Garrus worship. Let’s face it, if anything deserves to be pored over and adored, it’s Mass Effect.


 So here she is, Morrigan Shepard (named for that wily witch of the wilds from Dragon Age: Origins)



Initially I was tempted to try and make her look like David Bowie (there is just something about the “short blonde hair” preset that invites this) but in the end I went for quite a severe, bad-ass look. As is traditional, I lamented over the weird choices of lipstick – neon pink, kebab shop red and, um, black – and faffed over the haircut. I chose (for possibly the first time, I can’t remember) to make her a War Hero and a Spacer, and class-wise I’ve gone for Vanguard. Technically speaking I should have gone for Engineer because that’s pretty much the only one I’ve never played, but GAWD it sounds boring. I just can’t get behind “trained in omni tools and tech blah blah oh Christ who cares…”

Journal: Have played up until the point where Shepard lands on the Citadel for the first time. Hellooo space utopia!


I have entirely forgotten how to take cover: Kaidan got shot quite a few times before I figured this out.

I really, really miss being able to roll into cover.

The black lipstick actually looks rather kick ass in cut scenes, particularly when Shepard is wearing a helmet.

I went to the loading bay and tried to shoot the Mako but it wouldn’t let me. Damn it. 


*May not have actually happened. 


The State of Play

Greetings from the mysterious mists of editing! I thought I’d just pop my head over the battlements so you know I’m still here; we might be down to chewing the shoe leather and eyeing up the rats for dinner, but the People’s Republic of Novel Revisions is still going strong.


No, I don’t know where I’m going with that either.


It’s been a busy few weeks. I’m in the midst of revising The Copper Promise and that has proven to be an oddly exhausting activity, at least mentally. It’s fascinating though; when Juliet gave me her pointers for smartening the thing up, it gave me a new perspective on the book, and now I understand rather more about the characters than I did previously. Which just shows how incredibly useful a very perceptive reader can be.


So yes! It’s very exciting, actually. One of my biggest jobs (ahem) is to reduce the word count as The Copper Promise is rather on the hefty side. On the face of it, to my delicate writer’s soul, this feels nigh on impossible. “I’ll never manage it!” I wail, chewing on my pens in Eat and worrying the Kenny Everett look-a-like who makes the coffee. “Every word is essential!”


Except it’s not, of course. I have spare words all over the shop, and scenes I am perhaps not utterly happy with, and so the Big Fat Chunky Word Count is being whittled down to a slightly more slippery number. It’s oddly satisfying, plus it’s enormous fun to be back with Wydrin and the gang. I’ve missed them.


In other bits of small news, Dark Fiction Magazine has reopened to submissions, and for our March episode we’re looking for stories inspired by folklore (a favourite subject of mine) so get scribbling! And yes, I am still doing the Everything and the Cat Project (even if one night of booze almost made me forget to upload the thing) and at the end of this month I’ll do a little post rounding up my favourite pictures so far. In the meantime, if you feel the need for random photos of trees and Lego in your life, you can follow me on instagram (username sennydreadful, as ever).

Everything and the Cat: A Picture a Day for 2013

Last night, half asleep in bed, I made some vague and possibly foolish tweets about trying to take a photo a day for 2013. It should be easy now, I reckoned, what with all these fancy pants mega-phones and their applications. I do like taking photos, even if I’m a bit crap at it, and there’s always a chance that the odd snap might inspire a story some how. 

So I’m going to give it a try. Below is the photo I took yesterday, just opposide the sexual health clinic in Camberwell (I was waiting for the bus)


And today’s photo, which was taken in The Sun of Camberwell this evening. Don’t worry, I won’t post every single one to the blog, as I suspect that will get boring, but I’ll be putting them all on instagram (if you would like to follow me on there, I am sennydreadful, predictably) 


The Other End of the Year Post


Well, essentially 2012 was the year of The Copper Promise. As you might remember, it was around this time last year that I released the very first part onto the wild plains of Amazon; The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel was supposed to be the first in a series of short sword and sorcery novellas. They were supposed to be fast, written and released one after the other, and they were supposed to be short.


And then while I was writing part two, at the beginning of this year, several things happened at once to change that. Firstly, I realised that releasing each part after I’d written it just wasn’t going to work – maybe if it was a silly thing that didn’t really matter, I could get away with that, but TCP was growing more complicated, and if I wanted it to be good, I would need to be able to go back and polish. And that was the other major thing: The Copper Promise was growing. I loved the characters, who felt frighteningly real to me, and I loved the story, which had accidentally grown into some sort of weird epic/pulp hybrid.


So I threw out the idea of instant gratification and wrote parts 2, 3 and 4 in 2012. And then I redrafted, and edited, and then edited some more, and ended up with a book nearly twice as long as anything else I’d written (it’s still too long). And what happens to it now? Well, that is the question.


Thanks to some quirks of fate and a writing buddy who always seems to know what’s going on before I do (I’m looking at you, Adam) The Copper Promise ended up on the desk of the fabulous Juliet Mushens of the Agency Group, and in a sudden twist of awesomeness that I’m still getting my head around, I got an agent. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of my year was meeting Juliet for the first time (who is every bit as sharp and hilarious in real life) and hearing her quote bits of my book back at me. I mean, you wouldn’t think that would be weird, but it is. In a brilliant way. Next year proves to be very interesting indeed.


There were other things happening in 2012, of course. After ignoring it for a year I finally summoned up the courage to read and edit my Urban Fantasy book The Snake House, and much to my huge surprise I didn’t totally hate it. I also started work on a YA Fantasy book called London-Under-Sea (all weird religion, sea monsters and fishpunk) although that is on hold for the moment while I revise The Copper Promise. In non-book stuff Mass Effect 3 came out and proved that it is indeed the greatest video game series of all time, if not the greatest SF trilogy of all time, and I sobbed and cheered my way through it in an epically messy fashion. I finally watched Avatar: The Last Airbender and utterly fell in love with it.


Other, more random moments of 2012: I saw two sets of friends get married and danced at their weddings, I wore a corset for the first time and didn’t die, I oversaw new episodes of Dark Fiction Magazine, and I attended Bristolcon, which was brilliant. I got hugged by a wookie in Wales, saw my name in the acknowledgements of a real, live book (twice, technically) and partially helped nag my lovely boyfriend into taking up writing regularly again.


And that’s all I can really remember at the moment – no doubt I’ll have left something significant off the list, but all in all, I reckon I can chalk 2012 up as a goodun’. Wishing you all a fantastic new year full of excellence and joy!


The Year in Books: My Tippity Top 5 Reads of 2012

Well, we are in that tricksy limbo stage between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (or as a friend on twitter called it, Twixmas) so this seems a likely time to attempt one of those “summing up the year” posts, with notes on wisdom gained and lessons learnt. Since I have a notoriously bad short term memory and barely any wisdom I will be summing up the year by trying to remember the best books to grace my eyeballs in 2012.*


(later I will do a post on writing and where I am with that, because the status of writing at the moment is EXCITING)


So, best books. In no particular order:


Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – one of many incredibly popular books I have avoided for years simply because it was always in the 3 for 2 offer at work. I know that sounds like a stupid reason, but when you spend five years of your life peeling stickers off the same handful of books you start to build a healthy resentment. Plus it was shelved in general fiction, a happenstance that can move a book down my TBR pile a few notches.


Well, I was wrong, and the shelving was wrong too. This book is science-fiction, no? A gorgeously confusing and lyrical trip through the lives of possibly reincarnated souls, Cloud Atlas is like the music being written by one of its principle characters, Robert Frobisher; we speed forward in time, and then back, always buffeted by echoes and hauntings. Brilliant, beautiful, moving.



The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – this won the Orange Prize for Fiction this year, so I’m willing to bet it’s shelved downstairs in the more respectable General Fiction section, despite being the most fantasy book that ever fantasied. Honestly. This is your standard fantasy trope of a young hero growing to manhood and finding his calling, but told through the eyes of his friend and lover, Patroclus. It’s a vivid, dream-like book full of teenage lustings and tortured love, and the depictions of the gods are genuinely chilling.



The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie – this is a book about conflict; the futility of war, the grotty scrambling horror of it and the terrible waste of life. It’s also really fucking funny, and contains the sort of characters that I dearly wish populated all fantasy books; witty, morally dubious and above all, real. The highlight for me was Craw, your typical “I’m getting too old for this shit” soldier, who faces several difficult decisions throughout the course of the book and continually tries to do the right thing, despite the hopeless shitstorm of war and muck.



The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – Yes, I’m really quite behind on this one. I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle last year and it instantly rocketed into my top 10 books of all time, so I was looking forward to this; not to mention that Stephen King is a big fan too. It’s a genuinely weird, hypnotic novel, with possibly the most chilling opening paragraph I’ve ever read. It scares and delights in equal measure, until you realise that the delights are in fact all a trick of Hill House, and you are as much under its spell as Eleanor.


Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell – According to Goodreads I read four books in this series at the beginning of the year, but since I don’t exactly trust Goodreads or my own terrible memory I am plucking this one out for praise. The Saxon series tells the story of Alfred the Great through the eyes of Uhtred, a Viking raised as a Saxon and grown to become one of the king’s most trusted warriors. My little summary makes it sound terribly dry, but Uhtred the Wicked is a fabulous example of a first person narrative that drips with character, and Cornwell is extremely skilled at taking huge historic events and bringing them down to a personal level. If you’re a fantasy fan who perhaps hasn’t quite taken the step into historical fiction, I highly recommend this series and Cornwell’s retelling of the Arthur myths in the Warlord trilogy.


And that’s it! A special mention for The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King – I re-read the first three Dark Tower books this year and that one particularly still blows me away. Great stuff.


So what about you? What were your best reads of 2012 and what are you looking forward to next year?


* I should note that I also read many excellent books by writers who are also friends – I decided not to include them here because inevitably I would forget someone and then look like an Evil McFannypants. I may do a follow-up post titled “You Should Read These Books or I Will Give You a Severe Look”.