The Fades, an apology and re-appraisal

When The Fades first aired I tried to watch the first episode, but it fell flat for me.

This was almost certainly because I was distracted to start with and pissing about on my PC while it was.

I thought it was shallow, that funny moments weren’t funny and that it was confusing.  Well, of course I would, I wasn’t paying attention.

 

So I’d like to take a moment here to apologise to the cast and crew of The Fades for being inattentive on that first showing.  It meant I did not watch the next episodes and was part of the reason their ratings were low.

 

Having said that, I’d now like to try to put it right.

Why?

Because The Fades is brilliant television.

 

I’d heard this from various sources and was sceptical given my initial reaction, but I decided to get it from LoveFilm and at least give it a second shot.

The first episode still had the same plot I recalled from before, but this time it made sense!  Shocking, I know.

Characters which had seemed random before were now quite clearly characters I should be paying attention to.

I had problems with Paul, the main protagonist, both times I saw it.  He’s a little whiny, a little unsure of himself.  Second time around though the show does a great job of grounding his problems in a recognisable set of situations.  His home life, the bad dreams, all these things connect clearly to why he is the way he is.

But the best thing to come out of the rewatch was the character of Mac.  On first viewing I thought him nothing but pop culture references and an attempt to introduce some misplaced humour into the show.  Instead he became someone I recognise, a person who’s first instinct is to react with a line from a tv show or movie.  The kind of geeks I meet online and occasionally get to see in real life.  Mac becomes a person I know.

 

Was the first episode perfect?  No, I disliked Paul’s sister as a character and was a little disappointed in it not living up to the hype, but it was good enough to push on to episode 2.

 

Now, episode 2 is where The Fades really starts to kick into gear.  It shows a healthy disdain for the idea that if your name is in the title credits, then you get to live or appear in all the episodes.

Episode 2 appears to follow the first in setting up an episodic show like Being Human where each week we get another case and a little more character development.  Again, this was a little disappointing because the central “mystery” of the week, the deaths, felt a little underserved as it focused more on the characters of Paul, Anna, Mac and Jay.

 

Roll on episode 3 and it becomes clear that this show isn’t episodic at all, it’s a 6 hour story that just happen to be broken up into parts.

Now, Paul is still a little whiny and it’s a personal bugbear of mine where characters are that moany.  But in this show it balances Paul’s nervousness about his place in the world with the storyline about Mac’s birthday.  In fact Mac’s “I’m tired” speech is quite heartbreaking.

A character that could have been nothing but parody and the stereotypical best friend is suddenly given an incredibly rich back story and lets you reassess all of his behaviour through this new view of him.  He’ll spell it out in a later episode where he says he hides behind trivia and facts because he’s scared.

And then episode 3 ends with one of the ballsiest moves I’ve seen from a show in a long time.

 

Which is then the last episode on Disc 1, so I have to send it back and wait a couple of days to conclude this story.  That was very frustrating, I really didn’t want a break from this story.

 

Episode 4 begins like 2 and 3 with Mac recapping in a vlog style, and it’s the first time I have ever been moved by a recap.

Episode 4 is also when we get to meet the villain of the piece and find out what drives him.

Once he has given his speech about what happened to him and why he is attacking the Angelics, you do feel for him.  Which makes Paul’s bad choice so very understandable.

 

Episode 5 is probably the most pure horror of all of them, familiar tropes but done in an intriguing way.

 

Episode 6 shows it hasn’t lost any of its balls to shock with a certain death.  Unfortunately the last episode felt like it had about 5-10 minutes more running time than it had story.  There’s no obvious filler, a lot of good character moments, but somehow I felt it could have been a little snappier.

That’s not much of a major gripe though in a show that was altogether brilliant.

And then we are left with either an ominous ending or a very intriguing start to series 2.  Unfortunately, I think it might only be the former.

 

Now, you may have noticed I danced as far as I could around spoilers, but that’s because I really don’t think that spoiling any part of this show does you any favours.  Hopefully I’ve given you a moment’s pause and made you think “Yeah, sounds good.”

Because this show is good and I would dearly love to see what happens next.

 

If you have seen the show and loved it, may I recommend The Faceless by Simon Bestwick as a good companion piece.

They are both born from a similar idea, the angry dead don’t want to be that way, but tackle them in very different ways.

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I Want to see Red Tails, so why can’t I?

 

This weekend Red Tails the film about the Tuskegee Airmen opens inAmerica.

After 23 years, George Lucas finally brings the story he’s been trying to make all that time to cinema screens.

And it looks like that’s where it’s going to stop.

 

An article about the Tuskegee Airmen in today’s Sunday Mirror states there’s noUKrelease date yet.  That can’t be right, I thought, a war film with exciting dogfights, brought to us by the man behind some of the biggest blockbusters of all time and no-one wants to distribute it in theUK?

That can’t be right.

 

But then I check IMDB’s release dates for theUKand I can’t find hide nor hair of it.  They’ve got release dates for films stretching all the way to 2014, but Red Tails isn’t on it.

Why the hell not?

 

By all accounts the reason it took so long for Lucas to get this made is that studios were sure no-one would go see a film with a nearly all black cast.

My question is, what are they comparing it too?

Films with all black casts seem to either be gangster films, family movies or tales about kids from the hood making it through a tough life.  There’s no comparison between them and an all action war film – you’re talking about different audiences.

I’ll watch the gangster and hood films at home, they aren’t a particular favourite of mine, but I’ll be there opening day for Red Tails because it’s my kind of film.

 

The colour of the leads or cast in a film have nothing to do with my choices about whether to see a film at the cinema or not.  I make my decisions based on the story and how cinematic a film looks.

Yes, I have seen the 1995 HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen, but it’s not one I would have gone to see at the cinema because it was very much a TV film, lacking the scope I want from a film like that at the cinema.

Red Tails looks to have that scope.  I want to see the dogfights and the heroism up on the big screen.

 

There seems to be a lot of venom being directed towards this movie just because Lucas is involved.  To those doing that, grow up.

The man put his money where his mouth and heart was for this film when no studio in town would give him the chance.

 

I also saw a number of comments when the trailer first aired that went along the lines of “Do they have to keep forcing this racism in the film down our throats?”

Yes, you fucking cretin, they do.  It’s a film about heroes, men who overcame some of the most baseless and vile behaviour by men they were on the same side as.  It’s fucking integral to the film.

 

The story of these men and their exploits during the war deserves a movie like this.  A throwback to the days of the Forties and Fifties where men doing things during the war were heroes and didn’t need to be shades of grey and moral ambiguity.

They were men who fought and died for what they thought was right.  They formed bonds that those of us who haven’t been in combat can never understand – just because we can’t understand it through experience, we can respect the hell out of them emotionally though.

 

I’m a white guy and I’ll see this movie if it is available at cinemas.  I’ll buy the blu ray, it looks like a film I’ll rewatch a number of times during my life.

If you don’t want to see it because you don’t like war films, because you think the action in the trailers looks terrible – fine, that’s a reasonable choice to make.

If you won’t watch it because there aren’t enough white men in this film then you just don’t deserve movies good or bad.

 

Any studio who distributes Red Tails in the UK gets my money.

I can’t say it clearer than that.

 

 

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Indecision is a Terrible Thing

I struggle a lot with indecision, it is probably the one thing that holds me back as a writer right now.

Allow me to explain.

I am unknown, my credits are on the slim side and I have no deals in place for the things I write.  This means that I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.

The problem with this is that I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.

 

I am constantly generating concepts and story ideas.  I have a file called “Stuff I Should Be Writing”.  Originally it was half a page with titles and notes about stories.  It is now 5 pages long and some of the details are very specific.

But I still don’t know which one I should write.  I chose one, start to think about it and then I get another idea and because this one is new and shiny, it takes precedence until it too is eclipsed by something newer or an old idea that has grown while I’ve been away from it.

 

The real problem for me is too much choice.  Whenever I get a firm deadline, I can work to it.  Annoyingly, I keep finding anthologies and realising I have no ideas that fit their guidelines.  Then there are the other anthologies that have guidelines so wide open I am back struggling to pick which story to write.

 

I imagine a few other people have a similar problem as this, but I suspect very few of the writers I know that have books or agents struggle with it like I do.  They at least have editors and agents to help point them in the right direction.  So I’m hopeful that a decent amount of publication credits under my belt might start to get me more decisive about what I should write.

 

Let’s be clear about this, I’m not talking about being indecisive as to what narrative direction a story should take, I’m purely talking about what story I should actually be writing at any time.

To give an illustration, I came up with the idea for this blog post back in November.  I have since ummed and ahhed over whether it was worth putting up ever since.  Once I wrote the last post promising that I would write this, all that fell away.  And now it’s done I hope to be a little more regular on posting here.

 

What do I do about this?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I have two partially finished novels, one of which has a provisional promise of at least getting a reading at a publisher.  But then I’ve come up with ideas that more take my fancy right now.  So what should I do?  Go back to the slog of something that doesn’t fire my interest as it once did because of a provisional agreement?  Or should I move on with the new idea that really sets me alight right now?  Perhaps I should finish that other one which I haven’t fallen out of love with, but it’s got a few issues that need resolving.

 

I don’t know.  I never know.

Here’s to a more decisive 2012 and at least one finished novel and hopefully a few more short stories.

Posted in Autobiographical, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Trailer for an upcoming post

“I’ve always had a problem with indecision”

“Should I be writing this?”

“Who would want to know?”

“In the end, I only have myself to blame.”

 

 

Yes, I know this little place of mine has been neglected, but I am coming back.  The title of the next post will be Indecision is a Terrible Thing and I have been umming and ahhing over whether to write it for a month (Now that’s irony).

I have written not a lot, not even forum posts for months.  I’m hoping to up the wordcount soon.  So I leave this here as a promise you whoever looks and a threat to myself.

I owe.

I’ll pay.

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Never Would Have Thought

The Captain appraised his Junior Officer.  Mangin was a good man.  If he survived the blowback from this whole episode, he would be the best choice for the next Captain.

“Have a seat.”

Mangin sat.  The Captain pulled out a bottle of sake, the last remnant of the country of his ancestors from their planet of origin.

“We drink; then we start to repair our City.”

Mangin took the glass “Shouldn’t the Second Officer be here?”

“After his security force debacle, he’s sitting things out.  I should never have agreed to it.” Every death and injury because of them weighed heavily on his mind.

“Chen Li’s memorial garden opens tomorrow.”

The Captain nodded “I know.  If it weren’t for her sending us those images, we might never have known.  I will be there.”

Mangin finished his sake “Why do you think it went to all that trouble, just to destroy some plants?  Why not just start a fire?”

“We would have put out one fire.  Only by causing that much chaos could it ensure we’d never save them.”

The Captain looked out of the windows at the best view of the City from inside the Dome, the damage was still visible.  Some of it would never be repaired unless they finally found a suitable planet.

“An alien boards us, sows dissention and all to destroy some plants we mostly ignore.”

Mangin nodded “It only managed that, sir, because we have real problems that need to be addressed.”

The Captain finished his sake and nodded “I agree.  That’s why I’m promoting you.  Your first duty is to find a solution to these divides.  Nothing is off the table.”  The Captain stared out at his City and vowed it would never come to this again.

“We will make this right.”

 

 

 

©  Robert Spalding  2011

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The Truth? Or Lies?

The man with a feather in his hat was the object of Officer Mangin’s disgust; being forced to meet the man who had lied and cheated the Greasers made him feel sick.  In Command meetings he had managed to distance himself from the horrible decisions being made; now he was handing money to a thief and a liar.

“My dear boy,” smiled The Wolf “do try not to grimace so.  We do this for the good of the City.  You know things had to change.”

Mangin glared.  The Greasers deserved better than the lies of this man.

“Before you hand me that envelope, tell me, who has been chosen as the sacrificial Spider?”

Mangin heard himself snarl.

“Come on boy, fair’s fair.  I broke into their chain, I slipped them the letter convincing them the rebellion had been a scam.  All I ask for is a reward.”

“If the real Spider comes back?  What then?”

The Wolf laughed “We both know the real Spider is long gone.  Completed whatever it came here to do and left us in disarray.”

“Why not just tell the Greasers the truth?”  That was what really upset Mangin.

“Would they have believed me?  Could they?  Of course not.”  The Wolf took out a yo-yo and began to play with it.  “They would have fought back even harder, believing that we thought them stupid.”

Mangin didn’t want to believe that, even though he could barely believe it and he had seen proof.  The Wolf was right; only his lie stood a chance of ending the sabotage and violence.

That didn’t make it palatable.

“All they wanted was fair treatment.”

The Wolf at him “So why not give it to them?  Why make violence their only recourse?”

Mangin had no answer.

 

 

 

©  Robert Spalding  2011

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Has Fog Lights, Really

Carv waited atop the mountain of waste for the others.  Piles of discarded and useless waste from Domeside shifted under his feet.  An oblong object, some kind of one person boat was visible.  It made Carv angry.  There wasn’t enough water below to do anything more than drink enough to stay alive and wash in the evenings, but up above they had enough spare that they could float about on it for fun.

The roar of Mik’s machine was audible in the distance, getting ever closer.

Another stupid thing; Mik’s truck had lights for fog.  Why?  They never had weather Downbelow, it had been added Domeside before being sent down to the waste pit crew.

Carv clutched the package in his hand tightly.  It had been sent by the Spider, apparently, but no-one had seen her for days.  Rumour had it that she was caught and killed, but Carv didn’t want to believe that.

The truck roared up the side of the mountain and came to a stop a few feet down.  Mik exited and so did Jack.

“You have something for me?”  The leader or the movement asked.

“Got this from my people.”  Carv held out the package, still unopened.

Jack tore it from his grasp and ripped it open.  A letter was inside.

Everything was silent for a few minutes as Jack read it.  Then the big man started to cry with laughter.  He tore up the letter and scattered it amongst the other rubbish.

“What did it say?”  Carv’s curiosity got the best of him.

“It says we’re done.  It says we’ve been played.”  Jack started to cry.

Mik help the older man back into the truck, giving Carv a worried look.

The truck tore off back down the mountain, leaving Carv alone with his anger.

 

 

 

©  Robert Spalding  2011

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