New (to me) volume of The Obscure Cities coming soon!

I ran across this preview of The Theory of Grain and Sand at CBR:


The second book of The Obscure Cities series following The Leaning Girl. Gholam Mortiza Khan comes to Brüsel to sell some jewelry, but before the sale can be closed, Khan dies in an accident. Thus begin events sparking an investigation by Mary von Rathen: accumulation of sand in the apartment of Kristin Antipova; accumulation of stones in the house of Constant Abeels, and Maurice who is loosing weight by the day. The events have a catastrophic effect on Brüsel and time is of the essence.

Newly translated into English by Ivanka Hahnenberger and Steve Smith (translator of The Leaning Girl and The Beauty) and edited by Smith and Karen Copeland at Alaxis Press for publication by IDW.

  • First time translated into English for western readers!


To say I’m excited would be an understatement. When The Leaning Girl came out back in 2014, I had this to say:

After a freak accident, thirteen year-old Mary Von Rathen begins to lean at a 45 degree angle. After nothing fixes her affliction, her selfish mother and hen-pecked father send her away to a private school. Shortly after, Mary runs away and quite literally joins the circus where she remains for several years, performing her amazing leaning girl act. A newspaper editor tells her of a scientist, Axel Wappendorf, who is planning on a journey to a planet that might unlock the secret behind Mary’s trouble. Interspersed within Mary’s tale, is the story of fine artist Augustin Desombres, who escapes from his busy world and buys an empty building on the French countryside. He begins painting murals of strange globes and worries about his sanity. Mary’s and Wappendorf’s explorations bring them into a collision course with Desombres and hopefully the answers that Mary’s seeks.

Part of the legendary Obscure Cities sequence, this extraordinary French graphic novel serves as an ideal introduction to the long running series produced by writer Peeters and artist Schuiten. Expertly employing the tropes of 19th century science fiction, the duo’s creation achieves the unique duality of both very familiar and very different. Schuiten’s exquisite line work pairs perfectly with Peeters’ prose in creating the mythical worlds, outlandish ideas, and commonplace people. Further enhancing the work’s uniqueness is the Fumetti style of Desombres’ story as envisioned by the black & white photography of Plissart. The riveting, beautiful Leaning Girl fascinates, while providing one of the best reading experiences of the year.

Years later and, The Leaning Girl remains one of my all time favorite comics. I’m eagerly awaiting the next volume.

Until The Theory of Grain and Sand comes out, I’ll just have to be satisfied with this sample page. Visit the CBR post for more images from the book.

Lost Review: Attack the Block

Beginning in December 2005 with my history of apes in film essay “Gorilla of Your Dreams” (the substantially update and revised version appears in The Apes of Wrath), I regularly contributed to Moving Pictures Magazine. First in the print incarnation and then for primarily the website. I contributed reviews and essays for the last three years of the publications existence. Following the June 2011 demise of both the print and website editions, all of the digital work for MPM disappeared into the ether. In the coming months (years?), I plan on reposting many of my reviews and articles.

With John Boyega getting his “big break” in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I thought it’d be a good time to take a look back at his first starring role.


Attack the Block
Reviewed by Rick Klaw
(July 2011)
Directed and written by Joe Cornish

Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, and Nick Frost

Following in the successful footsteps of recent low budget science fiction films District 9, Moon, and Monsters, writer/director Joe Cornish’s freshman outing Attack the Block, produced for an estimated £9 million (roughly $14 million), delivers a superior diversion, grounded in a quality script and innovate direction.

After mugging young nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a group of South London teens witness a small meteor crash into a nearby car. While searching the vehicle for valuables, an alien, a three foot high being that looks like a hideous skinless baby, bites gang leader Moses (John Boyega) and runs away. The boys give chase, eventually catching and killing it. Wielding their trophy, the thugs return to their block, an urban apartment building for the poor similar to the America projects. Soon terrifying creatures—a cross between a large dog and a small bear with pitch black fur, no eyes, and glowing white teeth—hunt the scared young men. In desperation, they eventually turn to the savvy Sam to help keep their wits and sanity.

Masterfully manipulating his meager budget, Cornish effectively employs actors in suits, rather than the now-standard and more costly digital portrayal, for his scary monsters and uses his native South London as the gritty backdrop. Employing age-appropriate actors, fronted by the mesmerizing newcomer Boyega, the motivations and emotions of the clever and impetus group lend an air of realism to an otherwise absurd concept. The wholesome Whittaker supplies a much needed counter to the testosterone-infused scenes as the mother/sister/object of desire. The popular Nick Frost (Paul) adequately supplies his nearly stereotypical comic relief role as the bumbling stoner.

The intelligent story offers no explanation for the origin of the aliens nor does it ever waiver from the ground level urban perspective. The fun and creative action sequences provide more excitement than the vast majority of big budget productions.

An exciting, often humorous and unique 88 minutes, Attack the Block, much like the movies mentioned above, heralds a major new imaginative filmmaker. See it now before Hollywood spits out the inevitable crappy remake.

Polish edition of STEAMPUNK inspires national pride



While doing my weekly search for online mentions of Tachyon books, I ran across a review of the Polish edition of Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk. While reviewer Anna Siemomysła at Ziarno Myśli, czyli wynurzenia Siemomysły didn’t care much for the book (“an anthology of ‘Steampunk’ is a good compendium of the mainstream, but in my opinion, unfortunately this is not a collection of good literature”), she made special mention of my contribution.

After twelve texts we receive are two articles (by Rick Klaw and Bill Baker), from which we can learn about the fact that steampunk is not just literature. Such pop compendium of knowledge about what and how and where to look. Rick Klaw recalls, for example, about our native Retrostacji what I personally introduced a state of national pride;)

(All translations courtesy of Google.)

For those that don’t have their copy of Steampunk handy (or *gasp* don’t own a copy), here’s the mention that got Siemomysła excited.

The English language version of the Polish site Retrostacji, Steampunkopedia ( offers the most comprehensive steampunk works chronological bibliography available on the web along with numerous links to steampunk-inspired videos. Sadly, the site stopped updating in February, 2007.


While the Polish edition sports a great cover, obviously inspired by Joe R. Lansdale’s contribution “The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down,” Joe is not mentioned on the cover. Weird.

The fascinating and surprising LFO comes to DVD

unnamedAt the 2013 Fantastic Fest, I was lucky enough to catch the inventive low budget Swedish picture LFO and starting today, you’ll be able to also as it comes out on VOD/Digital Platforms and DVD.

Here’s what I had to say in my September 26, 2013 The Horn review:

Director Antonio Tublén’s (Original) second outing, the clever LFO, explores a simple concept to its logical conclusions. What if you could control people with sound?

Robert Nord’s (Patrik Karlson) sneering wife (Ahnna Rasch) and disdainful son (Björn Löfberg Egner) drive him into a solitary and lonely life. He lives within his own head and the secure comforts of his basement lair where he pursues experiments with audio frequencies. While working with low-frequency oscillation (LFO), Nord stumbles across a sound that makes the human mind very open to suggestion. He first tests his discovery on himself and then his new neighbors Linn (Izabella Johanna Tschig) and Simon (Per Löfberg). Nord begins to abuse his new found power with catastrophic results.

Tublén, who also penned the screenplay, creates an intelligent geek wish fulfillment film. The tortured Nord, excellently portrayed by Karlson, is your stereotypical geek, who engages in solitary pursuits while dreaming of acclaim and recognition for his activities. Once he masters his newly acquired ability, Nord will go to any mean necessary to get what he wants or perceives the world needs

The inventive low budget Swedish picture delivers a tale awash with guilt and megalomania, haunted by misdeeds of the past and the promises of the future. LFO, fascinating and surprisingly complex, supplies a thoughtful and terrifying analog to what happens when those in control believe they always know best.

Check out this truly unique film.

Rayguns Over Texas garners several honorable mentions


Cover by Rocky Kelley

Cover by Rocky Kelley

Even though though Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection came out back in late August, I’m finally getting around to reporting about the strong showing of Rayguns Over Texas. (Should give you an idea of how crazy things have been at the Geek Compound) While none of the stories were actually reprinted within the volume, seven of the tales garnered an honorable mention.

With Finn, Person, Allston, and Brown receiving additional notice within Dozois’s Summation of the year.

Congrats to all.


My Fantastic Fest Curtain Call

Poster by Geof Darrow

Poster by Geof Darrow

Here are my final reviews for Fantastic Fest 2014. Between illness and tech issues, I ended up seeing far less than I hoped. I still had, dare I say it, a fantastic time and look forward to reviewing even more films next year.

MV5BODgxMDk3ODI3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDUwNzU2MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_The most pleasant surprise of the festival, the documentary Kung Fu Elliot delivers a knock out blow with the story of Elliot “White Lightning” Scott. Known throughout Nova Scotia for his low budget chop sockey films such as Blood Fight and They Killed My Cat, Scott’s dreams of becoming Canada’s “first action star.” The unemployed, 30-something Scott, with the aid of his girlfriend Linda’s money and several unpaid actors, spends all of his time trying to reach his goals.

Very reminiscent of younger geeks, Scott’s reality never seems good enough for him. He always embellishes upon the truth about his accomplishments. Being a world class kick boxer is not enough, but he must be the best in all of Canada. Making two films is not enough, but must win several film festival awards. Scott’s story sounds almost too good to be true and as this fascinating film progresses, cracks appear in his tale. Though he imagines himself as the Canadian Van Damme or Chuck Norris, Elliot lacks the charisma, not to mention the martial art skills, of either. Linda at first supports the man she loves until his inconsistent behavior devolves into bullshit.

Embolden with the intriguing and insightful interviews of Scott’s friends, the fascinating tale ventures into unexpected and seemingly unreal territories. With Kung Fu Elliot, directors Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau expertly deliver one of the best features of Fantastic Fest.

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(Guest Post by Mark Finn) MondoCon 1: The Little Show-Within-A-Show That Could


I’ve been blessed over the years with many good and talented friends. One of which is aging hipster, writer, and personality Mark Finn. In my time of need, Finn graciously volunteered to fill some of my pixels about the eight days of Fantastic Fest with his account of MondCon 1, the poster/art event that occurred during the festival.

MondoCon 1

The Little Show-Within-A-Show That Could

By Mark Finn


I got the first alert that there would be something called MondoCon the usual way: via Twitter. Mondo (the company) does a lot of their business that way these days. They started out as a T-shirt screen printer, in cahoots with the Alamo Draft House, making ironic tees for nascent hipsters. It was perfect niche marketing. Over the years, Mondo has greatly expanded their operations into silkscreening prints and movie posters for special events (and also, just because) and most recently, new vinyl pressings (with a full art workup, of course) of movie soundtracks that never got a vinyl release in the first place.

Genius idea? Clever marketing? Right on both counts. Now, they have enough clout and draw for their own gathering, the aforementioned MondoCon, and it was strategically located in the middle of the forced march that is Fantastic Fest. The organizers promised a more personal and intimate experience than the usual big name conventions like San Diego Comic-Con; they limited attendance on both days, booked a smaller event space, and promised a number of exclusives for people showing up.

As a collector of posters and movie memorabilia as well as a lover of comics, it was too good to pass up. Two-day tickets were affordable and the sheer volume of exclusives for the show was so vast, there was something special to be had for any and all price ranges.

The guests, as expected, were a number of cream of the crop artists and illustrators who have worked with Mondo before on posters and projects. Big name comic book greats and illustrators like Basil Gogos, Berni Wrightson, Val Mayerick, Mike Mignola, William Stout, Tim Sale, and Geoff Darrow were situated alongside the young turks and new designers like Jason Edmiston, Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Jock, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Kevin Tong, and “Ghoulish” Garry Pullin. With a couple of exceptions, there were short lines or no lines at all, giving attendees plenty of time to chat with their favorites, ask questions about their work, and feel like they got to make a connection with the creators. It was an art lover’s dream, to be sure.


Art by Francesco Francavilla

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Dude, Where Are All Your Fantastic Fest Reviews?


Poster by Geof Darrow

Poster by Geof Darrow

You probably have noticed1 that I’ve only posted two days worth of reviews from Fantastic Fest, while the festival itself is on Day 6.

I’m on day two of some sort of stomach virus thingie. So sitting in front of the computer hasn’t been the most viable activity. Not too mention, I’ve missed the past two days of movies.2 Further complicating matters, as always, is the MS. Whenever something funky is going on in my body, my fatigue gets much worse.

I’m feeling far better than yesterday and I’m hoping to make it back to the theater tomorrow. And more importantly, energetic and well enough to pump out some reviews.

For the rest of the FF reviews, I’m going to drop the pretense of the days and just post them. I have notes for some 10 film reviews and plan to watch several more.

So here’s to hoping that tomorrow, all will be right and I’ll be furiously typing away.

But for now, I’m going to lay down and rest.



1Or not. I like to pretend that someone cares and actually reads what I post here.

2Thankfully, reviewers are given streaming access to many of the Fest’s films.

A trio of reviews from Fantastic Fest Day Two

Poster by Geof Darrow

Poster by Geof Darrow


Fantastic Fest Day Two was full of potential and missed opportunities.

CreepingGarden07-thumb-630xauto-48710A very odd film, Creeping Garden chronicles the history of the science behind slime mold and the people who obsessive on the strange creatures. Beautifully shot and at times intriguing (especially the origins of devices first used to record stop motion), the film, much like the mold, will move much too slowly for some. But for fans of the bizarre entities, that are not technically plants, animals, or lichen, Creeping Garden serves as the definitive film on the subject.

man-from-reno-poster-thumb-630xauto-40341With Man From Reno, director Dave Boyle (White On Rice, Surrogate Valentine) delivers a flawed, yet beautiful modern crime noir. Escaping the rigors of her fame, bestselling Japanese crime novelist and celebrity Ashi (Ayako Fujitani) flees to San Francisco. While there, she stumbles upon a real life murder mystery. With the aide of an aging rural sheriff (veteran character actor Pepe Serna), Ashi attempts to unravel the plot.

The screenplay by Boyle, Joel Clarke, and Micheal Lerman mar the potentially clever film, full of the requisite secrets and curves. The ease in which the clues present themselves—for example, an obvious bundle of incriminating evidence just left on the floor of a missing man’s room; the sheriff uncovering an important, obvious clue, which beggars the question of why no one else discovered it—detract from the tale’s intriguing and impressive shocks and surprises.

Despite these failings, the riveting Man From Reno ultimately manages to entertain, largely due to the charismatic Fujitani and cinematographer Richard Wong’s magnificent use of the Northern California locales.

hive_pic_3__largeThe ambitious first film from David Yarovesky, The Hive stumbles. After being exposed to a mysterious virus, Adam (Gabriel Basso) wakes with no idea why he’s locked in a room with cryptic notes scrawled on the walls, doors bolted shut, and a dead friend. He attempts to piece together the events through the scattered memory fragments, some his and some not.

Despite some creative story telling structures and interesting plot devices, the intriguing old school science fiction concept fails to deliver on its promise. Sadly, Yarovesky currently lacks the ability to pull off the complex story. Basso’s deficit of talent further weakens the tale. The obviously talented, young Yarovesky is a director to keep an eye on.

Fantastic Fest Day One featured a mix of walruses, clones, and realities

Poster by Geof Darrow

Poster by Geof Darrow

Day one of Fantastic Fest 2014 delivered one excellent film and two lesser outings. Here’s all the gory details.


tusk-posterConceived from an episode of his own podcast Smodcast, Kevin Smith writes and directs the solidly mediocre Tusk. When podcaster Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) disappears in the backwoods of Manitoba while interviewing the mysterious Howard Howe (Michael Parks), his best friend (and podcasting cohort) Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) and girlfriend Allison (Genesis Rodriguez) team with the former detective Guy Lapointe (the uncredited Johnny Depp) to find him.

While pretty and hitting the standard tropes of the horror/comedy hybrid genre, the tedious movie relies on too many overly long episodes, both humorous and horrific, that water down some potentially clever and captivating moments. The best and truly only memorable scenes occur when Howe relates the supposedly true and fascinating tales of his past.

Long lacks the charisma and charm for a leading man and garners little sympathy for the insufferable prick Wallace. As with many of Depp’s and Smith’s characters, the French Canadian ex-cop is amusing at first but wears thin fairly quickly. Robert Kurtzman’s designed the many good and clever gross out moments. With most of the humor falling flat and the horror, not particularly terrifying, Smith should have left Tusk in its superior, original incarnation.


MV5BMjI0ODE0ODA1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTIwMTA4MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_For his first feature length endeavor, director Billy Senese enters the fray of the scientific thriller with the disappointing Closer to God. Dr Victor Reed (Jeremy Childs) successfully clones the first human being. Amidst a torrent of media scrutiny and religious protest, Reed attempts to protect his creation, only to have a dark secret threaten to destroy his work and reputation.

Starting with interesting discussions about the ethics of cloning, the film sadly devolves into a fairly standard creation revenge story, complete with villagers brandishing metaphorical pitchforks and a tense, if very predictable, final act. Senese manages to use his meager budget creatively. For the most part, the acting is workmanlike but never sensational, which can also be used to describe Closer to God.


REALITi_poster_onlineNew Zealand’s Jonathan King, director of the dark comedy/horror Black Sheep and the big-budget, kid-friendly fantasy epic Under the Mountain, returns with his third film, the sensational Realati. Vic (Nathan Meister) reaches the pinnacle of business success when he assumes the leadership of a mega-media conglomerate. But after his car is stolen and an encounter with the strange thief, Vic’s life goes topsy turvy. Not just figuratively but literally as well. Reality warps and bends, repeats, and changes. Vic and the audience never know exactly who or what to trust.

King’s masterful direction of the intelligent Chad Taylor script perfectly delivers the off-kilter, near-future tale. Meister portrays the sympathetic and often confused Vic with skill and poise. Complete with plot twists, red herrings, and big business shenanigans worthy of the best of Philip K. Dick, the highly recommended Realati culminates in a very satisfying conclusion.