The Full Lid 10th May 2019

Happy Friday everyonei! I'm Alasdair Stuart, professionally enthusiastic pop culture analyst, podcaster and 2019 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist. This is The Full Lid, my weekly pop culture enthusiasm download.  Welcome! Shall we see what's on deck?


The Wandering Earth
2000AD All-Ages Special
Hugo Spotlight: Bogi Takács
Marshmallo Sea by Jonathan Snipes
So Where Can We Find You This Week?
Signing Off/Playing Out
Spoilers abound and sharing is caring so if you enjoy this issue, let your friends know. Now, let's open the lid!
Read More

The Wandering Earth

There's a moment in The Wandering Earth where one character is using his back-mounted minigun to blast through layers of permafrost while the others are frantically trying to haul a fusion core up the elevator shaft of a frozen skyscraper so they can take it to one of the several thousand engines powering Earth through space and turn it back on. It comes after an earthquake which turns into a car chase which turns into a rescue mission and is, in any way you'd expect, third act action.

It arrives at the one hour mark.

Are you getting that I really liked this? Are you picking up what I'm putting down here? Because The Wandering Earth is really good.

Based on a Cixin Liu story, it's the second highest grossing non-English movie of all time and was released onto Netflix this week the same way kids get their parents to drop them off at school. The basic idea is this: the Sun is going to turn into a red giant and destroy the Earth. A World Government is formed which evacuates the population to underground cities beneath world engines, vast propulsion systems which fire the Earth out of the Solar System, guided by a navigational space station. 17 years into the voyage, preparing for a gravitational slingshot around Jupiter, things begin to go extremely wrong...

The core of all this is Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao), the son of an astronaut aboard the station, his grandfather Han Zi'ang (Ng Man-tat) and his younger sister Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai). Liu is young, furious at his dad (For it turns out very good reasons) and desperate to get out of the city. He steals his grandfather's transport pass, borrows a transport and takes his younger sister on a 'field trip' to see the surface. There, in among the vast mining operation keeping the engines running, the three of them get caught up in the imminent disaster. 

In the hands of a lesser director this would be a schmaltzy or cologne soaked mess. Here it's a surprisingly nuanced and completely no holds barred look at a planetary catastrophe. There's no Colonel Military Industrial Complex arguing over whether they really ARE going to crash into Jupiter. There's no false conflict. Instead, everyone is briefed, everyone knows what to do and the movie makes it clear that salvation here is made from a thousand tiny victories. One of the best recurrent images is of people descending en masse to help solve a problem and director Frant Gwo has never met a wide shot they didn't like. Or couldn't make look great. You've rarely seen space-age trucks get put through more punishment in more volume than you do here. Likewise a fantastically nasty zero-g chase across the space station as the crew try and solve the small problem of a murderous computer system.

it's a C plot. Seriously. Murderous not-quite AI is the plot this cuts away to when nothing much else is happening. Which is rarely.

The movie does have problems. I mention Liu Qi in detail because he, and Han Zi'ang are the only characters we really get to know. They're also the only two we need to get to know. Everyone else is either the sort of character these movies always feature or ciphers to keep the plot moving. There's nothing wrong with that at all, and the form even kind of demands it, but the movie is always at its best when it isn't leaning on them. Because it's then that you get moments like the transports turning round in the endless night, the origin of Han Zi'ang and the final, astounding action sequence which features the first use of Chekov's Bucky Ball I've ever seen.

The Wandering Earth is a fiercely entertaining, relentless spectacle that's cleverer than you, or sometimes it, thinks. It's on Netflix now (dubbed not subbed alas) and is a very good time.
I'm having a lot of fun with 'not necessarily Fortean but still weird and cool' story collections like Atlas Obscura and Great Big Story at the moment. This, from the latter, is especially lovely.

2000AD All-Ages Special

2000AD is the best and worst of the UK comics scene. it's a decades-old talent incubator of some of the best creatives working in the field, it's crammed full of some of the most iconic characters in Western comics history. It's also, rightly or wrongly, always been perceived as a dudefest and it has never, once, passed up an opportunity to bring those iconic characters back again and again. If you ever saw Spaced and the gag about when Johnny Alpha was killed? He has appeared SO many times since then. SO. MANY. And that's fine! A lot of folks love that, but I always get antsy when something decides the most important fans to cater to are people who could conceivably have been on the same school Rugby team as me. New minds, fresh ideas and all that. 

Thankfully, the All-Ages Special released this week is everything about 2000AD that's great and only one thing that isn't. Let's rip that band-aid off first; the fact it's 2019 and this features exactly six female creatives across six stories tells you exactly how far the UK industry still has to go. The fact this is a massive improvement tells you how far it's already come and that it's at least in motion. So it's not all good news, but good news is on the GPS.

'Cadet Dredd vs Grudzilla' is written and drawn by all-time great Chris Weston and not only zips along but is crammed full of wry jokes and some foreshadowing of what was waiting for Joe and his clone brothers further down history. Weston has a nice ear for dialogue, a better eye for action and loves the chaotic sprawl of Mega-City 1 with a splendor that would make the late great Carlos Ezquerra nod approvingly. Lettering is also top notch (Especially on 'GRUDZILLA!' himself) and provided by 2000AD MVP Annie Parkhouse.
Full Tilt Boogie is where things get really interesting for the first time. Written by Alex De Campi with art by Eduardo Ocana and letters by the other 2000AD MVP Ellie De Ville it follows Tee, a super competent teenager, her grandma and their mysterious cat as they take on odd (read dangerous) jobs in their ship the Full Tilt Boogie. De Campi combines character and action brilliantly and there are some cracking jokes here too. Best of all this feels like a complete story and a pilot episode, the world both nicely morally complex and cheerily dangerous. Ocana's clean, precise lines are exactly what this needs and De Ville's letters ensure each bone dry punchline lands perfectly. More of this please.

Full disclosure: I was braced for impact going into 'Future Shocks: The Weird Kid'. 'Future Shocks' have traditionally been 2000AD's Twilight Zone; often brilliant, sometimes 'THE ALIEN WAS YOU!' (Jazz hands). Fold in the premise of a good kid in a remedial class and i was...not hopeful. Brilliantly, I was also wrong. Karl Stock's script unfolds it's world in the subtlest, gentlest way I've seen in a while and as each reveal hits the story builds to a pulpy crescendo and then does something completely unexpected. By the time the last page hits, Brett Parson's cheerful, burly artwork has become a weapon in the story's hand rather than a tool to restrain it. Fold in letters from Simon Bowland, one of the best in the business and you've got both a pleasant surprise and another winner.

The same is ultimately true of 'Anderson, Psi Division: Spellcraft' but it takes a while to get there. The art by PJ Holden is great especially in the in-game sequences and Gary Caldwell's colors give the action a welcome, grounded feel. De Ville is back on letters, which are a complex job here and handled perfectly. Alec Worley's script wobbles early on when Anderson psychically body shames a female NPC to get to her target but recovers brilliantly. That very bum note aside it's a story about the simple grief of every day life, the power of escapism and when to not use it. Good stuff that speaks to the core of what 2000AD does and worth powering through that bad early beat. 
You should read everything Leah Moore and John Reppion write. They're just that good and I've talked about them here beforeFinder & Keeper is no exception as it follows Meera and Eliot, two school friends sent to clean up an old house as punishment for fighting. The script smartly sets up their characters, why they're friends and the problems they have in under a page and they're instantly likable kids. The plot, which sees them discover some ghost hunting equipment with some very interesting side effects is great too. Combined with Davide Tinto's cheery, expressive art, Pippa Mather's naturalistic color palette and Parkhouse back on lettering it's a great strip. Like Full Tilt Boogie it's also thoroughly deserving of a full series.

The issue is rounded out by Cavan Scott scripting Rogue Trooper. Nick Roche and Abigail Bulmer do great work on the burly, expressive art and Simon Bowland's letters impress again. They combine with Cav's script to tell a story which manages to pull no punches without losing the all-ages label. A clever, impressive end to an impressive special.

2000AD is unbeatable when it's on form. This is 2000AD on the best form it's had in some time and if you've never encountered these characters before, this is a perfect place to start. Even if you're a long-term reader this is such a well executed group of stories you shouldn't miss it.

The 2000AD All-Ages Special is out now priced £4.99. Find it at your local newsagent, comic store or my local here. Or buy it direct.
The Kings, having successfully conquered gravity, went on to not only conquer time but win World of Dance this year. And possibly ever year. Ever.

Spotlight: Bogi Takács

Best Fan Writer Finalist Bogi Takács writes, edits and reviews speculative fiction and, as E describes it on eir website bio 'a little of everything else.' This is, as is so often the case with the Best Fan Writer finalists, something of an understatement.
Bogi is a prolific short fiction writer whose work has appeared online and in numerous anthologies including recent release Dracula: Rise of the Beast . We had the pleasure of running two of eir stories at Escape Pod“Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus”, and “Given Sufficient Desperation”. Eir debut poetry collection, Algorithmic Shapeshifting, is out now and eir debut fiction collection "The Trans Space Octopus Congregation" is on the way lin August from Lethe Press.
Eir non-fiction is just as impressive, combining an intensely focused attention to detail with an ability to view and articulate the larger critical topography of a subject. This is especially true of eir ongoing work in promoting trans and LGBTQIA+ writers and writing, and eir work to ensure not only a more inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ authors and readers, but also the creation of that market without unfair emotional labor on the part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Bogi tweets at @bogiperson and eir patreon is here.
The last of Hong Kong's bouncing noodle masters. Technologies like this fascinate me; neither obsolete or current but still successful.

Marshmallow Sea by Jonathan Snipes

Ambient wit is something which should be an oxymoron. Delightfully, Jonathan Snipes didn't get that memo. One third of the hyper-talented, fiercely creative Clippng, Snipes has just released a solo album defined by that exact indefinable; ambient wit.

Opening track 'Laundromat' starts out as a near field recording. It opens out and out into a small, precise and actively happy electronic melody that hits many of the same inspirational beats for me as The Martian soundtrack. It wraps you up in images of room-sized computers and a future just a heroic gaze off camera away and then finishes with someone parking their car and using a public bathroom. The flush of which becomes the ocean sound bed of 'House' the second track.

See? Ambient wit.

That gentle ocean surge gives way to an equally gentle, but far less restful bass pulse that becomes the track we prowl along through cut up dialogue samples and more field recordings. All of which builds until suddenly...night club! Or at the very least clearly identifiable dance music as 'Hotel (Source)' kicks the album doors in and strikes a pose. It's great pounding stuff that builds and suddenly fades and slows down as the album moves out into the hotel's other spaces, all trapped in the thick, slow moving time that only exists in public buildings late at night. The uncertainty is coded into the music, sometimes driving, sometimes distended and curdled and seconds from horror.That builds and pushes the album through to 'Hotel/Shower', where the walls of distended hotel noise war with, and lose to, a gentler, more determined and harmonious line.That in turn spreads and absorbs the other sounds here, turning into something far calmer and bigger and almost religious in scope and then? It all fades back down to a woman singing in the shower. Ambient wit, yet again, Massive performative spaces filled with people to a single person alone in their room.

Then things get really interesting. 'Sync' is a poem, recited by a woman and endlessly rewound and dissected, chopped up and edited and somehow still serene and restful. The voice is more important than the message here. As it slowly sinks away, replaced by almost Hans Zimmer-esque roving notes, that becomes ever clearer. Those notes form the basis for 'Hymn', the next track we slide into. Organ music comes to the fore and again, there's the sense of immense space, just this time without the noise nearby. A tiny hint of the distention returns as the piece fades into 'Hymn(version)', which sees Snipes approach the same idea through an EDM lens. Because human brains demand narrative and closure in equal measure it plays a lot like the reserved tones of 'Hymn' combined with the driving beat of 'Hotel (Souce)' and the quiet humanity of 'Hotel/Shower'. Regardless it ends the album definitively and on a note that's as undeniably hopeful as it is ambient, witty and memorable.

Complicated, ambitious and daring you to tell it's story, Marshmallow Sea is out now. You can find Clippng here and DeathBomb Arc, who publish Marshmallow Sea, here.
Look at these intrepid adventurers! Robert MacFarlane's new book, Underland, was born in these books and here's a great piece exploring how he used them. And here's the website for Field Notes, the company that produced most of the books he used. Their subscription service is especially great.

And of course, here's my Ko-Fi.

So Where Can We Find You This Week?

At the blog! At PseudoPod! At Fox Spirit!
  • You know that thing where someone has an emotional response to a piece of culture and people mock them? That thing is bullshit. Let's talk about why.
At my new Ditch Diggers column at Murverse!
  • I'm officially a Ditch Digger! Every month I'll be looking at a different collision between creativity and business and what we can learn from it to dig better ditches, write projects that sell and Get Paid. This month, why podcasting is a fascinating hot mess right now in Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare At A Test Tube.
At SciFi Bulletin!
  • Arrow is hitting the final corner of it's penultimate season at a dead run. Spartan introduces John Diggle's step-dad (Hi, Ernie Hudson!) and brings the present and future plots together. Meanwhile Confessions may be my all-time favorite episode, as Team Arrow are interrogated by the SCPD about two murders and EVERYONE is lying for different reasons.
  • Over at Team Science Puppy. things get weird and not in the usual fun way. Snow Pack takes a sideways detour into some not-especially needed but still mostly fun Snow family drama and also introduces, with NO attempt to explain how it was created at all, the Negative Speed Force. Thankfully, Gone Rogue does a much better job of pushing things on as it gives us some Nora/Barry reconciliation, some old enemies making a comeback, a set up for the end game of the season and a pretty clear hint Cisco is about to step off the ride. It\s still got problems but it's definitely more fun.
  • Finally, in the wake of Endgame, and having successfully put most of my feelings back together, I take a look at the very interesting and INCONCEIVABLE-y spoiler-y things we appear to have just learned about a bunch of new Marvel shows and movies.

Signing Off/Playing Out

*hurtles sideways and on fire into Friday evening again. Coughs, brushes self off*

Two very good, very intense meetings about projects that didn't exist as viable projects before this week. A friend's book launch (Hi Katy!) and an appearance on another friend's podcast tonight (Hi Chauncey!) before going up to Sheffield over the weekend to visit more friends (Hi Katherine! Hi Jeremy!) for Viable Paradise planning, the National Video Game museum visit and a visit to the one Taco Bell in the country. Of course there'll be pictures, have you met me?

And the weekend after that?




Not at the same time. Not this year anyway. Right then! Lots done, more to do so I'm telling you this to stealthily remind myself of it. The world is super intense at the moment. Do not stare into it directly at all times. Everyone is on watch so everyone doesn't have to be on watch all the time. Take some time for yourself, and have some fun. You deserve it. We all do.

Oh, do you like podcasts?  I co own a few you might enjoy and the Instagram page I share with the love of my life, the CJ to my Toby, the other half of the dynamic duo, Marguerite Kenner, can be found at KennerStuart.

Finally, if you enjoyed this week, please consider buying me a coffee. My brain needs it's fast juice right now

Playing us out today is the Honest Trailers for 1999's The Mummy. No I don't know how this movie is suddenly twenty years old either. What I DO know is that Benny's on the wrong side of the river and this?
Is a Full Lid.
Copyright © 2017, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp