Andy Jamieson

Sometime Geek Overlord, bi-monthly Dungeon Master, part-time care worker, reigning Husband of the Year, & full-time daddy. Also, proficient proverbial juggler.

Nov 302017

Geekzine editor Andy Jamieson, and Edinburgh-based steampunk impresario Atticus Oldman, give an account of their favourite horror yarns, inspired by Halloween and the dark nights of the winter months….

“I never used to like horror movies and I still find some types of horror difficult to watch. Ghost stories and silly slashers I enjoy but tales that feature possession or anything remotely demonic I generally avoid. There are some truly great examples where horror books or films can work on a number of levels, beyond their scares and shocks. Take Guillermo del Toro’s superlative film, Crimson Peak, from 2015, for example. I consider it a horror film, but all the conflict in the film is driven by the monstrous human characters and not the ghosts, a theme he first explored in his third film, The Devil’s Backbone (2001). In Crimson Peak the very house that dominates the film is decaying, as if consumed by the sickness of the family that inhabits its domain. (I’ll be waxing lyrical about this fantastic film in a separate feature, coming soon). The same can  be said about del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), arguably his most accomplished film, weaving the fantastical trials of heroine Ofelia and the horrifying monsters she confronts, with the all too real horrors of the Spanish Civil War.

When discussing horror films, I am always drawn back to the work of the great John Carpenter, whose original Halloween (1978) still casts a long shadow that very few horror films have come close to. Carpenter’s work has always had that veneer of classy pulp, a stylistic vein that reached its crescendo in his three seminal mid-eighties films, Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Prince of Darkness (1987) and They Live! (1988), the first and last films containing horror elements, whilst the middle is a full-on unsettling fright fest. Aside from In The Mouth of Madness (1994), Carpenter would never reach these cinematic creative heights again.

Another horror favourite of mine is Candyman (1992), directed by Bernard Rose, and adapted from the Clive Barker short story, The Forbidden. I really liked Barker’s early directorial efforts, Hellraiser (1987) and Nightbreed (1990). The latter has seen some resurrection in recent years due to the fan-powered Cabal Cut, which ultimately led to an official Director’s Cut.

I don’t read much horror, being more into fantasy and science-fiction, but Clive Barker’s work appeals to me very much, as his strain of horror fiction charts the fantastical in truly imaginative ways. Cabal (1988) – the source material for the aforementioned Nightbreed – is a lean thriller about a hidden society of monsters, who are more ‘human’ than those that hunt them down. Weaveworld (1987), meanwhile, is Barker’s masterpiece, a flawless behemoth that mostly takes place within another world, trapped betwixt the confines of a rug, but when the plot does break free of its weaved environs, it spins an engrossing tale of the hunted and their prey.

The author Chris Priestley has written some superb horror books, ostensibly for the older children’s market, but you should check them out regardless of your age. His latest, Curse of the Werewolf Boy, is aimed at younger kids but is full of charm, wit and some mild scares. However, I would direct you with all haste to four of his books in particular; the excellent Tales of Terror trilogy – Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror (2007), Tales of Terror from the Black Ship (2008), and Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth (2009) – and his wintry masterpiece, The Dead of Winter (2010). The latter is one of my favourite books of all time, and I make a point of reading it every winter.”


Offering up his select choices is Atticus Oldman, a purveyor of steampunk, based here in Edinburgh, and the architect of that online haven of all things steampunk in Edinburgh and beyond, the Steampunk Almanac.

Quartermass and the Pit (1967): I first saw this action adventure concerning a Martian invasion of London late one new year’s eve in the early seventies, when I had been allowed to stay up late in bed watching tv while there was a party in full swing downstairs. I must have only been 8 or 9 at the time, and this film sacred the devil out of me. Still gives me chills to this day!

John Carpenter’s The Thing has just been re-released on blu-ray

The Thing (1982): While most horror films of the early eighties seem hacked apart by the censor, The Thing made it through intact, or near enough, and what we have is a cracking science-fiction-horror that pretty much set the standard for special effects for years to follow. This was the first adult-rated film I snuck into the cinema to see, so it will always have a wee place in my heart.

The Limehouse Golem (2017): A gory and gruesome romp through Victorian London in search of a serial killer is the basis for this excellent story, that has fantastic scenes, settings and acting throughout which makes this relatively new horror release a real modern classic. I thoroughly enjoyed this great movie and hope it will inspire similar productions in the future.

As for my favourite horror read, it has to be Bram Stoker’s seminal Dracula, first published in May 1897. Despite the rather dry travelogue that opens this fantastic masterpiece of horror, Dracula is still an essential read which I return to at least once every couple of years. Best served up on a dark and stormy winter night with a side-order of candlelight and a hot toddy!


Atticus Oldman is one of the leading lights of the British Steampunk scene, and is the founder of the Steampunk Almanac, check it out at

Andrew Jamieson is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Nov 082017

Self-portrait of the author/artist

Author Chris Priestley’s latest book, Curse of the Werewolf Boy, is out now, published by Bloomsbury for £6.99. I’ve been reading his books for over ten years, and he is surely one of the finest craftsmen I’ve come across, combining the rare talents of storytelling and writing to produce one memorable read after another. His Tales of Terror trilogy, also published by Bloomsbury, are a sequence of incredible books, portmanteau horror tales weaved together with admirable skill and flair. Every Christmas I read Dead of Winter, which is personally my favourite of his books.

Curse of the Werwolf Boy is aimed at slighter younger readers than his usual fare, and again is a wonderfully engrossing book. Blending gentle comedy and horror in tasteful measures is no easy thing to do, but Priestley has written a page-turning spooky read, which is also the first book in the Maudlin Towers series. Chris took time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions. Enjoy.

Andrew Jamieson, Geekzine editor


Andrew Jamieson: Your new book, Curse of the Werewolf Boy, is the first in a new series, Maudlin Towers. What were the challenges involved in firstly, coming up with the idea for a new series, and secondly, planning the first book?

Chris Priestley: It’s been a while since I’ve done a series – a proper series with repeating characters. I think the goal is to give yourself enough options with the initial set-up. To make sure your main characters are engaging enough and then make sure they have an environment that will throw up lots of interesting adventures for them. I actually found the process pretty stressful. Not the writing of the book – but the designing of the world and how I would present it. I really wanted to do it justice. Book 2 will be so much easier, now that the template is in place.


AJ: Do you have plans already in place for future books in the Maudlin Towers series, and can you reveal any details of what you have in store for your characters?

CP: I’m editing the 2nd draft of Maudlin Towers 2 at the moment and already thinking of illustrations. Book 2 is called The Treasure of the Golden Skull (or it is at the moment anyway). I don’t want to give too much away obviously, but pirates are most definitely involved. Arrr.


AJ: As well as being a prolific writer, you are also a very active artist. How much does one creative process infuse the other, and does this influence the creation and planning of future projects?

CP: Well, I was trained as an illustrator and the two things have always gone together in my mind – I just have not always been successful at making that a thing in my career. I’m hoping to address that. I have illustrated all of my recent books and I see that continuing now that illustration has made a comeback across all age groups (except adult – but give it time). My plan in the next few years is to do more work where my writing and my illustration work are given equal billing. I’ve yet to do a picture book for instance. Or a graphic novel. I’m excited about the possibilities.


AJ: Will you return to the Tales of Terror series at some point, or do you see that sequence of books as being complete?

CP: I must get asked this at least once every week. I would very happily have carried on with the Tales of Terror series but I am not self-published and so the decision is not mine alone. But regardless of whether I do books called ‘Tales of Terror’ again – I will definitely be doing more work in that vein if I have anything to do with it. I like writing short stories. They come very naturally to me. I still have a lot of strange tales in my head. It’s probably better for everyone if I get them out.


AJ: What other projects do you currently have in the works?

CP: Maudlin Towers has kind of taken over my life recently, but I want to do a picture book, that’s for sure. It’s just a question of coming up with a suitable idea. I would like to do something with the kind of fables I have Frank’s grandfather telling him in Anything That Isn’t This. That is another form that seems a very natural voice for me. I’d quite like to do more funny stuff as I’ve really enjoyed that aspect of writing Maudlin Towers. Oh – and something for adults. Short stories, maybe.


AJ: Are there any ambitions you still have as a writer and/or artist?

CP: I think my main ambition is to do good work and be properly rewarded for it. Like just about every other creative person out there.


AJ: What are you currently reading for pleasure and/or for research purposes?

CP: Chris Riddell sent me a copy of Travels with my Sketchbook and I’ve been boggling at the amount of work he managed to crank out in the two years he was Children’s Laureate. He makes me feel a bit lazy. I’m dipping in and out of Judith Flanders book The Victorian House, which I recommend to anyone who writes or reads things set in that period. I’m also reading The Mercurial Emperor by Peter Marshall – although very slowly – about magic in Renaissance Prague. My next fiction book will be another Richard Yates. I’m working my way through all of his books. He is absolutely brilliant.


Thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer the Geekzine’s questions. Curse of the Werewolf Boy is OUT NOW. Andrew reviewed it last week.

Andrew is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.


Oct 252017

Train to Busan / Seoul Station (15)

Both streamed via Amazon Prime Video

Train to Busan achieved some acclaim last summer with its largely positive reviews and decent box office (look out for the inevitable Hollywood remake…). It’s been on my radar for a while now and landed on Amazon Prime Video this summer. It does not disappoint. A Korean zombie thriller is not something you come across everyday, and Train to Busan, once seen is not forgotten. For a zombie film to stand out amongst the competitive and overcrowded genre market it has to have something extra special about it. The train setting, whilst not massively original, gives this film its narrative shape, and also adds that key ‘crucible effect’; ie contain your action to a limited space, introduce an incident to your characters, and watch the sparks fly. The film’s script is also laced with a sly social commentary, some of it specific to South Korea, but most of it a not-too-thinly-veiled stab at capitalism, linked to the film’s main character, businessman, Seok-woo. The zombie plague in Train to Busan takes hold of its victims in mere minutes (similar to Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, and 28 Days Later, amongst many others), and the infection, depicted with simple yet grotesque make-up effects, rips through the train’s passengers in minimal screen time. How the survivors initially halt the onrushing living dead is fiendishly simple; one of them figures out that the infected can’t figure out how to open the train’s sliding compartment doors, and this buys our band of panicking heroes valuable time. Director (and co-writer) Yeon Sang-Ho has created a film that relentlessly layers set-pieces of high stakes tension one after another, but never loses sight of his characters, or plot. After all, the train has to stop at some point. The emotional core of the film is the father-daughter pairing of, respectively, Seok-woo (played by Korean heart-throb, Gong Yoo) and Soo-ann (played with an endearing balance of cuteness and steely resilience by Kim Su-an). The last act is riveting.

Seoul Station is the animated prequel to Train to Busan, and is also again directed and co-written by Yeon Sang-Ho. Rather than the Japanese anime style I was expecting, Seoul Station is far more realistic in its visuals, with great attention paid to the intricacies of character detail. Depicting the break out of the plague in Seoul, the story follows put-upon and abused Hye-sun as she flees her pimp/boyfriend, only to get caught up in the epidemic. The animation is crisp and fluid, and the story has a different sense of urgency to Train to Busan, given its cityscape setting, that brings to mind the second Resident Evil film (Seoul Station is lots better, of course) or The Walking Dead’s urban scenes. Seoul Station doesn’t match Train to Busan in the tension-cranking stakes, but it does also provide more edged social commentary, with Hye-sun’s experience of being prostituted against her will, manipulated throughout by her boyfriend, all giving her character some very tangible depth and a suggestion that this fiction is merely a lid for a darker truth in society. The film-makers also give us a glimpse of Seoul’s homeless scene, and the poverty that they live in, all under the shadow of neon-lit skyscrapers. From these grim corners, Seoul Station produces some strong characters, particularly the exploited Hye-sun. However, collectively they lack something compared to the father-daughter dynamic in Train to Busan. I’m nitpicking, of course. The two films succeed in complimenting each other, and make for a satisfying, edge-of-your-seat double-bill.

Both Train to Busan and Seoul Station are also available to buy on dvd and blu-ray.


Reviewed by Andrew Jamieson, Geekzine editor.

Andrew is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Oct 112017

Curse of the Werewolf Boy by Chris Priestley

Published by Bloomsbury, PB, £6.99, OUT NOW

A new Chris Priestley book is an event to be celebrated, and his latest does not disappoint. More in line with his fabled Tales of Terror books than with his other release this year, Superpowerless, Curse of the Werewolf Boy is the first in the Maudlin Towers series, featuring the charming young students, Mildew and Sponge, and their adventures at the school for ‘the very best and brightest of boys’, set at an indeterminate period of the 19th Century / early 20th Century in northern England.

Whereas the Tales of Terror books struck a fine stylistic chord of impending horror, Curse of the Werewolf Boy dials down the horror (slightly) to make way for a playful wit, as the bumbling-yet-eloquent pair of school boys, Arthur Mildew (“of the Berkshire Mildews”) and Algernon Spongely-Partwork – aka Mildew and Sponge – stumble upon a series of peculiar happenings on the grounds of Maudlin Towers.

Mildew and Sponge spot what they believe is a Viking ghost meandering across the ha-ha (the ditch at the end of a playing field, to prevent sheep wandering onto the school grounds, countryside trivia fans). And this is by no means the strangest sight they will come across in the next 235 pages of brisk plotting; Curse of the Werewolf Boy is by turns engrossing and fiendishly clever. It isn’t ruining anything for you to mention that, yes, there is a werewolf boy somewhere in the plot, and how this creature fits into the cogs of the story works very well indeed.

And to sprinkle extra sugar on this already fine treat of a book is the fact that Mr Priestley himself illustrates it throughout, and his black and white depictions of the settings and characters are grim, atmospheric and quite brilliant (there is even a demented cameo from one ex-children’s laureate) – the visual highlight for me is the chapter heading illustrations throughout the book.

On the strength of this first book, Maudlin Towers will be a series of some notable quality. Curse of the Werewolf Boy is a fantastic book, and suitable for all mischievous minds, 7 years old and upwards, boy, girl, man or woman.

Review by Andrew Jamieson, Editor-in-Chief Geekzine UK

Andrew is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Oct 032017

Author Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre are the talented minds behind Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair, and Pug-a-Doodle-Do! (the latter an activity book). Both are out now, published by the childrens imprint of Oxford University Press. I had the pleasure of meeting this talented pair at this summer’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, where I was hosting their event for Jinks & O’Hare. It was fascinating spending some time with them, chatting to them about their work, and seeing them get ready for their event, and the meticulous preparation they put in was only matched by their incredible stage presence. Combining humour and invention with audience interaction, this was one of the best events I’ve been in the audience for, let alone hosted, and I will happily admit to laughing lots. Amongst their hectic post-summer schedule, Philip and Sarah made time for some of my questions.

Andy Jamieson, Geekzine Editor


Andy Jamieson: Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair is quite out of this world. What was the inspiration for the book? 

Philip Reeve: It started out as a story we did for the Phoenix comic – it was actually our first published story together! Sarah wrote it and I drew it, then Sarah coloured it. We wanted to do something spacey, and Sarah realised that when funfairs feature in children’s stories they’re almost always scary, spooky funfairs, or fronts for criminals or something. That’s adults find them quite threatening, alarming places, I think – but children don’t; children think they’re magical! So we wanted to create a funfair story where the funfair really is fun, and somewhere you’d like to go. We always thought it would be nice to expand it into a book, but we had other stories we wanted to tell first.

Sarah McIntyre: Yes, I used to love building funfairs out of Lego, but they never quite lived up to what I could imagine. It was great trying again as a grown-up, and I even took a trip to Disneyland Paris – tax deductible! – to get myself back into a funfair frame of mind. (My younger self would have been staggered by that being part of my job!!) A whole planet of funfair seemed even cooler than merely a park on a planet.

AJ: You’ve both worked together on quite a few books now. What is the secret to a successful artistic collaboration? 

PR: I think you have to be very open to the other person’s ideas, and prepared to compromise your own to fit their stuff in, because that way you end up generating new ideas which neither of you could have come up with alone. I’d written a lot of books on my own when I started working with Sarah, and I was keen to stop being Philip Reeve for a bit and be part of a duo. Of course, I wouldn’t be happy doing that if Sarah wasn’t a really good writer and illustrator as well as a good friend – I LOVE her drawings and the way her mind works, so it’s great to be able to join in with her ideas. The whole writing process for those books is a bit like a game, really, we just chuck strange ideas to and fro and laugh at our own jokes a lot. And, of course, I can still go off and write my own books if I want to but these days I tend to run the early drafts of those past Sarah, too.

SM: Same! Philip was a lot of help on my latest dinosaur picture book; we bashed out the idea for the story in a pub, which is why I’ve dedicated it to him. He’s so good at adding great little jokes, which I’m sure at least partly comes out of his training as a Horrible Histories illustrator.

AJ: Do you have any further plans to create more books together? A sequel to Jinks & O’Hare perhaps? 

PR: We’ve just published an activity book, Pug-A-Doodle-Do!, which is based on the characters from the four story books we’ve done together. It’s a mixture of drawing and comic-making activities and silly stuff we’ve written – Iris the Mermaid’s Beauty Tips, a ‘Which Reeve & McIntyre Character Are You?’ quiz, things like that. It made us laugh a LOT while we were coming up with it, so hopefully other people will find it funny, too. And if not, they can write/draw better jokes in all the blank bits.

SM: And we’re working on the next book! The story’s written and I’ve just started inking the pictures. It may or may not feature a fat flying pony…

AJ: Do you remember when you first met the other?

PR: I saw Sarah at the Carnegie Medal awards back in 2011(?). She came up and asked to take my photo, and I had no idea who she was, I thought she was a journalist from the Bookseller or something, but she was a nice smiley one, so I enjoyed meeting her! Then, later that year, I found myself sitting opposite her and her husband Stuart at a dinner at the Edinburgh Book Festival. We got talking that evening and we haven’t stopped since.

SM: Philip and I were talking in Edinburgh about drawing, and I was saying how I’d been posting a drawing every day on my blog, even if I didn’t like it, as a sort of discipline. Philip went away and started posting the most amazing landscape drawings from where he lives, in the middle of Dartmoor. I realised I didn’t have all that much skill at landscapes, so I started going to Greenwich Park, and every day we’d keep an eye out for each other’s work. It was great until winter set in, and neither of us wanted to be the first to give up, even though we were freezing our fingers off. Eventually Philip invited Stuart and me to visit his family out out Dartmoor and I was able to see these beautiful mossy walls and gnarled trees he’d been drawing, and do some drawing with him.

AJ: You both have an incredible stage presence at your live book events. How much planning and preparation goes into your events and book tours? 

PR: One of the things we’ve always agreed on is that authors who are doing events need to try and be a bit larger than life – you need to dress up if you’re going on stage, and if there are two of you you can take it a step further and do sketches and songs and things – we basically do a kind of very loose variety show based on each book. But Sarah lives in London and I live in Devon, so we don’t meet that often, and there isn’t much time to rehearse our events – we usually just talk through a kind of rough outline of what we’re going to do, and then make the rest up as we go along. It seems to work – Sarah is one of those people who people just like, so all I have to do is try to keep her from going off on wild tangents!

SM: I think most illustrators are naturally a bit shy, but somehow putting on a very big persona and a fancy big dress makes it easier. And being able to riff off Philip makes it feel much funnier, not like I’m some completely mad person. He’s still teaching me a lot about putting together stage shows.

And some questions just for Philip:

AJ: How is work progressing on the third instalment in the Railhead trilogy? Do you have a title yet?

PR: It’s just about finished, and it will be out in May 2018. It’s called Station Zero.

AJ: What writing plans do you have beyond the final Railhead book?

PR: None! Before, when I’ve finished a book, I’ve always known exactly what I’m going to do next, but I don’t really feel any desire to start another novel at the moment. But that’s quite a nice position to be in. I think I’m going to just concentrate on doing new stories with Sarah McIntyre, and I daresay another idea will come along eventually.

AJ: The film adaptation of Mortal Engines is due in cinemas December 2018. What can you reveal about the film version? Have you seen any footage?

PR: I can’t reveal much about it, except that I watched some of it being filmed and the actors and sets looked great! I saw a tiny little bit of cut-together footage, very rough, with none of the special effects in place, and it was already quite spine-tingling. I think it’s going to be amazing.

AJ: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

PR: Just read a lot, and write a lot – but if you want to be a writer you probably do those things anyway. I don’t really like writers’ tips, so maybe my advice would be ‘ignore all writing advice’ – if you’re honest with yourself you’ll know whether what you’ve written is any good or not. Oh, and learn to type, because you’ll be doing a lot of that.

AJ: Do you have a favourite book that you come back to?

PR: I often go back to books I enjoyed when I was growing up – Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels, The Lord of the Rings, Asterix – it’s partly nostalgia, but I see new things in them each time. As an adult I have less of an inclination to re-read things, but if I’m bored or out-of-sorts I often go back to Patrick O’Brian’s nautical novels about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin – they’re surprisingly funny, and I’m very fond of the characters, so it’s like looking in on old friends.

And also some questions just for Sarah:

AJ: Are you working on any new picture books, or other such projects?

SM: Yes, quite a few things! Years ago I wrote and drew a comic called Vern and Lettuce, about a sheep and a rabbit who live in a tower block in an animal-populated London, and recently I’ve been allowed to dive back into that world! It’ll be a picture book called The New Neighbours, and I think it touches on a lot of issues about rumours and immigration as well as just being a fun story about a motley collection of cute animals. That comes out in March with David Fickling, and I have another picture book coming out in May with Scholastic UK, a follow-up adventure to Dinosaur Police (final title still secret!).

AJ: You’ve had a number of collaborations with various writers over the years, as well as working on your own projects. What are the perks and challenges of these different creative processes?

SM: I love working with other people, particularly when it’s really a collaborative project between friends, where we get to throw around ideas together. One of my early picture book contracts was for Jampires with David O’Connell, and we both wrote the story and both drew the pictures. With the Reeve & McIntyre books, Philip does the writing, but we still throw around lots of ideas together, and he helps out with the pictures. Stage events with him in front of hundreds of children are SO much more fun than doing them alone!

But I also feel I need to write and illustrate my own picture books; a lot of people in the literary world, teachers and parents still don’t take illustration seriously as a profession and there’s a lot of pressure on illustrators to write our own books to build names for ourselves. We shouldn’t have to, illustration is a highly skilled career, but it’s why I set up the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, so that illustrators could get proper name credit for what they do. Hopefully it’s one thing that can help give our best illustrators a better chance at being able to make a living at this job. (The reason I can speak out about it is because Philip, our publisher and our agents are so supportive of my career, but not all illustrators are so fortunate.) People can find out more at

AJ: Out of all the books you’ve worked on which are you most fond of and why?

SM: I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Oliver and the Seawigs because it’s the first time Philip and I thought, Hey, we could make a book together! And I have a lot in common with Iris the mermaid, who features in it. Of my own books, it’s probably Vern and Lettuce, when I felt I really got into the swing of storytelling. Vern is very much like my husband, Stuart, so it was fun to see him play out various scenes in sheep form. I’m excited he’ll get to return in The New Neighbours.

AJ: Do you have a favourite illustrator (alive or dead)?

SM: Well, probably Philip, because it’s so much fun sitting at my desk drawing with him! We had such a laugh creating Pug-a-Doodle-Do!, and you’ll have fun trying to spot which bits I drew and which bits he drew. I also love work by Maurice Sendak, Satoshi Kitamura, Posy Simmonds, Kate Hindley, Jonathan Edwards, and Bill Watterson (who created the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips).

AJ: You have a very distinctive fashion style. What are your stylistic influences, and do you have a favourite outfit? 

SM: Why, thank you! I live in a neighbourhood with lots of shops that sell Ankara wax print fabric, that is very popular with Nigerians and Ghanaians here. I visit the fabric shops like I’d visit an art museum, and keep a library of fabric back at my studio. When I have a festival or new book coming up, often my fabulous Ghanaian tailor, Esther Marfo, will use one of the bolts of material to whip me up a new dress.

Favourite outfit? Probably the silliest one: the six-foot-tall Marie-Antoinette-style wig that my sculptor friend Eddie Smith and I made out of cling film for the Oliver and the Seawigs launch. It was so heavy – it almost made me fall off the ship where we had the book launch – but it was pretty jaw-dropping.


Many thanks to Philip and Sarah for their time, and to Hannah Penny at OUP Children’s for arranging the interview.

Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair and Pug-a-Doodle-Do! are out now, published by OUP Childrens. 

Follow Philip on twitter @philipreeve1 and Sarah @jabberworks, and Andy @a_jamieson1

Sep 292017

The Void is a low budget horror film that attracted some praise and attention with its ’proof-of-concept’ trailer last year, ahead of reaching full funding for actual production. It hit cinemas, streaming sites and home formats at the same time earlier this year, to some acclaim. It didn’t last long in the cinemas round my neck of the woods, so I’d been meaning to catch it on home format.

Thankfully, the film itself lives up to its hype, and certainly exceeds the promise of that great trailer last year. The two writer-directors, Steve Kostanski (also an extremely inventive visual effects wizard) and Jeremy Gillespie (also doubling up on titles and music) have squeezed every last penny out of their tiny budget, most notably in their impressive visual and special effects, and their imaginative production design and locations. It is no surprise to learn that Kostanski and Gillespie have a string of credits to their names; Gillespie is a veteran art director / graphic designer, from countless big productions, most recently the likes of IT, Suicide Squad, the excellent Hannibal tv series, and the next Guillermo del Toro film, The Shape of Water. Kostanski meanwhile is an experienced special makeup effects artist, who also worked on IT, Suicide Squad, and Hannibal, but also del Toro’s superlative Crimson Peak. These are men of considerable talent and experience.

The Void is at once an ode to the budget-savvy, narratively lean horror films produced in the 1970’s & 80’s by the likes of John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Tobe Hooper, Stuart Gordon, Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi, amongst many others, but also to the horror literature of H.P Lovecraft and Clive Barker. The gloopy, gruesome visual effects are reminiscent of those cinematic horror maestros mentioned above, particularly Barker’s own Hellraiser, and Jackson’s early New Zealand-set films.

The plot is pure pulp, involving a sheriff investigating a local crime, leading to the nearby hospital, where the sheriff’s estranged wife, a nurse, is on shift. The hospital is soon after surrounded by blade-wielding, white robed cultists, determined to not let those within the building leave. Violence erupts in the hospital, leaving a small group of survivors, misfits and strangers both – some of whom are not what they seem – to try and survive against the odds. A simple plot, then, but mighty effective, with a suspenseful opening act that gets things moving quickly, ramping up the tension, leading to a siege in the hospital. The Void is high on action, and the largely unknown cast (aside from veteran Kenneth Welsh) are an enthusiastic ensemble and pull us through the shocks, gore and batshit weirdness with wide-eyed terror… and there are some genuinely nutso set-pieces and visuals here. (compared to Ridley Scott’s disappointingly insipid Alien: Covenant, out not long after, made for approximately eighty times The Void’s budget, Kostanski and Gillespie’s film is a marvel)

One of The Void’s sinister cultists.

The clue is in the title, and the sequences and shots of this mysterious other realm are stunning and beguiling, all accompanied by a moody, atmospheric synth soundtrack collaboration by Blitz//Berlin, Joseph Murray, Lodewijk Vos & writer-director Jeremy Gillespie. Bravely, perhaps, the film-makers do not opt for a neat resolution, instead aiming higher than such a bookend, beyond homage, resulting in a suitably haunting finale, that reminded me slightly of Carpenter’s excellent Prince of Darkness (for some, the last truly great Carpenter film). Whilst The Void is not quite that good, neither is it Ghosts of Mars

Kostanski and Gillespie are directors on the rise, of that there is no doubt, and their next project will no doubt possess a bigger budget than The Void – hopefully it will be just as good.

Special Features:

Quite a good selection of extras, with two interesting Making Ofs, one of the overall production, and one focusing on the creature work – both are fascinating and show just how much effort and budget wrangling went into The Void’s creation. The set photography is good, as is the Proof of Concept trailer. I didn’t listen to the director’s commentary – they give a good account of themselves in the two docs, but on the strength of their eloquence I suspect the commentary would be worth a listen.

Review by Andrew Jamieson, Editor-in-Chief Geekzine UK

Andrew is the award-nominated author of steampunk fantasy novels, The Vengeance Path, and its sequel, Children of War, both available from the Amazon Kindle Store.