“Community Spirit” By C. A. Brown (Halloween 2017 Sci-Fi Stories #1)

Stay tuned for the next short story tomorrow night 🙂

With a quiet sigh, Gerald Beam paced past the silent typewriters and dead radios. A few cigarette ends glowed like fireflies. Gerald steadied himself and took a deep breath: ‘As many of you may have guessed, the problems with your radios are not a malfunction.

There were whispers. The sharp edges of twenty words at once, as rough as the wind outside. Gerald continued: ‘I have deactivated them via the central control because our paper is dying. We’ve become nothing more than a transcription service. Some of you are no better than the bellowers on your radio sets. People…‘ He took a deep breath, tasting old whisky: ‘..If people want that kind of dreck, they can listen to the public broadcasts.

By now, the orange fireflies had multiplied to a small swarm and the chattering had quietened to a low rustle. Gerald let the corners of a smile creep onto his face: ‘We’re running a newspaper! And what do people get from a newspaper that they can’t get anywhere else? Humanity! Community!‘ He paused for effect: ‘At the moment, we’re as anonymous as the people on the radio! There are twenty million people in this city! Twenty million stories. Twenty million potential readers.’

He paused again and squinted into the gloom. He’d expected questions. He’d expected indignant fury. All he got was silence. Taking a deep breath that sounded as loud as the wash from an air-car, he carried on: ‘We can really bring this city together, people! So, get out there and bring me news. Find me the real spirit of this community! Pound the streets, take the pulse of the people. We can really be something!

Again, there was nothing but silence. Gerald’s eyes widened. A blush crept over his face. He glanced down for a second and pinched his leg. He wasn’t naked. The pain felt real. He wouldn’t wake up in a sweat.

With a barely-concealed tremble, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a hundred credit note. Holding it aloft, he said: ‘If that won’t motivate you, then maybe this will. One hundred credits for the best story! Now get out there and bring me the heart of this community!

Like a match dropped onto an anthill, the newsroom burst into life. The air was filled with the rustling of trench coats, the clicking of lighters and the rattling of cameras. Letting out a quiet sigh, Gerald leant against the bare wall and watched the grey horde shuffle towards the doors.

***********

At first, the stories came in at a trickle. Trevanis had phoned in a few sentences about an old lady who scavanged roadkill from the train tracks. Booth had telegraphed an unprintable interview with a nightclub performer. Scott had fired off some confabulated nonsense about a sick man who built robot mannequins. Even with extra adverts, there was barely enough for a single page.

But, as the night wore on and Gerald’s glass got emptier, more and more stories came in over the wire. Good stuff too. Griggs had got an exclusive from the developers of the new Agora Shopping Precinct. Whittaker had written a piece about local residents’ reactions to the new phone box on Tennant Boulevard. Mason had nabbed a meteorological report about the freak fog event last week.

By midnight, Gerald had resigned himself to the fact that he’d have to hire a sub-editor. Still, as he let out a yawn and drained the dregs of his glass, he couldn’t help but feel satisfied.

A second later, he spotted the crumpled hundred-credit note on his desk and muttered under his breath. No doubt that they’d all be asking him who won. His eyes drifted over to the pile of printouts on the edge of his desk. Sighing, he decided to pick one at random tomorrow morning.

As he reached for his coat, a low rustling sound filled the air. Then silence. Just the rain. Gerald let another smile cross his face. Never before had reading the reports been so interesting that he’d tuned out the sound of the rain.

Hefting the coat over his shoulders, he strode towards the door. As he emerged into the empty newsroom, the noise started again. It was louder this time. It took him a couple of seconds to place it, but it was radio static. Probably a malfunctioning unit. No doubt an attempt at a “repair” from one of the reporters. He fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a scrap of paper.

But, before he could leave a note for the electrician, the crackling intensified. Then the voices started. “…and for all you gamers out there…”, “…oppression! The privileged classes will never…”, “..yum! yum! yum! Elastic gum!…”. By now, the broadcasts had began to merge with each other. The people were finishing each other’s sentences. Words broke in half and collided with each other to form new words. Greeful.. dexual..stubblick..cashyou..gamhorn….

Gerald didn’t notice the shifting shadow on the wall. The sour stench barely registered. He didn’t even hear the low, shuffling footsteps. It was only when he felt something cold and hard brush against his shoulder that he turned around. The scream froze in his throat. A mouth like a slashed bin bag smiled back at him.

****************

By the time the reporters shuffled back into the office, the cleaners had already called the police. From behind the cordon, a few of them could just make out the scratched shards of bone littering the newsroom floor. Leaning past a burly cop, Griggs got a snap of a ripped trenchcoat. Crouching, Mason took a few quick shots of what looked like a crushed radio.

Lighting a cigarette, Trevanis held a microphone to one of the detectives and tried to ask questions. There was no comment. Booth sighed and said: ‘Serial killer or rabid dog, what shall we go with?

Griggs shook his head ‘We haven’t got proof.

When has that ever stopped us?‘ Mason chuckled grimly. ‘Anyway, people love a good mystery.

Trevanis took a deep drag and said: ‘No mystery here. Gerald asked us to go out and find the real spirit of this city. It looks like the spirit found him.

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Today’s Art (21st October 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first page this year’s Halloween comic 🙂 Stay tuned for the next page tomorrow 🙂 In the meantime, you can catch up on previous pages here: Cover

Unlike previous Halloween comics, this one will hopefully be in full colour and I’ll be using the ‘rectangular’ format that I used in my previous webcomic mini series. But, unlike that mini series, this one will be a narrative comic, like last year’s Halloween comic.

And, yes, regular readers will probably remember when Rox found her “time traveller from 2005” Halloween costume.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Video Nasty - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Video Nasty – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art ( 20th October 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the cover illustration for this year’s Halloween comic 🙂 Stay tuned for the next page tomorrow 🙂

Unlike previous Halloween comics, this one will hopefully be in full colour and I’ll be using the ‘rectangular’ format that I used in my previous webcomic mini series. But, unlike that mini series, this one will be a narrative comic, like last year’s Halloween comic.

Links to many more comics featuring these characters can be found here, if anyone is interested 🙂

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Video Nasty - Cover" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Video Nasty – Cover” By C. A. Brown

COMING SOON! Halloween Stories & Comic :)

Well, with Halloween approaching, this means that it’s time for my usual Halloween stuff 🙂

This became something of an annual tradition when I wrote an interactive novella and made a comedic horror comic in 2015. In 2016, I made another comedy horror comic and wrote some short stories.

So, what can you expect this year?

– Another Comic 🙂 : Starting on the 20th October and concluding on Halloween, there will be a new daily comedy horror comic called “Video Nasty”, starring the characters from my webcomics. Here’s a preview of it:

This is a panel from my upcoming Halloween comic, which starts on the 20th October 🙂

– Retro sci-fi Horror Stories 🙂 : Starting on the 21st and concluding on the 30th, there will be a daily series of ten “Retro Sci-Fi” horror stories. Think neon, rain, mega-cities, flying cars, crackling radios etc… These were kind of interesting to write and, for the first time in literally ages, I even used third-person narration occasionally. Here’s a preview of the title graphic from one of the stories:

This short story series will run from the 21st-30th October 🙂

And here’s a spine-tingling extract from that story: ‘The air was filled with anguished howls, counterpointed crudely by the furious buzzing of an industrial saw. Above the cacophony, cackling laughter crackled through the air.

So, yes, there’s lots to look forward to here in the days leading up to Halloween 🙂

Top Ten Articles – September 2017

2017-artwork-top-ten-articles-september

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for my usual list of links to the ten best articles about art, making comics, writing fiction etc… that I’ve posted here this month. As usual, I’ll include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, even though there were more reviews than usual, this month’s articles turned out fairly well. Since I was busy with a couple of creative projects at the time of writing these articles, it meant that I had more things to write about even if, for time reasons, there was a lot of recycled title art in this month’s articles.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – September 2017

– “Why The Cyberpunk Genre Is A Genre About Creativity Itself (And Why It’s Good For The World)- A Ramble
– “Three Random Tips For Writing A Short Story Collection
– “Four Quick Tips For Never Leaving A Comic Unfinished
– “Nostalgia vs. Memory – A Ramble
– “Making Comics Vs Writing Fiction – What Are The Differences?
– “Three Random Tips For Making Occasional Webcomics
– “Two Very Basic Tips For Dealing With Webcomic Exhaustion
– “Failed Paintings Happen. Here’s What To Do.
– “Three Ways To Make Things That Will Inspire Other People
– “Four Reasons Why Prose Fiction Being “Uncool” Is A Good Thing

Honourable Mentions:

– “Three Things That Books Could Learn From DVDs
– “Three Lazy Ways To Include Fight Scenes In Your Webcomic (If You Don’t Usually Include Them)

Top Ten Articles – August 2017

2017-artwork-top-ten-articles-august

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to compile my usual list of links to my ten favourite articles about making art, making comics, writing fiction etc… that I’ve posted here during the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

This month was kind of a strange one, since there were far more writing-related articles than usual (mostly because, due to writing these articles in advance, I was also busy writing these short stories whilst preparing this month’s articles).

Likewise, thanks to being busy with other projects, I ended up using recycled title graphics quite a bit this month – although thankfully, the quality of the actual articles didn’t really suffer though. Plus, it also meant that my planned review of “Shadowrun: Dragonfall” has been pushed back even further, since I had been too busy to complete all or most of the game whilst preparing this month’s articles.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂

Top Ten Articles – August 2017:

– “Three Reasons Why It’s Important To Be “Well Read” (In Written Or Visual Media) If You Are An Artist, Writer etc…
– “Three Tips For Making Minimalist Art (Or, My Interpretation Of It)
– “Three Tips For Finding Your Own Artistic Interpretation Of ‘Retro’
– “Four Ghoulish Tips For Making 1980s-Inspired Horror Artwork
– “Three More Tips For Making Better Paintings When You’re Extremely Tired
– “Three Random Tips For Writing Cyberpunk Comedy
– “Three Basic Tips For Coming Up With Cyberpunk Stories
– “Three Basic Ways To Connect A Group Of Cyberpunk Short Stories
– “Do You Need To Be Tech-Savvy To Write Cyberpunk Fiction?
– “Four Tips For Writing Cyberpunk Fiction Quickly

Honourable mentions:

– “Three Tips For Writing (Cyberpunk) “Flash Fiction” Stories
– “Three Tips For Including Popular Culture In Your Webcomic

Review: “Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the twelfth (and final) episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. All in all, this series has certainly been one of the best series of “Doctor Who” that I’ve seen in quite a while.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “The Doctor Falls”. Needless to say, this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS.

“The Doctor Falls” is an hour-long episode that concludes the story arc that began in the previous episode. However, unlike the spectacular science fiction and eerie horror of the previous episode, this episode is more of a science fantasy/ serious drama-based episode that focuses mostly on The Doctor’s attempts at defending an idyllic farming community on one of the upper decks of the spaceship from an attack by the cybermen below.

Expelliarmus!

Up until the final few minutes, the episode is a slightly slow-paced, tense and sombre episode that is filled with emotional drama and dramatic conversations (in between brief, but gloomily understated, action sequences). In other words, it’s a far cry from the thrillingly epic “next week” trailer at the end of the previous episode. Never trust a trailer, I guess.

Even so, Nardole gets to be something of a badass in this episode though.

Even so, the level of drama and characterisation here is absolutely stunning. Not only are there lots of interesting conversations between Missy and The Master (and, yes, Missy is a future regeneration of The Master), but their complicated love/hate relationship with The Doctor is explored in more depth too.

However, depressingly, despite all of the characterisation that Missy has had over the past couple of years (or even just during the course of this episode), she dies during this episode.

Initially, I thought that the scene was left ambigious (and that Missy would just return, like she did during this series) – although, looking on Wikipedia, Michelle Gomez apparently isn’t returning to perform in any subsequent episodes of the show. So, yes, “Doctor Who” has just lost one of it’s best characters (if not THE best character).

Even so, Missy’s final scene in the episode is both brilliantly ironic and incredibly depressing at the same time, with Missy and the Master mortally wounding each other for different reasons, and then finding the whole situation hilarious.

Dammit! This is supposed to be “Doctor Who”, not a George R. R. Martin novel!

Still, despite the “war with the cybermen” background of the episode, this is much more of a character-based episode than a thriller episode.

This episode has a level of seriousness, depth and maturity to it that really took me by surprise. It is an episode about identity, about death, about hope, about the meaning of life etc.. Seriously, there is so much stuff here.

But, the most fascinating theme of the episode is the theme of identity. Whether it is Bill’s horror at the fact that she looks like a cyberman on the outside (with the show alternating between how she sees herself and how others see her), or the myriad similarities and differences between The Master and Missy (eg: two sides of the same person), or the fact that the grim events of the episode force The Doctor to be really clear about who he is and what he stands for (and how this affects his later refusal to regenerate, because he doesn’t want to change who he is), the episode’s treatment of the subject of identity is detailed, nuanced and profound.

It’s also chilling and somewhat depressing at times too.

However, the set design and lighting in this episode didn’t really impress me as much as they did in the previous episode. However, this is mostly because large parts of the episode are set on a rather ordinary-looking farm.

*yawn*

Yes, I understand that the set designers probably chose to use a more understated and dull background in order to place the emphasis on the characters, but it still makes me miss the more dystopian and futuristic settings of the previous episode. Even so, there are still a few cool-looking locations that are glimpsed briefly throughout the episode. Likewise, the lighting during some scenes is suitably gloomy, eerie and/or dramatic, so it isn’t all bad.

Such as some early scenes that take place on the roof of the hospital from the previous episode.

Or this scene of the cybermen preparing to attack.

Or some of the scenes set within the farmhouse.

However, some of the episode’s serious drama is undercut somewhat by a “WTF?” deus ex machina ending.

Basically, Bill is suddenly rescued (and turned into a ghost of some kind) by the pilot from the first episode of the series, who just suddenly materialises from a nearby puddle whilst Bill is tearfully mourning beside The Doctor’s motionless body. Yes, the episode tries to explain this sudden last-minute plot twist by showing clips from the first episode, but it still feels like a deus ex machina ending.

In the space of one minute, Bill goes from the depths of abject despair…

…to joyous romantic bliss. Seriously, talk about a sudden change in the episode’s emotional tone!

Yes, this random plot twist gives this otherwise depressing episode something of a happy ending – and this is a refreshing change from the rest of the episode. But, it also seems like this ending has been bolted on to the episode, rather than being an organic part of the story. The emotional tone of the ending is so different to the rest of the episode, that it almost feels like the ending is a scene from another episode that has been edited into this episode by mistake. Even so, it’s good to see that Bill’s story arc gets a happy ending though.

Even so, this is kind of slightly similar to how Clara left the show at the end of the previous series. So, it isn’t the most original of endings…

As for The Doctor, he surprisingly doesn’t regenerate at the end – mostly because he just doesn’t want to. Still, the episode ends mysteriously with him possibly meeting one of his past (?) incarnations on a frozen planet. No doubt that, in the traditional fashion, this is also the set up for this year’s Christmas episode too.

Apparently, he’s supposed to be the first Doctor (played by a different actor). However, I’ve mostly only seen episodes of Doctor Who from 2005 onwards, so I can’t be certain.

So, yes, the ending is in part mysteriously intriguing and in part contrived. Still, this is probably one of the most “serious” episodes of Doctor Who that I’ve ever seen. Although it didn’t quite turn out to be the thrillingly epic episode that last week’s trailer seemed to imply that it was, I can hardly call this a bad episode either. It’s a serious piece of sombre, mature, emotional drama and a reasonably decent ending to an absolutely spectacular series of “Doctor Who”.

If I had to give this episode a rating out of five, it would get a four.