The X-Files has lost its X

I loved The X-Files.  I still remember watching the first episode and how exhilarated it made me feel.  I was blown away that someone else had the same thoughts I did.  I was so hungry for this type of television that the weekly wait for the next episode was torture.  And I just loved Dana Scully:  once she grew out of her puppy fat, dyed her hair a more interesting shade of red and started wearing Very Long Coats, she became a woman I could truly admire.  She was smart, educated, didn’t take any bullshit from Mulder but wasn’t so close-minded that she wasn’t willing to look, listen and learn.  I loved her so much that I even named my daughter after her.

My favourite episodes were the alien conspiracy ones.  I hated the horror stuff which, in later series, was pretty much all they made.  It began to lose its way, for me, when they stopped filming in Canada and the dark, wet atmospherics were lost.  David Duchovny was cleared bored shitless by the whole thing, although Gillian Anderson remained committed to the end.  I even liked Agent Reyes.  But when Scully gave away her baby, I cut myself off emotionally from the whole series – it seemed too cruel a fate for a character I loved so much.

When I first heard about The X-Files reboot, it was with dread.  I didn’t automatically think it would be bad but just unnecessary.  Also, I didn’t think that 20thC paranoia was going to translate well in the internet age.  Worse, it was Channel 5 that picked it up which has to be a major insult indeed.  However, the opening sequence of the first episode was hopeful – perhaps this won’t be so bad, I thought.  And at least they hadn’t changed the opening credits!  In those brief moments, I relived the initial excitement of the early days and I tried to hang on to that feeling for as long as I could.

But it hasn’t worked.  The opening titles remain the best thing about The X-Files.  Everything else feels rehashed and pointless.  David Duchovny has not aged well and while Gillian Anderson is still very beautiful, her wig was just wrong and there appeared to be something wrong with her voice.  It was very strained, as if her vocal chords had tightened.  I have the same problem so this is something I know about – my vocal chords have tightened through lack of use and also nervousness, but then I’m not an actress and I don’t care.  Clearly the producers think their stars are too old too because they introduced Mully and Sculder clones several episodes in, neither of which were remotely interesting.  Does this indicate a spin-off series?  Am I going to bother watching?

It’s possible the series may have been better if it had had the chance to develop but with only six episodes, it was a waste of time.  There were no new ideas, no innovations, nothing that made it stand out in the way it used to.  There was no atmosphere, no mood.  It wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t that good.  The stories weren’t that exciting.  The last episode looked cheap and Sculder and Mully were never on the screen together once.  Bloody Smoking Man should have stayed dead and the Lone Gunmen resurrected instead.  And why did poor Monica Reyes have to stick fags in SM’s smoke hole?  What a horrible ending for her.  I’d always pictured her living happily ever after with Doggett in a rose covered cottage.  As an ex-Terminator, at least he was strong enough to take out the garbage.

I was left feeling immensely disappointed and my expectations weren’t even that high.  Please, please, I hope they don’t make any more.  Not unless someone else gets to write it and the actors get better lines.

Best moment (at least there is one):  Scully introducing the opening of the last episode in the same way that Mulder opened the first and then hilariously morphing into a Grey.  Brilliant.


FREE: (until Friday 18th only)Free Spooked

All the titles of my Exodus Sequence stories have double – or triple – meanings.  I loved playing around with them and discovering more ways that the title could work.  In “Wired,” the prison cages were made of wire, the alien prisoner was extremely wired, coming down off some very bad drugs indeed, but there was also a wire-type connection between him and the telepath creating a link which backfired spectacularly.

“Spooked” has several meanings as well:  the heroine Zipp appears to be paranoid and keeps a watch for white shadows, which could be ghosts … or spooks.  She’s also contacted by an agent, MI7, she thinks, who wants her to decipher a weird string of incomprehensible numbers.  Mr Nylon is the second spook.  The third meaning is about fear:  Zipp isn’t actually paranoid.  There really are white shadows.  But she is frightened and her desire for near-solitude is something I know all about.  Perhaps I’m spooked too.


Author Reviews on Goodreads

Writing this short story was an exercise in restraint – I held back on the violence so hard that you can feel it under the skin of the main character. He barely moves and says very little but you can hardly take your eyes off him. As the first story in the Exodus Sequence, I set about creating a mystery that would unfold obliquely through the other stories. Huge questions are asked: who is the prisoner, is he an alien, was there a war, why is everyone locked up in wire cages. But the biggest mystery of all may be the scenes that directly involve the main character and the telepathic girl. The story becomes almost incomprehensible at this point and I’ve had readers mention that they didn’t actually understand what was going on. This is entirely the point – but never fear, the mind games are delved into further in several of the other Exodus stories. The story’s strongest connection is with “Caged” which is the last novelette in the sequence. I think this is a four star story, losing one star for its possible lack of comprehension.

This review contains potential plot-spoilers and explanations that would make more sense if read AFTER you’ve read the novelette!

REFLECTED was an experiment in obfuscation. My heroine goes through the entire story without having any idea what is going on and neither, I have to presume, does the reader. It was quite delicious to write! A monumental event takes place on what one can only presume is Mars and is witnessed by Jennifer Reed (although we can’t be sure this is her name.) This event, an invasion, has repercussions throughout the rest of the Exodus Sequence – the first volume and the still-to-be written second. But in this entry of the sequence, the invasion is less important than the identity of Jennifer Reed. When she connects with one of the aliens, he identifies her as Miranda, a character whose background role will be immense in the remainder of the sequence. This alien – whose name we never learn – is the same as the one in WIRED, though the order of events are not yet clear. This is, after all, only the second in the Exodus Sequence: by the time you get to the end, much of the smokescreens will have cleared.

The story opens with a ticking clock – having struggled to sleep (or, at least, remain asleep) half my life, that ticking clock is possibly the most annoying sound in the entire universe. I thought it a most appropriate noise to signify death. And if you understand that Jennifer is dead, the story may resonate more.

What I enjoyed most about writing this story was Jennifer’s first experiments with time, space and reading other characters. My most-loved scene is the one where glass rains through her. It may be mystifying but I wanted the story to be nothing less than beautiful.

This is one of my favourite Exodus stories but I’m conscious that my experimentation might have gone too far, hence I’ve been particularly cruel to myself and only given it three stars. One day, perhaps, I’ll find out what readers really think!

Blue Blue Electric Blue that’s the colour of my room

I can’t believe David Bowie is dead.  I heard it on the news at seven on the Today programme and sat there stunned, forgetting entirely that I was supposed to be getting ready to go to work.  Their obituary was longer than any other I’ve heard, even for Lady Thatcher and by 8.20 when I finally left for work – having cried through my muesli and sobbed over my toothbrush – it was Jeremy Corbyn’s turn to say something about it.  (I didn’t stay to listen.)

David Bowie wasn’t supposed to die.  People like him don’t die.  They go on forever.  Or, at least, it should be that way because there are so few people one can truly admire and the world is a lot less interesting with him gone.

By the time I first heard Space Oddity, it was already old and I was hearing it in the cultural wasteland that was 1970’s South Africa, where my life was isolated to the extreme:  I didn’t even know what David Bowie looked like.  That whole glam Ziggy thing completely passed me by because I was living in a bubble where contact with the outside world was zero.  We didn’t even have TV so no Top of the Pops either.  As a result, I grew up not caring what my pop heroes looked like.  It was what they sounded like that counted.  I became umbilically attached to the radio and it was there that I heard these wonderful “old” songs – Space Oddity and Life on Mars.  Because they were never going to die.  And never, ever get old.

My David Bowie is the one from Heroes and Low.  I loved Heroes (the single) and I loved Sound and Vision.  When I finally got the tears to stop, I told myself – sternly – that I was glad there had been a David Bowie.  After that, blue blue electric blue that’s the colour of my room where I will live started going around my head and has done all morning.  I’m now going off to drift into my solitude.

Free Read on Amazon!

This is the Amazon link:

Been having great fun thinking up Tweets for this short story.  I decided on lifting quotes directly from the story itself.  This is what I came up with:

The flash came in a zigzag of light.

This is what pain looks like.

There was a lot of damage but I hadn’t finished.

The tiles seeped red from his crushed skull.

Are you saying we’re losing the war?

The lights were flashing and they were flashing hard.

Blood spurted on the window.

I’m sick of immortality.

i was nailed to the wet black tarmac of suburbia.

Does everyone know except me?

My favourite one is “this is what pain looks like.”  I’ve only ever once had a headache that involved hallucinatory flashes of light (I believe it’s called an “aura”) and it was one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me.  I remember resolving to chill a bit more, which basically just means eating more chocolate.  But it was a useful experience to use in this story – the protagonist is a war vet with apparent PTSD.  It’s also very violent, one of the most violent stories I’ve ever written, and despite the writing style not being particularly brilliant, I think it’s one of my best stories:  really raw and insightful.  In the original story, I couldn’t find a satisfying ending and it kind of petered out.  Once I decided to include it in The Exodus Sequence, the ending flashing at me as suddenly as that aura.  It was as if it had waited over ten years for the right ending to come along … … …

Free Walked

A rose by any other name

I was surprised to learn in the latest issue of SFX that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell had tanked on TV.  I was gobsmacked.  I thought it was the best thing I have ever watched on BBC 1.  Utterly gorgeous, hugely clever, intensely adult, subtly complex characterisation – a story about something that mattered.  It was funny and dark and had so many outstanding moments that I couldn’t begin to list them here though I did enjoy Mr Norrell’s raptures about English rain because I feel the same, though we get so very little of it in the middle of London, just a bit of armpit sweat every now and then to grease the sidewalks.  My daughter and I sat entranced every Sunday night for seven weeks (oh, for it to have been another 10….), too thrilled to wait for the catch-up version without the stupid idiot announcer talking over the end credits.  It was one of the few times my daughter watched TV bolt upright and I’ve promised to buy the box set so that we can watch it all again in delight.  I’ve bought the book too and can’t wait to read it but am saving it.  Having glanced at the first page to ensure that, yes, the writing is as excellent as I thought it would be, I can’t help wishing that I had written it.  I wish I could have such good ideas, could execute them so excellently that awards are showered on me and the BBC creates a lavish, expensive, highly detailed, brilliantly acted TV series out of it.  What utter joy Susanna Clarke (god, her name is even similar to mine) must feel, to have written something so satisfying, so intelligent, so beautiful, so magical, so wonderful…………..while I struggle to churn out garbage that no one reads.  I’m jealous, I’m envious but I’m also thankful that someone at least did write this, even if it wasn’t me.  It seems JS and Mr N failed on TV because people don’t like fantasy.  Really?  Who are those trillions watching Throne of Games?  Well, not me, cos I can’t stand that sort of thing but GOT is hardly in the same league as JS+MrN – the latter is for adults, for people with intellect and a desire for beauty.  I never once thought of it as fantasy.  Nor did I think of it as alternate history.  It seemed to have no genre at all, yet I see Susanna Clarke has won (or was nominated for) some sci-fi awards.  Writing outside of genre myself, I think this book is also outside of genre.  It would be a shame to lump it with the GOTs of the world or the Harry Potters, because it’s so much better.  There are ideas in it that I’ve never seen before, magic that would never had occurred to me.  Imagination is at work here at its very peak.  If you haven’t watched it, do.  It’s divine.

I did, at the very, very least, get a letter published in the Radio Times – quite a feat, I think.  Here it is:IMG_1384 - Copy

Book Review: The Atlantis Gene by agriddle

This book is terrible. Not worth reviewing except to express my utter astonishment that anything can be so bad. How does this kind of garbage get published with such a huge budget while genuinely well-written novels are left languishing in the self-published heap of neglect? Could the publishers not see how badly written it was? I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything quite so badly executed. It makes Dan Brown look like a ten-time Booker Prize winner. The grammar is putrid. A child could split an infinitive with greater skill.

And as for the plot – it’s just laughable. I’m all for the preposterous plot but this is just stupid – badly thought out, possibly not even thought out at all. The author (though I wouldn’t credit him with that title – the moron with the keyboard) claims to have spent two years researching this. More like one afternoon skimming Wikipedia. However, the “author” has, at least, taken the trouble to read a “how to write a thriller” textbook. The chapters are painfully short, sometimes barely a page. This, apparently, is supposed to make it “exciting” – NOTHING makes this story exciting. It was dead before it started. There is no characterisation at all. The names you do get to know at the start of the book are killed off, one by one, until you wonder (or hope) that perhaps everyone in the book will die and there won’t be any more book. The villains can be swapped around at will and are more stereotypical than your average stereotype. Nazis! Really……? Most of the time you can’t tell the characters apart (men or women) but don’t care anyway.

Far, far worse than the travesty of a so-called thriller is that there are TWO MORE of these awful books. It’s also been optioned for a movie – OF COURSE! Because what else are you going to make a movie out of other than a piece of trash writing – books by morons for morons make terrific movies for morons.

There isn’t one single original idea here. Even the main premise of the Atlantis gene has been done before. Hello, Stargate Atlantis, anyone? They did this several trillion times better. With mentions of Star Trek and Indiana Jones, the “author” clearly thinks his story ranks as highly.

In the end, I can forgive a great story poorly executed if only it wasn’t so very, very poorly executed. But this isn’t a great story. Lame, derivative, hollow, yes, but not great. Which leaves those awful, flat, bland, ugly, clumsy, clumpy, unedited, unstylish, unimaginative, characterless, proseless, limp, useless, cliched, hideous sentences: they are going to haunt me forever (or at least until I can get my hands on a Real Book…..)