portrait Lee Russell's blog

"... exploring Love and Beliefs in times of Adversity..."

Go to more recent blog updates...

Click here to see more recent updates.

Evil Eye - A Lissa Blackwood Thriller
-- Posted on: 30th June 2018

Had a lovely afternoon walking with my daughter and spent some time brainstorming a title for my current work in progress. and I'm pleased to say it now has one!

So... drumroll and fanfare please... the name of my next book will be...

Evil Eye - A Lissa Blackwood Thriller

I'm hoping to have the writing finished by Christmas. That will be later than I had originally hoped for but is probably realistic, given everything else that is going on.

Right then... back to the keyboard!

image: "#EB Photo January challenge" by Lee Roberts - from flickr.com (https://www.flickr.com/photos/flintman45/8398943723/ creative commons BY-SA 2.0)

Progress on writing "the BREXIT thriller"...
-- Posted on: 30th June 2018

I really must find a title for my current project, a post-BREXIT espionage Thriller! That's my goal this weekend... if I achieve nothing else, and I might not in the current UK heatwave, it would be great to get a title together for this story.

Progress has been intermittent on this book. By Christmas I had 36k words down from a target of 120k. The writing was very sluggish in the first quarter of the year and by the end of March I only had 50k words written. The slow pace was mostly due to the effect of being worked hard in my day job (leaving me too tired to write on most days) and looking after an ill member of my family. April and May were better, with 21k words added and today the project stands at 72k words.

One of the benefits of planning the book so thoroughly is that I know I am on the homeward straight: just the climax and resolution to go, with a revised target of 100k words...

So then... headphones on... background tunes playing... manuscript loaded... let the writing begin!

Are "Ghost in the Shell" and "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" the perfect anime?
-- Posted on: 28th May 2018

I'm not an expert on manga and anime, but there is something captivating about both of these stories. They are set in the fictional mid-21st Century Japanese city of Niihama, where a law enforcement agency called 'Public Security Section 9' are conducting counter-terrorism operations. So far, so normal, in our modern day world. But this future Japan has taken the use of technology to a whole new level, including the fusing of human consciousness into cyborg bodies. The manga/anime title is evocative in itself, drawing attention to what may be the transfer of a soul ('ghost') into a fully prosthetic body (the 'shell').

The stories revolve around Major Motoko Kusanagi, whose ghost was transferred into such a shell after a terrible childhood accident. She is not a machine, however, and the parts of 'Ghost in the Shell' I enjoy the most are where she is exploring what it means to be human, now that she is a cyborg. Remembering that opening back story about Motoko's childhood accident throws light on the scene in the opening credits where, in her shell, her hand crushes a doll that she is tenderly trying to hold.

There is one piece of music in the anime series that has stuck in my head like an earworm since the first time that I heard it. Be warned: once you've listened to "Inner Universe" (by Origa and Shanti Snyder) you'll never be able to forget it... but who would want to?

Here's a link to that music from the opening credits of "... Stand Alone Complex" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHtR_yaJLsI .

And another link, this time with the lyrics shown more clearly - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc9OLGco4hQ .

Finally, a link to a more complete version of the song - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH7xc76DBHM .

And, if you wondered what was actually being sung:

Japanese English
Angeli i demoni kruzhili nado mnoj
Rassekali ternii i mlechnye puti
Ne znaet schast'ya tol'ko tot
Kto ego zova ponyat ne smog

Mana du vortes, Mana du vortes
Aeria gloris, Aeria gloris
Mana du vortes, Mana du vortes
Aeria gloris, Aeria gloris

I am calling, calling now
Spirits rise and falling
S toboi ostatsa dol'she
Calling, calling, in the depth of longing    
S toboi ostat'sya dol'she

Mana du vortes, Mana du vortes
Aeria gloris, aeria gloris
Mana du vortes, Mana du vortes
Aeria gloris, aeria gloris
Angels and demons circle above my head
cleaving through thorns and Milky Ways
He who does not perceive his calling,
does not know true happiness...

Watch in awe! Watch in awe!
Heavenly glory! Heavenly glory!
Watch in awe! Watch in awe!
Heavenly glory! Heavenly glory!

I am calling, calling now
Spirits rise and falling
To remain myself longer...
Calling, calling, in the depth of longing
To remain myself longer...

Watch in awe! Watch in awe!
Heavenly glory! Heavenly glory!
Watch in awe! Watch in awe!
Heavenly glory! Heavenly glory!

The best place to begin? John le Carré...
-- Posted on: 20th May 2018

There was a singular character that sucked me back into Thrillers when I started reading them in earnest last year... George Smiley, created by John le Carré. Smiley is an odd character; to me he didn't feel directly prominent but there was something about him that stuck in the back of my mind, like he was watching me reading in the same way that he fictionally watched both Agents and the Establishment.

My first introduction to le Carré was through audiobook versions of 'The Looking Glass War', 'A Murder of Quality' and 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold'. There is a combination of almost fatalistic, realistic cynicism in the stories that comes from both le Carré's unique voice and the ever-present tensions of the Cold War. Each story lifts a fictional lid on what feels like cold, murky, secrets from the world of espionage. We know le Carré's background and wonder if he is telling us a truth... if it is REALLY like that, something that most of us will never directly know the truth about. Interestingly, in his stories 'the truth' itself is fluid, and none of the characters seem to know the 'real truth' about what is happening.

In 'The Looking Glass War' we are allowed to see the interplay of organisational rivalries between Smiley's 'Circus' and Leclerc's 'The Department'. Leclerc's organisation is waning and he wants it to regain its position in the Inelligence world. He arranges a secret mission to spy on a missile base in Eastern Germany, reactivating one of 'The Department's' old wartime agents, Fred Leiser, for the mission. Leiser is poorly prepared and ill-equipped for the mission. He kills a guard when crossing the border and that death really shakes him. A German girl hides him in her hotel room, hoping he will take her back to the West. But Leiser makes mistakes with his radio procedure and forgets to change frequencies, allowing the East Germans to trace his transmissions. 'The Circus' then become fully aware of Leiser's mission and Smiley persuades Leclerc to abandon him, saying that they can deny his role as a spy by highlighting his obsolete equipment and poor technique. The whole mission is a failure, Leiser is expendable and the existence of the missile base itself turns out to have probably been a lie from an unreliable source.

'A Murder of Quality' is more of a study of class differences in the early 1960's. Smiley, who has now retired, is contacted by a old wartime colleague, Ailsa Brimley. She has received a letter from Stella Rode, a reader of the small Christian magazine that she edits, saying that her husband is plotting to kill her. Smiley agrees to investigate the claim but Stella Rode is killed before he can take action. Smiley then moves through the tensions in Carne between 'town and gown' (a rich field that Colin Dexter made great use of in his 'Inspector Morse' stories), and the religious divisions between Church of England adherents and non-conformists. His investigation slowly reveals a hidden side of Carne life that is full of illicit sexual activity, blackmail and other abuses before he eventually 'solves the case'. This story felt like an interesting side-show holiday for Smiley.

I think that le Carré is best known today for 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' (1974), but it is his 1963 novel 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' that resonates most strongly with me. I have very strong memories of the closing days of the Cold War which often resonate in my own writing. Films like 'When the Wind Blows', 'The Day After' and 'Threads' had shown just how devastating a nuclear war would be. I remember news reports of US Cruise Missile launchers prowling the UK countryside on manoeuvres, practicing for the day that they might need to rain nuclear hell on the USSR. For a teenager growing up in those days, reports about anti-nuclear protests by CND, the Falklands War, the Reagan Administration's "Star Wars project" (ie SDI) , social uprisings in Eastern Europe, the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification made 'The World' seem like a very dangerous place... it was, and it still is.

'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' is a delicious trip into that Cold War paranoia. When the West Berlin office of the Circus loses its last Agent in East Germany, the Station Head, Alec Leamas, is recalled to London. Leamas is persuaded by the Circus chief, known as 'Control', to take on one last operational mission. He is to fake his defection to an East German intelligence officer called Mundt, so that he can eventually frame Mundt as being a double agent for Britain. The framing is indirect and Leamas will have to manipulate one of Mundt's subordinates called Fiedler, who already suspects that Mundt is a double agent.

To come the East Germans' attention as a potential defector, Leamas is sacked from the Circus and sinks into a degrading, alcoholic life, taking a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain as his lover. Leamas is, of course, eventually recruited as a defector and taken to East Germany. He drip feeds a story about payments to a double agent in the Abteilung and eventually meets Fiedler, where more of his tale is revealed.

Mundt has Fiedler and Leamas arrested and tortured. They are both summoned to present their cases to a tribunal convened by the leaders of the East German régime. Leamas reveals a series of secret bank account payments that Fiedler has matched to the movements of Mundt. Fiedler has other evidence that implicates Mundt as being a British agent.

Leamas's mission falls apart when his lover is brought into the hearing. She reveals that Smiley has paid for the lease on her flat, and that she had promised Leamas that she would not look for him after he disappeared. Realising his cover is blown, Leamas offers to tell all in exchange for her freedom. Fiedler is arrested.

Mundt unexpectedly helps Leamas and his lover to escape. During their drive to Berlin, Leamas realises and reveals that Mundt must be a double agent reporting to Smiley, and the purpose of his mission must have been to compromise Fielder, probably because he was getting close to exposing Mundt. In the closing action of the book both Leamas and his lover are shot trying to escape from East Germany while climbing over the Berlin Wall. The reasons for their deaths are complicated and I won't spoil you fun by revealing them here. - A wonderful story that fully evokes a sense of the dangers of the Cold War.

I have since read 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' and enjoyed the book as much as the audio version. I don't care much for the film version, however.

So, that's my le Carré review - he definitely gets 5/5 on the 'Cloak & Dagger' scale!

Thrillers, Espionage and Nietzsche...
-- Posted on: 23rd April 2018

I was describing the progress on my latest work-in-progress (the post-Brexit espionage thriller, still untitled) to a colleague last week and stunned myself into silence when I made a connection that I hadn't seen before

A few years back I read my way through some of the popular works of the most famous philosophers and came across Nietzsche, of course. I remember clearly the increasing sense of disgust that I felt about his 'Übermensch / superman' idea with every turning of the page in 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra', despite the fact that logically the central core of it made sense. That reaction to ideas which challenge our morals & ethics goes straight to the heart of philosophy.

What I didn't expect was the realisation of how much I must have absorbed Nietzsche's ideas. In my espionage-thriller the terrorist antagonists' attitude to life is that they are superior to all other peoples and exist at a level above the control even of nation states. They manipulate global events and kill without mercy, not because they like it (although some of them do) but because it is a normal part of their existence... they believe they are superior and entitled to use that power as they see fit.

Now I've consciously made that connection to their background I'm fascinated too see how the writing will now be influenced by it.

The book is about 50% written. so there is still a way to go yet...

Right - where's that pen?

- If you are interested, you can find out some more about Nietzsche here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influence_and_reception_of_Friedrich_Nietzsche

Website spring clean...
-- Posted on: 8th April 2018

I had debated whether to retire the site and replace it with something from WordPress. However, the more I looked at WordPress the more I came to appreciate the way my current site has been tailored to my needs over the past few years. Maintaining my own site manually gives more flexibility than I could find with WP, so in the end I decided to stay with it (accepting that this involves more maintenance work on my part).

I took the opportunity while I was reflecting in this way to refresh the look of my site - I've made some good improvements, there is more consistency in the layout and - most importantly - it is more focussed on presenting my content with a minimum of fuss to readers.

Why not come over and take a look at http://www.russellweb.org.uk ? You'll find links to my current books, news about my latest project and some free downloads...

"Smoke Above the Village"
-- Posted on: 3rd February 2018

I don't often write poetry but a theme about chav violence wouldn't leave me alone and eventually this is what emerged:

"Smoke Above The Village": SmokeAboveTheVillage.pdf

On the way I discovered quite a bit about stupidity and violence, and left behind more than one prejudice about chavs - I still don't like the violent selfishness of that social group, but I think I've come to understand it a bit more...

... and now I'm wondering what you think?

Falling in love with "Red Dwarf"...
-- Posted on: 29th January 2018

It was around 2003 or 2004 when I fell in love with the British sci-fi comedy show "Red Dwarf".

I had been somewhat aware of the series when it launched in 1988 but the external model shots looked so unrealistic that I didn't bother to try it... what a mistake! My epiphany came late one night after a long session of distance-studying for a degree with the Open University. Feeling very tired and just looking for something to relax with before going to bed, I was suddenly confronted with one of the funniest comedy scenes I had ever seen.

That scene was in the Season VIII episode 'Back in the Red, part 2'. I tuned in just at the moment that Rimmer was using a hammer to test the anaesthetic that he'd applied to his nether regions.

I didn't know the character or the back story that had brought him to that moment, but Chris Barrie's wonderful acting sucked me in - I was laughing out loud and had suddenly become 'a Dwarfer'. With one exception, I have loved every series of Red Dwarf, and in this blog I'll be reflecting on what has made me come to love it so much over the 12 series that have been broadcast to date.

For anyone was hasn't seen Red Dwarf (and if you haven't, get out there and find a copy now - seriously), the story begins with three of the series' main characters who have either survived, or are descended from, a radiation accident that occurred three million years ago and killed all of the rest of the crew of the Jupiter Mining Corp ship 'Red Dwarf'. The main plot lines revolve around the quirks, antagonisms and peculiar situations that these main cast characters find themselves in.

Despite Chris Barrie having the leading role, for me the most significant character is Craig Charles' wonderfully anti-establishment Dave Lister.

Third Technician Lister, who escaped death through being locked inside a (time) stasis chamber, slowly comes to realise that he is probably the last remaining human alive. He is very likely the only human in the part of deep space that the Red Dwarf is now in. The beer-swilling, curry munching Lister is not a good ambassador for humanity. He's a space bum with very few goals beyond a flawed plan to settle down on Fiji with the love of his life, Kristine Kochanski (now dead). In the early seasons he is tormented by the rule-book following, petty minded holo-version of his former supervisor, Rimmer. Lister patiently ignores all of Rimmer's autocratic drives and as the shows progress the two settle into a state of mutual understanding and tolerance.

Second Technician Arnold Rimmer (Craig Barrie) died in the radiation accident (that he caused - I won't spoiler zone that or the significance of gazpacho soup, watch the shows to find out more) and has been resurrected as a hologram by the ship's AI. Rimmer is a deeply flawed character who desperately wants to prove himself by becoming an officer like his brothers but is destined to be a buffoon.

Although not an officer on 'Red Dwarf', he still out-ranks Lister. Rimmer uses every inch of that power to try to control Lister through petty ship's rules. The contrast in the two characters sets up many of the comic moments throughout the series.

Cat is the third regular character.

He is a bipedal, human looking creature and the last in a line of felines who evolved from Lister's original cat. This cat, felix sapiens, is not overly smart but very vain about both his looks and sexual attractiveness.

The fourth main character is the sanitation mechanoid Kryten, who doesn't appear until episode 1 of series 2 (called 'Kryten').

Originally played by David Ross in that episode, his introduction to the plot-line is certainly funny, but it is Robert Llewellyn's subsequent performances that really defined Kryten. Over time Lister encourages Kryten to 'break his programming' and evolve into an independent entity. Often pompous, Kryten does evolve and comes to embody many of the other character's flaws alongside a deep-rooted sense of 'rightness'. He becomes the Red Dwarf science expert, is sometimes careless, sometimes rude, continuously insults Rimmer, and is ultimately very human.

The growing ties of shared history and their struggle to simply tolerate each other defines these four characters and is regularly thrown into sharp relief by a wonderful supporting cast.

No single blog can do justice to all of the humour created by Doug Naylor (Rob Grant and Doug Naylor), and I doubt that it is possible to make you laugh now by simply trying to re-tell some of the 'funny bits'. Instead I'm going to select my favourite shows from eleven of the twelve series and shine a light on some of the magic that they created. So here we go!...

Getting the overall comedic tone right was essential in Series 1. It was really hard to choose a best episode from a such a high-quality beginning, but the one I return to more often than most is 'Confidence and Paranoia'. Lister has been looking around Kristine Kochanski's quarters for her hologram disc when Rimmer reveals that they have not been decontaminated. Lister falls ill with a mutated pneumonia virus that causes his feverish hallucinations to manifest in solid form - this is sci fi comedy not a Hard SF prediction of the future, just go with it! His illness causes it to rain fish in his sleeping quarters, the Mayor of Warsaw from 1546 appears and then spontaneously combusts, and then two guests materialise in the drive room: these are the embodiment of Lister's Confidence and Paranoia. Lister's Confidence exhibits everything he associates with confidence; he is a garishly tanned, gaudily-dressed extrovert who calls Lister 'the King'. By contrast, Lister's Paranoia has the opposite personality, and is a contrary voice that constantly undermines Confidence.

Rimmer warns Lister that these guests are dangerous symptoms of his illness, but Lister continues to spend a lot of time with Confidence and they eventually work out where Rimmer will have hidden Kochanski's disc. Confidence then murders Paranoia just before he and Lister go outside to get the disc. In an act of suicidal over-confidence, Confidence ends up killing himself before Lister returns with the disc... which turns out to hold a second copy of Rimmer! This is a great episode with a lot of laughs.

My Season 2 choice is the episode 'Queeg'. Holly seems to have been making a lot of mistakes and the crew are losing faith in his ability to run the ship safely. When Lister is nearly killed in an accident a new face appears on the monitor screen replacing Holly. He introduces himself as Queeg 500, the Red Dwarf back-up computer. Queeg says that, due to gross negligence, he will replace Holly, who is then demoted to night watchman. The crew are initially pleased with Queeg's efficiency and intelligence, but then he starts to force unwelcome tasks on them. Queeg takes over Rimmer's hologram and forces him to take early morning exercise, continuing even after Rimmer has passed out. Lister and Cat are forced to clean the ship in return for food. The crew come to realise how good Holly was towards them and make a plan to get rid of Queeg... which works... and then Holly reveals that he was Queeg all along and wanted to teach them a lesson:

Lister, The Cat, Rimmer: "What?"

Holly: "Queeg never existed. It was me all along."

Lister, The Cat, Rimmer: "What?"

Holly: "Wheeze of the week, mate."

The Cat: "It was a joke?"

Holly: "Going round in circles for 14 months. Getting my information from the Junior Color Encyclopedia of Space. The respect you have for me is awesome, innit?"

Lister: "So you mean you staged the whole thing?"

Holly: [in Queeg;s voice] "That's right, suckers."

Holly: [in his voice] "And the moral of the story is, 'Appreciate what you've got', because basically I'm fantastic."

The episode I've chosen from Season 3 is 'Marooned'. This is a set-piece between Lister and Rimmer, who find themselves trapped together when Star Bug crashes. They have very limited supplies and can only hope to be rescued by Kryten and Cat before Lister runs out of food or freezes to death. We hear a lot of their back stories while they are waiting, all of which leads up to a comedy finale. After Rimmer's life savings and books have been burnt he refuses to have his collection of military figures go into the fire, pointing out that Lister could burn his guitar instead. Lister pretends to agree and Rimmer leaves the room for that tender moment... and instead Lister cuts out a guitar shape from Rimmer's prized camphor wood chest... and when Rimmer finds that out...!

Series 4 is full of wonderful moments, but the one I've chosen is "DNA". The crew find a ship that includes some technology to change a person's form by re-writing their DNA code. Cat accidentally turns Lister into a chicken and Kryten is turned into a human who struggles with his new emotions and drives, resulting in an explicitly embarrassing 'double-polaroid'. When they are returning Kryten to human form they first test the DNA re-writer on Lister's tray of mutton curry...

and accidentally create a mutton vindaloo beast! A further transformation of Lister goes wrong when he asks to be changed into 'man plus' so he can fight the beast... before he finally works out that it can be killed with lager...

Lister: "Of course, lager! The only thing that can kill a vindaloo!"

By Season 5 the Red Dwarf team are really hitting their stride. All of the episodes are crammed full with fun and it was an effort to single out 'Holoship'. This is very much a Rimmer episode: Red Dwarf encounters a holographic ship (called 'the Enlightenment') that is capable of faster-than-light travel and crewed by a team of elite-intellectual scientist-holograms... as Kryten says, "... Holocrews are legendarily arrogant. They despise stupidity wherever they see it, and they see it everywhere."

On board the Enlightenment Rimmer can touch (has 'an effective physical form') and enjoys the added bonus of a ship's regulation that says the crew must have sex twice a day. He falls in love with Commander Nirvanah Crane and comes to feel that the Enlightenment is where he belongs. He tries and fails to cheat in the test to join the holoship, only to discover that Cdr Crane has given up her place for him! Rimmer then goes back on his earlier statement that career always comes before love. He resigns his new commission and returns to Red Dwarf, so that Cdr Crane can be re-instated on the Enlightenment. Seeing Rimmer struggle to fit in while enjoying the holoship's regulations is a joy, and Craig Barrie carries off the moment wonderfully when he resigns at the end.

I felt that the writing was starting to flag a bit by Season 6. Don't get me wrong, the comedy is still good, but it must have been hard to continue from the high points of season 5. My favourite here is 'Psirens': the idea is that Red Dwarf encounters an asteroid field full of derelict ships that have been lured to their doom by telepathic creatures who show them their hearts' desires. These creatures are the eponymous 'psirens', ugly, insectoid creatures who telepathically conceal their true appearance. The psirens try to lure the Cat onto an asteroid with a message from women claiming to need mass insemination, and Lister with images of Kristine Kochanski. When Star Bug eventually crashes Lister ends up outside and kissing what he thinks is one of the lusts from his adolescence, Pete Tranter's sister (we're never told anything else about Pete). He just about makes it back inside, only for a second Lister to arrive claiming he is the real deal.

Kryten lets the second Lister onboard and then tests them at gunpoint to determine who is the psiren. The psiren is wounded but escapes, creating the space for a chase and comedic showdown between Kryten and the psiren pretending to be his creator, Professor Mamet (who he is programmed to obey). Very creative and very funny, this one is recommended.

Now we reach Series 7 and the writing takes a new direction with the accidental addition to the crew of a parallel universe version of Kristine Kochanski (played by Chloë Annett) in episode 3 ('Ouroboros'). However, my favourite episode is the series opener, 'Tikka to Ride'. Lister discovers that their curry supplies have been lost and hatches a plan with one of Kryten's spare heads to travel back in time and stock up. The plan involves deactivating Kryten's Guilt chip and many problems follow when the mechanoid no longer receives error guidance on his behaviour. The crew end up in Dallas, Texas on 22nd November 1963, within the Texas School Book Depository, just as Lee Harvey Oswald is about to shoot President Kennedy. They inadvertently change the past when they knock Oswald out of the window and prevent Kennedy's assassination. Travelling forward in time by three years they discover that this has had terrible consequences and the city is now a wasteland. Kryten cooks them some meat that Cat & Lister confuse with chicken, before he makes one of my favourite comic-reveals in all of the shows:

[Lister, Kryten, Rimmer and Cat sitting around a large open fire. Rimmer is fiddling with the Time Drive while Lister and Cat tuck into hefty chunks of meat]

Rimmer: "It's hopeless, I can't fix it. We're trapped..." - drops the time drive down by the edge of the fire

Cat: "Chicken's good."

Lister: "Yeah, really good."

Kryten: "That's not chicken, sir."

Cat: "Oh, what is it?"

Kryten: "It's that man we found."

[Lister and Cat suddenly stop chewing, their mouthfuls of meat turning to poison...]

"Well, it seemed such a waste to leave him lying there when he'd barbecue so beautifully."

Rimmer: [sniggers quietly]

Kryten: "Did I do wrong? I didn't get any error commands..."

[Lister and Cat let their half-chewed mouthfuls dribble out in disgust]

"Obviously I thought about it, because without my guilt chip or moral imperatives, I have nothing to guide me. But it seemed to me that if humanoids eat chicken then obviously they'd eat their own species; otherwise they'd just be picking on the chicken."

Rimmer [highly amused]: "One minute you're down, the next you're right back up again."

Lister: "I said I was enjoying that!"

Cat [absolutely horrified]: "I knew it didn't smell right! Oh my god..."

Lister: "I'm a cannibal!"

[Unexpectedly, blips suddenly issue forth from the Time Drive down by the fire. It's obviously 'thawed out']

Rimmer: "Look!"

Cat: "Right, let's get out of here! I badly need to floss a piece of roasted dead person out of my teeth!"

Season 8 brings me back to the start of this blog, with the marvellous 'Back in the Red, part 2' - I'm not going to say any more about that one - just watch it! Now!

I'm also not going to say anything about the Season 9: 'Back to Earth' episodes. Ten years had passed before these 3 episodes were broadcast in 2009. I did not enjoy them and have nothing good to say about them: sorry 'Doug Naylor', but they stink... unlike...

Season 10 which saw both the writing and acting back to 'firing on all thrusters'. We had to wait three years after the rubbish of 'Back to Earth', but these shows were worth it. I love all 6 episodes but "Lemons" really stands out for me.

What's not to like about the crew being sent back in time to AD 23 Britain by a badly aligned, Swedish flat-pack "rejuvenation shower", where they end up walking across the globe in search of lemons to make a simple battery, and meet a figure they mistake for Jesus Christ, on whom they perform emergency surgery?

The high quality continued into Season 11 with 6 really engaging episodes. The crew are still lost in deep space, with all the problems that presents. But my best moments are in episode 5, 'Krysis', when Kryten goes into a mid-life crisis, gives up mopping and takes up extreme sports like bungee jumping in the elevator shafts. He replaces his usual body with a red DX-87 shell, which can spin his body round, has twin exhausts and sub-woofers. The crew try to help Kryten out of his crisis by looking for an inferior mechanoid on another wreck, to show him how far he has come. However, what they actually find is Butler, a 3000 series mechanoid who seems much better at everything than Kryten... the interplay that follows between the 2 mechanoids is very funny, before the show ends with Kryten talking to The Universe.

... and lastly we come to Series 12, which was broadcast in 2017. Six more fun episodes, all lovingly made for our enjoyment! For me this series doesn't quite meet the highs of series 11, but it is still extremely good.

The top spot goes to 'Siliconia', where Lister, Cat and Rimmer get to experience life as mechanoids, and Kryten is nearly seduced into becoming a MILF!

So that's Red Dwarf to date: twelve seasons, 73 episodes, with just 3 that don't hit the mark in the entire run. To quote Mr Rimmer: "Marvellous!"

"Atomic Blonde" - a great fun film starring Charlize Theron
-- Posted on: 28th January 2018

Last night I really enjoyed watching the DVD of 2017 action-thriller "Atomic Blonde" - the films rocks fast like a Sam Peckinpah version of 'The Bourne Conspiracy' with x1000% of the violence.

Charlize Theron is very convincing in the role of lethal MI6 officer Lorraine Broughton, sent to Berlin to recover 'The List' (of all active spies in the city from both sides). She is warned to beware an unknown double-agent, code-named 'Satchel', who has been betraying secrets to the KGB for years. The action takes place in the closing days of the Cold War, just as the Berlin Wall is coming down, and events kick off as soon as her aircraft lands.

Stylish and evocative, the film proceeds to a backing track of '80s music that really helps to create just the right sense of atmosphere for the action. A wonderful film & recommended if you like your action-thrillers with a vein of undiluted violence.

Awestruck by the drive & dedication shown by the climbers in the film "Meru"...
-- Posted on: 5th January 2018

I've just finished watching the film "Meru" on Netflix and I was left completely in awe of the drive and dedication of the climbers to reach the peak of Mount Meru, a nearly 22,000-foot tall Himalayan mountain. In 2011, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk were the first people to reach its summit via the Shark's Fin route on the northwest side. The climb is harder and more technical than Everest, and involves a mixture of Alpine-style and Big-Wall techniques. I don't want to paraphrase their words about the climb & the film when you can read them right here.

One of the things that really struck when watching the film was seeing that whole vista of human aspiration and emotion play out both during & between their attempts to climb Meru. They faced the death of friends, life-threatening injury, the need to look after each other & their families, balanced against an over-whelming urge to climb Meru, knowing that it would their risk-positions right to the limit.

It's not the adventure or bravery alone that inspired me though. It was the realisation that here are normal people applying everything they have in order to be the best that they could ever be. To achieve that they are prepared to risk everything, and from that effort and risk comes a fantastic achievement.

I share that same sense of drive, but until recently I hadn't discovered the singular thing that I wanted to excel at. I know what it is now, and I know I am prepared to make the extraordinary efforts needed to achieve it.

In my life I have been a so-so badminton player, a sort-of climber, a sometimes runner, a somewhat cyclist, an OK coarse fisherman, a pretty good karateka. but not expert in anything. I pushed hard in most of those things until I hit my ceiling, and then moved on to try something else - that's what defines me... always looking for that thing I will be expert in.

For me, sharing top-quality stories is my Meru. I know I write well... finding a wide-readership and hopefully achieve solid recognition will be my equivalent of summit day.

Next vlog about the writing of the Brexit Conspiracy-Thrillers is now on YouTube...
-- Posted on: 1st January 2018

In my latest video blog I give an update on how I planned & prepared to write my new series of Brexit Conspiracy-Thrillers, and show some of the software that I now use. The vlog is on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/NQ4My7eXwN4

The tools I show include:

  • FreeMind - mind mapping software
  • MS Word & Excel
  • yWriter5 - free fiction writing software that manages your work into chapters & scenes

This vlog is more focussed on the technical side of fiction writing.

Next time I will take a look in detail at one of the scenes in my new book, introducing some of the characters & key plot drivers.

Go to earlier blog entries...

Click here to see earlier updates.

© Lee Russell, all rights reserved.