Saturday 31 December 2016

WTF? Kingsglaive: A Final Fantasy movie

Take the Lord of the Rings. Add futuristic technology. Retain magic. And modern stuff like cars and guns. Throw in visuals from Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars and Starship Troopers. Add the vibes from Aliens and Call of Duty. The result is Kingsglaive, a story from the Final Fantasy franchise, released as a CGI movie.

I have no real idea what Final Fantasy is. I've never played the games. Never joined in with the fanbase. I am totally clueless. I watched the animated movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which takes place on a future Earth and looks a lot like Halo with a vague spiritual concept thrown in. I enjoyed it a lot, but I have no idea how it connects to the rest of the franchise.

I haven't seen Kingsglaive yet. I just happened across a trailer that intrigued me then blew me away. I cannot say to you, dear reader, whether this is worth watching. But OMG, the smorgasbord of influences makes me want to watch it so bad. Even if I don't understand what's going on. And I confess, after watching the twelve minute sample of the movie, I remain baffled. But interested. This is fantasy set free.

I loved the Lord of the Rings when I was younger, but quickly grew tired of the derivative 'High Fantasy' novels that followed it, wallowing as they did in a quasi-medieval straitjacket that made everything a little too cosy. The Game of Thrones series was, I suppose, an attempt to break free from that, but by then I'd moved away from reading fantasy.

I always wondered what it would be like to combine Lord of the Rings with assault rifles and grunts. I guess it would look like this.

Monday 26 December 2016

UNDEAD UK: The Othello Connection

Kenneth Branagh as Iago, Othello's nemesis

Shakespeare's Othello is about betrayal, manipulation, self doubt and paranoia. These are the main themes of my book Remember Me Dead, and I consciously thought of Othello when I was writing it, to the point where I named one of the characters Iago. This was purely for my benefit during the early drafts, and I changed the character's name for the final release, because I didn't want to make it too obvious to a reader that this was the character that would betray Breht, the book's protagonist.

Breht as a character existed in my mind for some years. I don't know why I wanted to make him gay (spoiler alert), but originally he was going to star in a gay version of Othello. I had a few notes, and I even sketched out a thriller set in Sierra Leone's civil war, with Breht as a South African mercenary. Nothing more came of this, and Breht returned to the waiting room in my mind where other characters are currently hanging around, waiting for their book to be written.

When I decided to write my first zombie novel, therefore, Breht came to mind, and immediately the basics of the plot came together. Remember Me Dead, of course, is not an exact rendering of Shakespeare's tale. Imagine, if you like, that Othello survived his ordeal, and spent the latter half of the story in exile, thinking about Iago's treachery whilst looking for him, and you have the other elements of my book.

If you haven't read my book yet, I can assure you that you don't need to have studied Shakespeare nor seen the play (or movie) to understand the book. And if you have read the book but failed to see any connection with Shakespeare, that's fine too. I didn't want Shakespeare front and centre, and many people have never heard of, read or seen Othello (or anything by the bard).

And if you're anything like me, you probably only heard about Shakespeare from the lips of pontificating snobs, and therefore did your best to avoid it. I sympathise.

But snobs don't own Shakespeare (they just think they do), and his timeless themes are the perfect ingredient for thrillers and dramas. And everything's better when you throw zombies into the mix.

Othello, the play, is set in Venice in the 17th Century, and Othello, the character, is a Moorish General serving in the Duke's army. These days, it's fashionable to make the character black, but in the past Othello was considered an Arab. There's still controversy over whether he's black or not, but considering his title of Moor (from Morocco), he is likely a Muslim, which is a factor that's rarely discussed. As he's also fighting against the Turks on behalf of the Venetians, he would also be, in the eyes of the Arab world, a traitor. The basic point about Othello, then, is that he's an outsider, and he knows it. He's been winning battles for years, but he's still insecure about his status, and what others may think about him, and he gets easily paranoid.

Iago is his trusted lieutenant. Passed over for promotion, he secretly expresses his hatred of Othello, and plots to have his revenge on him.

Although the play is called Othello, it's really about Iago. He's a dastardly plotter, pretending to be loyal while playing people against each other. Understanding Othello's insecurities well, he exploits them by manipulating him with doubts and whispered gossip, until Othello goes mad with rage and kills his own lover. Iago's intelligence, and the way he deftly pulls Othello's strings, drive the plot.

If Othello were to survive such a thing, it's quite possible that he'd learn never to trust anyone again. And so it is with Breht, whom we see at the beginning of the book remembering the events that led to him being alone in the apocalypse. His experience, and his betrayal, have left him colder. But he also wonders why his 'Iago' betrayed him.

Because in Shakespeare's play, it's not really all that clear why Iago hates Othello so much. He's served with him for years. They've fought battles together. Being passed over for promotion shouldn't have been that big of a deal - certainly not enough to get involved in a lengthy scheme of lies and murder. Was Iago ever really Othello's friend? Iago proves to be ambitious - maybe his bond with Othello was always false, simply using him as a means to an end. Iago's deviousness is so slick that it has to be part of his character. And he's known to all as 'honest Iago', which implies that he's pulled the wool over everyone's eyes, and is, and has always been, the opposite.

But he's a rogue, which makes him a good antagonist. And that's how I've portrayed him.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

New Book Coming Soon

The sequel to Remember me Dead is nearing completion. Called Hunting The Dead, it will be released sometime in January 2017. Watch this space for more details.

Breht finds himself in a post-apocalypse city, and he visits a settlement to trade his stuff. A woman in the settlement approaches him with a request: to escort her and her baby across the city. When the city is crawling with zombies, that's not a simple job, but there's more. A whole lot more. A raft of tragic consequences will have Breht running for his life, and it won't be the zombies he's running from.