The Full Lid
14th August 2020

AAAAAAAAAAAAAND we're back. Welcome to The Full Lid, everyone! This is your weekly delivery of pop culture enthusiasm, career notes, reviews and anything else that I've enjoyed this week. Think of it as email, but good!

This week's interstitials come to us from the one man media empire of Simon Brew. Film Stories, Film Stories Junior and Simon's ridiculously well researched podcast are some profoundly enjoyable writing. Simon goes out of his way to give first time writers a chance, and concentrates on working with the young and the elderly. His love of the form is deeply infectious and genuinely lovely to see. He does all this on a self funded basis and really needs all the help you can give him so if you like what you see, please consider subscribing. Thanks.

And now, contents!


Horror Noire
Chloë Yates Talks Fox Spirit's Book of Love
Beyond Blue
The Department of Esoteric Printed Goods
Signal Boost
Where You Can Find Me This Week
Signing Off / Playing Out

Horror Noire

I got Shudder this week and this movie was a very big part of why. Directed by Xavier Burgin, co-written and produced by Ashlee Blackwell and loosely based on Dr Robin R Means Coleman's book of the same title, Horror Noire is the history of black horror cinema in the US. It's short, under 90 minutes but Burgin packs so much information in. The movie is tightly crammed full of history both academic and personal, granting the audience often surprising points of view.

For example, this is the first time I've ever heard it said out loud that DW Griffiths' Birth of a Nation is a horror movie. Given the way it deals with it's single black character (played of course by a white actor) that's a given, but the thing about givens is no one talks about them. Here, Tananarive Due's comment that 'black history is black horror' hits like a ton of bricks and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. This is a a series of blisteringly honest, perceptive compass bearings which both map out a territory and set a course through it to the present day, illustrated by the current landlord of the Twilight Zone, Jordan Peele.

But Peele is just part of a story which follows black horror cinema and black representation up through the decades. Coleman and Burgin spend a lot of very useful time on Oscar Micheaux and Spencer Williams as the originators of both movements and again, the movie has some surprises. Micheaux's back catalog is rife with horror both as writer, director and producer. He played a vital role in establishing black cinema as an art form. Williams, best known for Amos' 'n' Andy, was a prolific and renowned film director. The movie goes into detail about how Son of Ingagi, the sequel to a horrifyingly racist earlier movie, changed under Williams' script. It features one of the first black women in STEM on screen, carefully steps around the initial movie's horrifying premise, and impressed studios enough for it to act as a springboard for Williams' later career. It was made in 1940.

Despite early successes such as these, the Cold War saw a collapse in nascent black representation on screen. As several of the remarkable array of guests touch on, at this time black characters were predominantly servants, comic relief or some mixture of both. The labs of the Atomic Age were no place for a maid. And a smart, silver foil, small a Aryan future began to form as the new ideal.

Then, Duane Jones happened.
Horror Noire spends a chunk of time with the original Night of the Living Dead. Much like William Crain's Blacula, it's a film that had seismic effects on black audiences and arrived at a terrifyingly prescient time. If you've never seen it, I'm both mildly envious of the experience you're about to have and don't want to spoil it. The final act especially is surprising and brave even today. It's discussion makes it clear just what a mark the movie, and Jones, left. Black men were no longer either the villains or the fools. They could be the hero now, a leading role played by a black actor rather than the banal, passive aggressive horror of blackface.

That rise in presence brought with it the ups and downs of blaxploitation, one of the film's strongest sections. Blacula, starring William Marshall and directed by William Crain, is lauded as a foundational text of black cinematic horror. Crain's gentle horror stories about what the movie almost was and how he had to fight for it, even as the only black crewmember, are as horrifying as they are riveting. Blacula is Dracula re-imagined, an urbane, principled prince cursed by a white man and doing his best to remain who he is while using his powers to further that goal. Look backwards from that role and you see Spencer Williams' work. Look forward? You see Ryan Coogler's.

This is the genius of Burgin and Coleman's approach: the way it charts these movies in a line. Blacula leads to Ganja and Hess, a renowned horror movie in one light, a re-cut diasaster in another. The battle for the film's soul, and it's eventual rediscovery in its original form, is a high point in the story and in horror cinema in general. It also serves as an inspiration for one of Clipping's best albums to date, There Existed an Addiction to Blood.

Time and again the movie maps history onto horror and vice versa. Ken Foree, in utterly charming conversation here with Keith David, talks about the difficulties of being a black castmember on the predominantly white Dawn of the Dead. David, who I'm currently loving as the voice of Goliath on my lunchbreaks, not only reveals The Thing was his first role(!) but that he'd always wanted to be the first Black Dracula, although he doesn't begrudge Marshall the role at all.

Each movie gaining ground, each movie having more success. Horror Noire is a story of a slow inexorable build, with Candyman on the horizon. The Peele-produced, Nia DaCosta directed reboot...quel is relatively imminent but the original still rings the genre like a bell. Much of that is down to both Tony Todd's iconic work and the movie's embracing of it's lead characters' blackness. The Candyman is a tragic figure, an urban nightmare as trapped as we are and Todd's humanity in the role makes it all the more unsettling. If you haven't seen it, again please do.
All of which leads to Attack the Block, Get Out, Us and what comes next (like Lovecraft Country). The former is dealt with in surprising and welcome detail and John Boyega's work in the final scene especially is justifiably praised to the skies. Moses is the solution to the equation posed by Duane Jones' Ben back in Night of the Living Dead: a black man troubled and defined by his environment but actively engaged in fighting back and shaping that environment to his will. 

Likewise Peele's work. Us is only touched upon but Get Out is lauded in the same way Blacula, Night of the Living Dead and Attack the Block are. One of the best moments in the movie sees Ernest Dickerson (who's own Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight gets some welcome time here) express just how unsettling he found the opening scene of Get Out. A black man walking down an affluent street, happily chatting on his phone, to me, is simply that. To Dickerson and so many others it's a clenching fist of tension that Peele pays off horrifyingly well.

Building off that, and the original ending, Peele himself talks about how Get Out is a movie defined not by what the audience expected but what they needed, which goes a long way toward explaining its power. Its symbolism, laid out with glee by The Craft's Rachel True, only drives home both the point of the movie and of the antlers Chris wreaks vengeance with. True's own stories are another highlight, exploring how she fought to change her character from 'black friend' to something with depth and nuance.

Eighty three minutes. Always focused, always driven, never breathless and never rushed. In that time Horror Noire shows you the emergence and evolution of black horror cinema and how it maps across wider cultural changes. Every voice here is worth a feature of their own, so much so an extended series of podcast interviews is available. Each voice points the same direction: black horror cinema is vital, in every sense of the word.  You won't regret this worthy addition to cinema history. 

Horror Noire and the extended podcast are on Shudder now.
The original book is available here.

Further Reading

In addition to the guests above, check out the following who also make appearances:

Meosha BeanRusty CundieffLoretta DevineTananarive Due Mark H. HarrisRichard LawsonTina MabryKelly Jo MinterMiguel A. Núñez Jr.Paula Jai ParkerKen Sagoes and Monica Suriyage.
Led by a MASSIVE interview with a MASSIVE personality, the latest issue of Film Stories is a great example of Simon's work. Stories include a Thomas Jane interview, a look at new talent, the gloriously titled Filth! A look at the saucy movies of the 1940s and more.

Chloë Yates talks
The Book of Love

Fox Spirit Books are an award-winning UK indie publisher. I've had the great privileged to work with or alongside them for as long as they've been around. Chloë Yates is a fellow benevolent conspirator, whose incredible stories, not to mention voicework and other assorted acts of creative badassery, never fail to inspire. We talked about her latest anthology, The Book of Love, the stories they're looking for and the love stories they've enjoyed recently.


Tell us a little about the Book of Love

The trouble with love, if you’ll excuse me throwing out that cliché right off the bat, is too often there’s a ‘What fools it makes of us’ attitude around it. People can be pretty coy when it comes to love and loving, like it’s a weakness, and it’s all too often a cheapened eye-roller of an emotion folks are casual about, or walk all over, dismiss, belittle, whatever, but the truth is it’s one of the things that drives us all and is a vital source of hope. Even if it doesn’t work out, even if it’s hard, or if you sacrifice yourself for it – maybe especially that – love can change the fucking world; it can channel fear into strength, make champions out of cowards, make the unseen seen and the lost found, whether that’s for the briefest of moments or until the very end of time. That’s pretty cool and I want our anthology to reflect that. I’m also going to be reading all submissions blind, partly because that’s what Love is, tapping up the clichés again, but also because I want to sit down with no preconceived anythings, read the stories and feel the punch. 

Is it intended as a standalone or part of a series? 

Hopefully we can build something that is solid and that people like so we can make more The Fox Spirit Book Ofs, whether that’s with me at the helm or someone else, but that’s all pie in the sky stuff so for now we’ll just see how this goes. Fingers crossed! SEND ME YOUR STORIES! 

What drew you to the project?

The idea I originally had has evolved since the call went out – which I am really happy about – but my initial intention was spurred by the callousness we’re all seeing around us more and more these days. I’m not trying to create some blue-skying, skippity hoppity “Love will save the day” manifesto, what I want is to highlight that there is good reason for us to keep going, to show why we do keep going, that it’s not all in vain. Right now I think we could all do with a bit of a reminder that not everything is on fire or has to stay on fire forever, that we can make it through all *this* and, call me naive if you like, I think love is how we’re going to defeat the darkness *cough, cliché, cough*. Have I slain you right in the face with my saccharine oomphities? Good. Onwards!

Is it purely romantic love or other sorts too? 

Hands up! I am a total sucker for a romance and I started out with a proposal that was focussed around romantic love. However, it was pointed out that the call for submissions dismissed people who do not experience love in that way. So, did I want to create something that was simply about romantic love and dismiss an already misunderstood and blithely ignored group or did I want to not only widen the scope of the anthology but also my mind? OF COURSE I FRICKING DID! It took a single heartbeat to realise it could only make the purpose of the anthology stronger, better. That’s what love is about, after all.

I should say we are not looking for stories about familial love – we want stories where the connection between people is purely the bond of love, not blood or obligation, et cetera. Please read the submission guidelines! 

What are some of your favourite love stories? 

I’ll be straight up with you; I have an enormous hard on for Del Toro’s frankly magnificent and oft maligned Crimson Peak. I’ve written a piece about this before which you can read if you’re interested. I guess it’s along the same lines as my lifelong affection for Jane Eyre. That novel is not simply a LOOKIT THE ROMANCE MAN! ISN’T HE THE DREAMY! SHE WILL FALL INTO LOVE WITH HIMS! story, it’s an honest to goodness Horror novel for a start and I will fight you on that dang hill, son. Fact is, Horror and Love are both transformative, or at least should be in my humble, and in both these stories, although the outcomes are quite different, love changes the protagonists into something better and stronger… even if I do think Jane should kick Mr Rochester in the ever-loving nuts every time I read it. For her part, Edith experiences the rush and power of the old romantical love squeezings in pretty customary fashion at first and falls hook line and sinker (a terrible pun considering what happens to her poor old Pa) for Thomas of the Darkened Loki Locks. And here’s what makes it a real Love story for me, not simply a romantic one – what love does for Edith is give her an absolute understanding of her worth, that the things she wants, the stuff she is truly passionate about – most significantly her writing - are all valid and of value. I mean, at one point her pen literally fucking saves her! And poor old (yes, you are correct, I am a sucker) Thomas really does love her, I think, and without him she might not become the person she is supposed to be. And that’s what love can do. It can make us better. Even if it turns out not to be what we thought it was, or in Edith’s case tainted with corruption and incest and bleeding old buildings that positively drip all over you… 

Something else I totally fell for recently was the TV adaptation of Good Omens. What made it for me was the love, whether or not it was friendship or romantic, between Crowley and Aziraphale. I liked the book well enough but didn’t love it like a lot of folks do (DO NOT @ ME), but their relationship in the show kicked it up a-whole-nother level for me. The assurance that they can rely on each other when the chips are down, whether they acknowledge it or not, and their reluctant but loving kindness to each other, whether they like it or not, is wonderful. Love makes you better, somehow. It doesn’t have to be saccharine or gushing or demonstrative.

Love is many things, takes many forms, and it can move mountains. SO WRITE US A STORY, THANK YOU!

Editor's note: Submit stories for The Book of Love consideration here.

I've done rolling news for pop culture sites and it is HARD, not just in figuring out what to cover, what not to cover and what deserves more space but knowing what stories to follow up on. Simon's been doing especially good work on safety procedures and reopening schedules for cinemas in the UK. Here's a rolling list.
This is Dingus. He would like to do a science. Also do you have any ham?

Beyond Blue

Developed as a collaboration between the team behind the amazing Forever Alone and the BBC team behind Blue Planet II, Beyond Blue is much like the animals you spend the game cataloging: surviving and thriving in an environment which doesn't quite fit it's needs.

You play Mirai, a marine biologist working as the forward researcher for a larger team. You have a very cool submarine which is also basically an RV, a suit with mission adaptable and occasionally bisexual lighting, and a lot to be diving away from. Ren, played by Ally Maki (Big Bang Theory, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger) is, Mirai's struggling sister. Not only with school but with the resentment she feels at being left behind to care for their grandmother, diagnosed with dementia, Ren can barely cope and Mirai? Mirai's at sea. The place she and her gran bonded over their love of free diving.

(If you haven't seen Home Game on Netflix yet, run, do not walk and do so. Every episode is brilliant but the one on Free Diving is staggering).

So with her family falling apart behind her, Mirai, played by Anna Akana (Ant-Man) literally dives into her work. She's aided by colleagues André played by  Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Hotel Rwanda, Black Sails) and Irina played by Mira Furlan (Babylon 5, Lost). André is driven, determined to find out the cause of odd signals that are disturbing their subjects. Irina is more focused and calm but has concerns of her own. 
That's the game. You scan lifeforms, investigate strange sounds, listen to your colleagues bicker and try and face up to your feelings. It's a touch repetitive, but gorgeous and the sense of freedom as you swim through the ocean is like a breath you didn't remember holding being released.

Plus your kit is AWESOME. Your suit looks futuristic but functional, you have cool little manta camera drones and in the single best jump scare I've had this year, you have a VERY close encounter with a giant squid. It's a gentle, immersive experience, which primes you for its heavier elements.

The first is the worldbuilding. This is near future technology, around the bend of the event horizon. This is a world that takes global warming seriously and is actively doing something about it. But the worldbuilding is also in service to the characters and to the ecology of the game. André is haunted by a species he feels he couldn't save. Irina is relentless because she was a corporate suit for so long instead of getting her feet wet. There's guilt here, penance mixed in with the wonder. A world surviving, but monitored and aided by people who know just how late we left it. In that respect Beyond Blue has a lot in common with the extraordinary Firewatch. Both games use environmental issues as their backdrop, and in Beyond Blue's case, through the lens of whales.
There's a beautifully realized, painfully familiar strand of slowly escalating concern focused on the whale pod and the dangers they face. It culminates in an ending which is three different things at once, at least two of them successful. It's a conclusion for the game, a clear statement about the ocean and a message of pragmatic compassion and hope. That last, weirdly, hurts the first a little. After a few hours of playing deeply hands on research, we're told what happened rather than earn it. It's the single offkey note, and it's clearly deliberate.

Because it's the narrative expectation of a finale that Beyond Blue pushes back against. It HAS to, because the time scales the biosphere operates on laugh at three act structure, even as our own inability to look past our noses gouges holes in the world. A world we're killing around us. A world which as I write this has an environment that's parked the temperature in the low 30s in the UK for a WEEK.

The status isn't just not quo, it's on fire.

A lazy game would have ended in the horror and anger and grief such a realization can inspire. Nothing about Beyond Blue is lazy. André finds that others are picking up the work he thought had failed. Irina clearly loves field work more than she ever did being in the boardroom. Mirai makes her peace not just with her grandmother's passing but her sister's evolution. Ren finds out how to work with and around her sister as the pod of whales adjust to their new circumstances. Everyone hurts. But no one hurts forever. Not even the planet. That simple, determined compassion just broke me in half when I reached it. 

Beyond Blue is deceptively simple to play, emotionally complex to experience and profoundly kind and hopeful in a way I didn't know I needed. If you need that right now, check it out.

Beyond Blue is available for PC, PS4, Xbox and Apple Arcade. Yes that's a thing. It's forthcoming for the Switch. You can also check out Friend of the Lid Nate Crowley's excellent piece, and linked pieces therein (THEREIN! THAT's the English degree talking, that is!) for more info.

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Department of Received Esoteric Printed Goods

On the left! Stickers from the amazing Cloudy Apple Art, including: Below that we have a gorgeous card from Oddfellow Creations from the amazing Sandra Odell.

On the right! XX the new book by legendary graphic designer Rian HughesCan't wait to dig into this, and it's accompanying album...
The Film Stories podcast does a deep, DEEP dive into the production of two movies every episode. A recent favorite is the profoundly weird, deeply troubled waters that led to Terminator Genisys. Find out why War of the Worlds helped save it' studio and what The Mask almost was here.

Signal Boost




  • Candelantern releases new episodes of horror serial The Carving Bones every Tuesday and Thursday. 'A curse, a love, a hunger' and absolutely worth your time.
  • Courtesy of friend of the Lid Jax, do take a look at the horror writing of the amazing Briana Morgan. Her newest, Unboxed, just came out and focuses on what happens when a YouTuber desperate to raise his views buys a box from the Dark Web...
  • AVAST! Leo McBride's latest anthology, Tales from Pirate's Cove, is out now! 
  • Jonathan Sims! Jonny Big Streams! Writer! Podcaster! Musician! Actor! HIS FIRST BOOK APPROACHES AND PRE-ORDERS! ARE! OPEN!
  • Chris Durston brings news of #AchTenTan, the first volume of a series. Out next week it's '30 writers built a bizarre world together and then filled it up with a ludicrous mishmash of awesome pieces: stories, essays, plays, all sorts. Releases next week!'
  • The amazing Charlotte Geater has a new zine of AI generated poetry out for name-your-price.
  • Salt and Sage Books have a fantastic sounding series of guidebooks called the Incomplete Guides to help authors write Black Characters, Asexual Characters and NB Characters among others. They're on Amazon and Kobo now but maybe go ask Portal Bookshop about them? They strike me as VERY Portal books:)
  • Mark Morell's Online Dating for the Nervous is look at online romance from an older male perspective.
  • I will now present you with some words.  Joanne Harris. Orfeia. Gender flipped modern update of the Orpheus myth. Same universe as the Rune books. Upcoming anthology of 100(!) stories called Honeycomb, illustrated by Charles Vess. Out in September. ALL THOSE WORDS are great on their own but together? WOW. More details here.
  • RemcoStraten's The Red Man & Others brings heists to sword & sorcery, including a fake saint, a gullible cult and a lot of fast thinking.


  • Aidan Moher's Astrolabe has launched and is very worth your time. It's Aidan to the core -- full of enthusiasm, perception and insight.


That's this week's Signal Boost, folks. If you have a project you'd like to see here get in touch.

Want More?

Where You Can Find Me

The Clark Kent Beat

PseudoPod 716: Big Brother

Escape Pod 744: The Evening, the Morning and the Night (Summer Flashback)
My first ever published work was a letter in Starburst, talking through the various problems with Highlander II: The WHATTENING?! 

I was 12. This explains some things.

If Film Stories Junior had been around when I was growing up, I would have written any- and everything I could for it. I'm incredibly happy Simon's doing this and I can't wait to see what these voices have to say. The most recent issue can be found here and is mostly written by correspondents under 15. If you have young aspiring writers in your household, a subscription would make a great gift.

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Signing Off / Playing Out

Thanks for reading, folks! I hope you, like us, are no longer PARKED ON THE SURFACE OF THE SUN and working out fashionable ways to tape every fan you own to your body.

TFL will return next week. Check out the Team KennerStuart Instagram and Twitter to keep in touch until then.

And check out our weekly Twitch streams. Wednesdays at 10 pm BST I'm serialising the excellent A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher / Ursula Vernon, and on Sundays around 10 am BST it's a chill time with coffee and chat while I play Abzu. Do pop along if you can, this week's Wednesday stream was especially fun.

This work is produced for free. If you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. And thank you!

Playing us out this week to commemorate the end of the classic 'got excellent the moment people stopped paying attention to it' Agents of SHIELD, is one of Agent Coulson's earliest, finest hours. This is 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor's Hammer'. The song is on my phone.

Know what else it is?
a Full Lid.
Copyright Alasdair Stuart © 2020 -- All rights reserved

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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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