Tag Archives: edinburgh fringe

Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2

Shoreline-Issue-8-5-front-cover

Last week, I finally got to read Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2, the Edinburgh Book Festival Special Edition. Strictly speaking, I could have read it as soon as it came out – I had a digital contributor copy, but I like reading physical books.

It’s a great little collection, and I’m immensely proud to be a part of it, alongside some really great authors. (I hold out that my story isn’t nearly good enough, but people seem to disagree!)

There’s a selection of stories from early issues of Shoreline of Infinity including The Great Golden Fish by Dee Raspin, The Stilt-Men of the Lunar Swamps by Andrew J. Wilson, and, of course, 3.8 Missions by yours truly. Most of the returning stories were ones I remembered, in some cases vividly, and I can recommend all of them.

And then (for me, the really exciting part) there’s an assortment of new stories, contributed by SF authors reading at the book festival. They’re a diverse mix, but Shoreline of Infinity has always been a diverse magazine:

Edinburgh Masks by Adam RobertsI stumbled on Adam Roberts a few years ago, and have something of a love-hate relationship with his work. His books are strange, often frustrating reads, and yet whenever I find one in a bookshop I invariably buy it because the premise is just so… enticing.

He’s also one of the most versatile authors I’ve encountered, so I’m not surprised that I was surprised by Edinburgh Masks. It’s a new spin on some classic, Victorian themes, not at all the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a sci-fi collection. But Shoreline of Infinity being what it is, it fits in well here.

Lowland Clearances by Pippa Goldschmidt: a very strange, very short little story, and for me one of the highlights of the collection. It’s set in an unspecified point in the future that, while very strange, feels very close to home, almost contemporary. Is it optimistic or just unsettling? I’m not sure, but I can’t help recommending it.

The Honey Trap by Ruth EJ Booth: I’ve been reading Ruth EJ Booth’s Noise and Sparks column in Shoreline with interest, so I was even more interested to read her fiction. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not my cup of tea… for very specific and very personal reasons which I won’t go into.

It’s a great pity, because otherwise I really enjoyed The Honey Trap. It’s one of those SF stories that offers full immersion, throwing you into its world and letting you learn the rules as you go. If you’re, well, not me, you’ll probably love it.

Whimper by Nalo Hopkinson: I hadn’t come across Nalo Hopkinson before hearing her perform at Event Horizon and the more of her work I read(/listen to) the more convinced I am that I’ve been missing out. (In fact, I’m going to go and look up her books right now and stick some on my Goodreads list).

Absolutely the strangest story in the collection and, in my opinion, the best. Another story that throws you into its world and leaves you dizzy. I love it, I won’t spoil it, and I look forward to re-reading it.

New Gray Ring to Join the Olympic Five by Ada Palmer: Finally, a short essay-style piece. It’s written in the style of a newspaper article reporting the titular change to the Olympic rings. Does the gray ring represent Anarctica or the Moon? Seemingly neither.

I generally like this style of fiction, but although well-crafted this one left me a bit cold. I’m going to chalk it up to my not really caring about the Olympics!

The collection also features non-fiction by Ken MacLeod, Charles Stross and Shoreline editor Iain Maloney, excerpts from the ongoing Beachcomber comic and SF Caledonia series and a selection of poems including work by Iain M Banks and Jane Yolen.

You can buy it right over here, in ebook and print formats, starting at £3.50. I’d really recommend checking it out, and not just because I’m in it. If you’re new to Shoreline this is a great place to jump in, and if you’ve read it before, you’re sure to love it.

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Fringe 2017 Reviews: Julius Caesar (With Pirates)

fde992_527ef8796fe0460f800cb789ce6bd666~mv2There’s mutiny afoot on the pirate ship, Rome.  Fresh from his victory over former captain Pompey, Caesar’s tyrannical command causes unrest amongst the crew. A mutiny supported by first mate Brutus might help restore democracy to the ship, if greed and in-fighting don’t get the better of the mutineers’ good intentions.

This is the second production I’ve seen by Some Kind of Theatre. Last year’s Steampunk Tempest was a little rough around the edges, but inventive, funny, and ultimately true to the source material.

I’m surprised they chose Julius Caesar as a follow-up – if I had to guess, I’d have expected them to stick with the comedies, not tackle one of Shakespeare’s heaviest plays. The other productions of Julius Caesar at the fringe this year include an all-female production described as ‘relevant and gritty’ and a production set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

Some Kind of Theatre takes a totally different route, presenting Julius Caesar – with PIRATES! And you know what? I’m all for it. It’s fun, it’s irreverent, and the soothsayer is a talking parrot.

Aesthetically, for the scale of the production it looks great. It’s part of Some Kind of Theatre’s Shakespeare on the Sofa project, portable productions designed to fit into any venue, intended to make Shakespeare accessible to a wider audience.

The storybook backdrop is ingenious, simple but very effective, and the piratical aesthetic is very slick. If you’re smart enough you don’t need a whole lot to make a real impression. It’s a nicely choreographed, visually appealing, concise little production.

The concept of Julius Caesar as a pirate captain is an interesting one – sailing the ship of state, perhaps? Ha. There is some cognitive dissonance from the fact that the characters are now ostensibly outlaws rather than the state government, but given what a light-hearted production it is, I’m willing to let that slide.

I was pleased to see that, silly as the premise is, they didn’t shy away from the play’s darker moments – despite the talking parrot and the swashbuckling swordfights, it’s still a story about politics and murder, and the bloody heart of it comes through.

Julius Caesar has (I gather) a complicated plot and a lot of characters and for the most part they’ve done a good job of condensing it down into an hour and the minimum of players. However, I was a bit uncomfortable the resulting handling of Mark Antony.

In this production, Mark Antony is a woman – and Caesar’s wife, combined with the character of Calpurnia. On one level, the gender flip is a bit of a masterstroke.

When Mark Antony is a woman, you get a story in which Caesar’s murderers don’t expect any retribution because they’d never expect Mark Antony to declare war on them. They let her speak at Caesar’s funeral because they assume they can control her. The line Your voice shall be as strong as any man’s /In the disposing of new dignities takes on a whole new meaning.

But did she really have to be Caesar’s wife? I recognise that someone had to have the portentous dream (that Caesar ignores) but that role could have gone to Antony without their being married.

I’m of the opinion that, as a general rule, you can either have two Shakespearean characters who are, in the original text, close platonic friends be lovers or have one of them be a woman. When you do both, the implications get a little unfortunate.

I’d be more charitable here were it not for the fact that last year’s Steampunk Tempest also contained some… strange cross-gender casting (I’ve never seen a woman play Caliban before, and frankly it’s not an experience I’d like to repeat). I’d suggest that they think through the possible implications in future!

Otherwise, though, I had a good time! It’s not the smoothest Shakespearean production you’ll see at the Fringe this year – some of the cast do struggle at times with the dialogue, making the plot hard to follow for those of us who haven’t read the play – but it’s certainly one of the cheapest, and the only one with pirates. And a talking parrot (puppet).

Julius Caesar (With Pirates) is on until August 18th 7PM @ Black Market. Entry is free, suggested donation £5. Take your friends, get some culture, enjoy some pirate antics.

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: No Names

This is probably about as good a zombie apocalypse you can do on a tight budget; with zombies represented entirely by sound effects, No Names is bleak, claustrophobic and darkly funny.

The play has exactly one setting – a room in an ordinary house – and two characters, a ditzy, optimistic woman and a survivalist man. Unfortunately, for a play that should be a character comedy, the characterisation is shallow. Of the two leads, only the survivalist has any real depth. His female companion is a ditzy stereotype.

It’s her self-evident stupidity that is the source of much of the humour, which is at odds with the grim setting. It’s sad, because then the jokes are suitably dark, they are funny and original – No Names has what must be the first ‘dead pug’ joke I’ve ever heard.

Despite my gripes, it’s a decent zombie story, with a few real twists along the way. Between this and Reginald Tanner, the other half of the zombie double bill, I’ll be sure to give any future Shiny New Theatre productions in Edinburgh a look.

No Names was a Shiny New Theatre production on at Cafe Camino until August 24th

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Brief Afterlife of Reginald Tanner

regThis might just be the most thoroughly British zombie story you’ll ever see – and for all it has flaws, The Brief Afterlife of Reginald Tanner is a very refreshing take on the genre.

Where most zombie stories are about the horror of loss of control and chaos, The Brief Afterlife of Reginald Tanner focuses on the precise opposite. A scientist devises a brilliant – but costly – way to bring the dead back to life. This leads almost at once to the appointment of a Minister of Mortality, the creation of a mortality tax, and yet more legislative and capitalist horrors.

The horror comes not from the zombie, poor ol’ Reginald Tanner, but from the government’s nastily realistic decision to, as they put it, ‘privatise death’. As a satire it is biting, but spectacularly unsubtle. There is no wriggle-room for interpretation here – nor is there really meant to be.

The lack of subtlety is the show’s biggest weak point. It is a production that is very certain of its own wittiness which is not always as witty as it tries to be. It spends a lot of time going into detail about the horrifying system being developed for reanimated corpses and little time on developing its – largely archetypal – characters.

Certainly a play with room for improvement – but for an entirely new twist on the zombie genre, one can put up with some flaws.

The Brief Afterlife of Reginald Tanner is a Shiny New Theatre production that was on at Café Camino at 8:45 until August 24th. 

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