David Gaffney, Out of the Dark (2022)

Thanks to a mutual friend (also called David), David Gaffney sent me a copy of his new novel about a traumatised man obsessed with an obscure British film noir.

Set primarily in the Midlands of the 1980s, Out of the Dark falls somewhere in the terrain triangulated by Mike Hodges’s Get Carter (1971), Chris Petit’s Radio On (1979) and Andrea Arnold’s Red Road (2006).

It is also under the influence of JG Ballard. But its motorways are not London’s near-future-but-never-happened orbitals, nor are its high-rises desublimating enclaves of bourgeois acquisitiveness and hierarchical obsession. Rather, it all takes place in actually-existing concrete landscapes of marginalisation, disconnection and dereliction –  ‘neither in Walsall nor West Bromwich’ and thus ‘equally inconvenient’ in all directions. And it is rather more grungily quotidian and irreal-adjacent than anything in Ballard – closer, perhaps, to M. John Harrison or Ramsey Campbell.

And while the story it tells is full of twists and turns, genre-playfulness and sharp observations – as is the story within the story – what I loved most about Out of the Dark is something much more personal. I was born in Staffordshire, in a small-now-swallowed-in-the-conurbation Staffordshire village, but all my family were from Birmingham, from the Perry Barr/Perry Beeches parts of Great Barr, with outliers in Handsworth and West Bromwich; and behind my paternal grandparents mid-terrace two-up/two-down (with an outside loo), on the far side of the allotments onto which the garden backed, was an aerial stretch of the M6. And although we moved down to Devon when I was four years old, there is something ineffable about the litany of place names threaded through the novel: in chapter five alone, Perry Barr, Great Barr, Sarehole Mill, Kings Heath, Cotteridge, the impossibly distant Worcester, Bourneville, Harborne, Dudley Road, Perry Barr Island, Aston Lane, Swan Island, Billesley, Walsall…

And if this is nostalgia, it is not inappropriate for a novel enamoured of noir – especially when, for me, it is so oneiric and bittersweet.

The stuff what I done in 2021

I changed my email signature from Reader to Professor. Heartfelt thanks to all the friends, comrades, collaborators and colleagues for all they’ve done over the last couple of decades to make that possible.

And I published The Anthropocene Unconscious: Climate Catastrophe Culture. It has been really odd to be published ‘trade’ rather than ‘academic’, and by a press who seem to actually want to sell copies – which has involved:

I also published two books chapters:
‘Speculative Fiction’, in Joshua L. Miller, ed., The Cambridge Companion to 21st Century American Fiction (Cambridge UP 2021), 63–78
‘Flicks! Flicks! I Love You!’ in Melanie Kelly, ed. Opening Up the Magic Box: Friese-Greene and Reflections on Film (Bristol Ideas 2021), 86–89 – also hear me read it on soundcloud

delivered one conference paper:
‘For an Imperfect Science Fiction’, Science Fiction Research Association 2021: The Future as/of Inequality, Seneca College, Toronto, Canada 18–21 June 2021

joined two advisory boards:
University of Minnesota Press’s Mass Markets: Studies in Franchise Cultures series
Film Noir UK

introduced two film screenings:
Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor for The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, 31 October 2021
Ozu Yasujiro’s Hijosen no onna/Dragnet Girl for Southwest Silents/BFI/Arnolfini, the Arnolfini, Bristol 30 October 2021

examined three rather tasty PhDs:
Päivi Väätänen, Rhetorical Narratology and the Politics of Identity in Afrofuturist Fiction, (University of Helsinki)
David Hartley, The Fantastic Autistic (University of Manchester)
Joshua Bulleid, Vegetarianism and Science Fiction (Monash University)

with Stacey Abbott and Craig Ian Mann co-founded the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies’ Science Fiction and Fantasy special interest group – find us on Facebook and Twitter

and, thanks to Peter Wright, wrote some ancillary content for a Crooked Dice game – two fake reminiscences by made-up filmmakers to be included with the remastered blu-rays of two non-existent films, Conquest of the Dinosaurs (1973) and Bullet for a Dinosaur (1975).

My top 30 films of 2021

This year I watched 305 movies, 185 of them for the first time – and of those, here are my top 30. But first, some random awards:

Best film about a hat
Tie between Ikiru (Kurosawa 1952) and Miller’s Crossing (Coen brothers 1990)

Best Liam Neeson film that doesn’t actually have Liam Neeson in it and refuses to be a Liam Neeson film in other ways, too
Tie between Riders of Justice (Jensen 2020) and Pig (Sarnoski 2021)

Most unexpected tear-jerker
Gamera the Brave (Tasaki 2005)

Sandiest film
Dune, part one (Villeneuve 2021)

Best line stolen from Black Dynamite
Dune, part one (Villeneuve 2021) ‘I am smiling’

Most gratuitous and interminable use of slow motion
Dune, part one (Villeneuve 2021)

Highest sound and fury to signifying nothing ratio
Dune, part one (Villeneuve 2021), which is quite an achievement in a year in which I also saw Tenet and Shutter Island.

Oddest film suggested by a student
The Greasy Strangler (Hosking 2016)

Best film set inside a volcano
Skyfire (West 2019)

Worst film set inside a volcano
Skyfire (West 2019)

Best film about zombie sushi
Deddo sushi/Dead Sushi (Iguchi 2012)

Worst return to horror by a British director who made his name directing horror
Tie between The Banishing (Smith 2020) and The Reckoning (Marshall 2020)

Best performance by a CGI pirate cat chef
Monster Hunter (Anderson 2020)

Most unexpected appearance of the skulltopus
Zhong guo chao ren/The Super Infra-Man (Hua 1975)

My top 30
Adams æbler/Adam’s Apples (Anders Thomas Jensen 2005)
Le bonheur (Agnès Varda 1965)
Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond 2021)
Chiisaki yûsha-tachi: Gamera/Gamera the Brave (Tasaki Ryuta 2005)
Dare mo shiranai/Nobody Knows (Koreeda Hirokazu 2004)
Druk/Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg 2020)
Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins 1974)
Le fantôme du Moulin Rouge/The Phantom of the Moulin Rouge (Rene Clair 1925)
Gospodjica Mendi/Miss Mend, parts one, two and three (Boris Barnet and Fyodor Otsep 1926)
The Greasy Strangler (Jim Hosking 2016)
Harlan County U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple 1976)
Héraðið/The County (Grímur Hákonarson 2019)
Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa 1952)
In the Earth (Ben Wheatley 2021)
Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern 1959)
Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King 2021)
Napoleon (Abel Gance 1927)
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent 2018)
Pig (Michael Sarnoski 2021)
Pokot/Spoor (Agnieszka Holland 2017)
Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg 2020)
Relic (Natalie Erika James 2020)
Retfaerdighedens ryttere/Riders of Justice (Anders Thomas Jensen 2020)
Saint Maud (Rose Glass 2019)
Sátántangó (Béla Tarr 1994)
The Story of a Three Day Pass (Melvin Van Peebles 1967)
Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson 2021)
Ums tägliche Brot/Hunger in Waldenburg (Phil Jutzi 1929)
Varieté (E.A. Dupont 1925)
Zhong guo chao ren/The Super Infra-Man (Shan Hua 1975)

And for anyone interested, here’s the full list of 305
2.0 (Shankar 2018)
(Federico Fellini 1963)
1917 (Sam Mendes 2019)
2040 (Damon Gameau 2019)

Adams æbler/Adam’s Apples (Anders Thomas Jensen 2005)
Adaptation. (Spike Jonze 2002)
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (Robert Rodriguez 2005)
Agatha and the Midnight Murders (Joe Stephenson 2020)
Ahiru to kamo no koinrokkâ/The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker (Nakamura Yoshihiro 2007)
All Cheerleaders Die (Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson 2013)
Anonymous (Roland Emmerich 2011)
Antebellum (Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz 2020)
L’argent (Robert Bresson 1983)
Aruitemo auritemo/Still Walking (Koreeda Hirokazu 2006)
The Astronaut Farmer (Michael Polish 2006)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Jay Roach 1997)
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Jay Roach 1999)
Austin Powers in Goldmember (Jay Roach 2002)
Ava (Tate Taylor 2020)

Badge 373 (Howard W. Koch 1973)
Bait (Mark Jenkins 2019)
Bait (Mark Jenkins 2019)
The Banishing (Christopher Smith 2020)
Ban wo chuang tian ya/Wild Search (Ringo Lam 1989)
Before I Go To Sleep (Rowan Joffe 2014)
De behandeling/The Treatment (Hans Herbots 2014)
Belly (Hype Williams 1998)
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché (Pamela B. Green 2018)
The Big Clock (John Farrow 1948)
The Big Heat (Fritz Lang 1953)
The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks 1946)
Bill & Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot 2020)
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento 1970)
Black Dynamite (Scott Sanders 2009)
BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee 2018)
Black Widow (Cate Shortland 2021)
Blood for Dracula (Paul Morrisey 1974)
Blue Collar (Paul Schrader 1978)
Boesman and Lena (John Berry 2000)
Le bonheur (Agnès Varda 1965)
Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn 1967)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Awakening (Daniel Haller 1979)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Planet of the Slave Girls (Michael Caffey 1979)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Time of the Hawk (Vincent McEveety 1981)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Journey to Oasis (Daniel Haller 1981)

Candyman (Bernard Rose 1992)
Candyman (Nia DaCosta 2021)
Car Wash (Michael Schulz 1976)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks 1958)
Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond 2021)
Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond 2021)
Chak De! India (Shimit Amin 2007)
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Fred Schepisi 1978)
Chelovek s kino-apparatom/Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov 1929)
Chiisaki yûsha-tachi: Gamera/Gamera the Brave (Tasaki Ryuta 2005)
Child’s Play (Lars Klevberg 2019)
The Comedy of Terrors (Jacques Tourneur 1963)
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Watanabe Shin’ichirô, Okamura Tensai, Okiura Hiroyuki 2001)
Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro 2015)
Cypher (Vincenzo Natali 2002)
Cyrano de Bergerac (Augusto Genina 1925)

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150AD (Gordon Flemyng 1966)
Dare mo shiranai/Nobody Knows (Koreeda Hirokazu 2004)
The Dark (Justin P. Lange 2018)
Dead of Night (Cavalcanti, Crichton and Dearden 1945)
Death of Me (Darren Lynn Bousman 2020)
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci 2017)
Deathtrap (Sidney Lumet 1982)
Death Was a Passenger (Theodore Zichy 1958)
Deddo sushi/Dead Sushi (Iguchi Noboru 2012)
Doctor Sleep (Mike Flanagan 2019)
Doctor Who and the Daleks (Gordon Flemyng 1965)
Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder 1944)
Druk/Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg 2020)
Duck Soup (Leo McCarey 1933)
Dune, part one (Denis Villeneuve 2021)

The Eagle (Clarence Brown 1925)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg 2007)
Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins 1974)
The Errand (Nigel Finch 1980)
Equilibrium (Kurt Wimmer 2002)
Event Horizon (Paul W.S. Anderson 1997)
Évolution (Lucile Hadzihalilovic 2015)
Évolution (Lucile Hadzihalilovic 2015)

F9 (Justin Lin 2021)
F9 (Justin Lin 2021)
Fah talai jone/Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng 2000)
Fanny och Alexander/Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman 1982)
Fantastic 4 (Josh Trank 2015)
Le fantôme du Moulin Rouge/The Phantom of the Moulin Rouge (Rene Clair 1925)
Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen 1996)
Fast Five (Justin Lin 2011)
Fighting With My Family (Stephen Merchant 2019)
Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold 2009)
Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox 1956)
The Forever Purge (Everardo Gout 2021)
Friday (F. Gary Gray 1995)
Fukkatsu no hi/Virus (Fukasaku Kinji 1980)

Gamera 2: Region shurai/Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion (Kaneko Shûsuke 1996)
Gamera 3: Jashin Kakusei/Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (Kaneko Shûsuke 1999)
Gamera daikaijû kuchu kessen/Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (Kaneko Shûsuke 1995)
Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga/Gamera vs. Jiger (Noriaki Yuasa 1970)
Gamera tai kaijû Jigura/Gamera vs. Zigra (Noriaki Yuasa 1971)
Gemini Man (Ang Lee 2019)
The General (Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton 1926)
Gertrud (Carl Theodor Dryer 1964)
Get Out (Jordan Peele 2017)
Gilda (Charles Vidor 2946)
Gisaengchung/Parasite (Bong Joon Ho 2019)
The Glass Shield Charles Burnett 1994)
Godzilla vs. Kong (Adam Wingard 2021)
Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela/RamLeela (Sanjay Leela Bhansali 2013)
Gospodjica Mendi/Miss Mend, part one (Boris Barnet and Fyodor Otsep 1926)
Gospodjica Mendi/Miss Mend, part two (Boris Barnet and Fyodor Otsep 1926)
Gospodjica Mendi/Miss Mend, part three (Boris Barnet and Fyodor Otsep 1926)
The Graduate (Mike Nichols 1967)
The Greasy Strangler (Jim Hosking 2016)
Greenland (Ric Roman Waugh 2020)
The Green Mile (Frank Darabont 1999)
The Green Knight (David Lowery 2021)
Guan yun chang/The Lost Bladesman (Felix Chong and Alan Mak 2011)

Harlan County U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple 1976)
Harriet (Kasi Lemmons 2017)
The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr 2018)
Hell and High Water (Sam Fuller 1954)
Héraðið/The County (Grímur Hákonarson 2019)
Her Private Hell (Norman J. Warren 1968)
Hijôsen no onna/Dragnet Girl (Ozu Yaujirô 1933)
Hijôsen no onna/Dragnet Girl (Ozu Yaujirô 1933)
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Patrick Hughes 2017)
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (Patrick Hughes 2021)
Honogurai mizu no soko kara/Dark Water (Nakato Hideo 2002)
Hotel Artemis (Drew Pearce 2018)
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright 2007)
House of Bamboo (Sam Fuller 1955)

Ich seh, Ich seh/Goodnight Mommy (Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz 2014)
Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa 1952)
Inferno (Roy Ward Baker 1953)
Inside Out (Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen 2015)
In the Earth (Ben Wheatley 2021)
In the Earth (Ben Wheatley 2021)
Invasión (Hugo Santiago 1969)
Ip Man: Kung Fu Master (Liming Li 2019)
It’s Love Again (Victor Saville 1936)

Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern 1959)
Ji qi xia/Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg (Jeffrey Lau 2009)
Jiu Jitsu (Dimitri Logothetis 2020)
Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King 2021)
Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King 2021)
Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King 2021)
Jungle Cruise (Jaume Vollet-Serra 2021)

The Killing (Stanley Kubrick 1956)
Kings (Deniz Gamze Ergüven 2017)
Kozure Ôkami: ko wo kasha ude kasha tsukamatsuru/Sword of Vengeance (Kenji Misumi 1972)

The Lake (Lindsey C. Vickers 1978)
The Last Winter (Larry Fessenden 2006)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls 1948)
Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (F.W. Murnau 1924)
Lock Your Door (Anthony Gilkinson 1949)

Maciste Alpino (Giovanni Pastrone 1916)
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller 2015)
Madonna of the Seven Moons (Arthur Crabtree 1945)
Mænd & Høns/Men and Chicken (Anders Thomas Jensen 2015)
The Maltese Falcon (John Huston 1941)
The Maltese Falcon (John Huston 1941)
A Man Called Adam (Leo Penn 1966)
The Man Who Haunted Himself (Basil Dearden 1970)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (George C. Wolf 2020)
Marathon Man (John Schlesinger 1976)
Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda 2017)
Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda 2017)
The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman 1964)
May (Lucky McKee 2002)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July 2005)
Miller’s Crossing  (Joel and Ethan Coen 1990)
Minari (Lee Isaac Chung 2020)
Mongol (Sergei Bodrov 2007)
Monster Hunter (Paul W.S. Anderson 2020)
The More the Merrier (George Stevens 1943)
Mother! (Darren Aronofsky 2017)
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries: Seasoned Murder (Fiona Banks 2019)

The Naked Kiss (Sam Fuller 1964)
Napoleon (Abel Gance 1927)
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent 2018)
Nine to Five (Colin Higgins 1980)
Nobody (Ilya Naishuller 2021)
Nomadland (Chloé Zhao 2020)
No Place Like Home (Perry Henzell 1973)
No Time to Die (Cary Joji Fukunaga 2021)

Okja (Bong Joon Ho 2017)
Once A Jolly Swagman (Jack Lee 1948)
The One (James Wong 2001)
Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn 2013)
Overdrive (Antonio Negret 2017)

Pâfekuto burû/Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon 1997)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman 1966)
Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone 1964)
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson 2017)
Pig (Michael Sarnoski 2021)
Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon 1959)
La Pointe Courte (Agnès Varda 1955)
Pokot/Spoor (Agnieszka Holland 2017)
Portrait de la jeune fils en feu/Portrait of a Lady On Fire (Céline Sciamma 2019)
Portrait of a Matador (Theodore Zichy 1958)
Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg 2020)
Potiche (François Ozon 2010)
Pressure Point (Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer 1962)
Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve 2013)
Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell 2020)
Prophecy (John Frankenheimer 1979)

Quién sabe?/A Bullet for the General (Damiano Damiani 1967)
A Quiet Place (John Krasinski 2018)
A Quiet Place, Part II (John Krasinski 2020)

Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock 1954)
Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock 1940)
The Reckoning (Neil Marshall 2020)
The Reformation of St Jules (Anthony Gilkinson 1949)
Relic (Natalie Erika James 2020)
Retfaerdighedens ryttere/Riders of Justice (Anders Thomas Jensen 2020)
Ringu/Ring (Nakata Hideo 1998)

Sabrina (Billy Wilder 1954)
Saint Maud (Rose Glass 2019)
Sanbiki no samurai/Three Outlaw Samurai (Gosha Hideo 1964)
Sátántangó (Béla Tarr 1994)
Sat sau ji wong/Hitman (Wei Tung 1998)
Searching (Aneesh Chaganty 2018)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa 1954)
The Sex Victims (Derek Robbins 1973)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Destin Daniel Cretton 2021)
Sharpe’s Eagle (Tom Clegg 1993)
Sharpe’s Rifles (Tom Clegg 1993)
The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont 1994)
Shirley (Josephine Decker 2020)
Show Boat (James Whale 1936)
Show Boat (George Sidney 1951)
Shurayukihime: Urami koiuta/Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (Fujita Toshiya 1974)
Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese 2010)
Siu Lam juk kau/Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow 2001)
Skyfire (Simon West 2019)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder 1959)
Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood 2000)
Spiral: From the Book of Saw (Darren Lynn Bousman 2021)
Spy Kids (Robert Rodriguez 2001)
Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (Robert Rodriguez 2002)
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky 1979)
Stan & Ollie (Jon S. Baird 2018)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert Wise 1979)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer 1982)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Leonard Nimoy 1984)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Nimoy 1986)
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (William Shatner 1989)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Nicholas Meyer 1991)
Star Trek Generations (David Carson 1994)
Star Trek: First Contact (Jonathan Frakes 1996)
Star Trek: Insurrection (Jonathan Frakes 1998)
Star Trek: Nemesis (Stuart Baird 2002)
Stazione Termini (Vittoria De Sica 1953)
Steamboat Round the Bend (John Ford 1935)
Still the Enemy Within (Owen Gower 2014)
The Story of a Three Day Pass (Melvin Van Peebles 1967)
Stranger on the Third Floor (Boris Ingster 1940)
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Roger Corman 1967)
The Suicide Squad (James Gunn 2021)
Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson 2021)
Suna no onna/Woman of the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara 1964))
Synchronic (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead 2019)

Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (Richard Thorpe 1941)
Taste of Fear (Seth Holt 1961)
The Tell-Tale Heart (J.B. Williams 1953)
Tenet (Christopher Nolan 2020)
The Tomorrow War (Chris McKay 2021)
The Tomorrow War (Chris McKay 2021)
Train to Busan: Peninsula (Sang-ho Yeon 2020)
The Transfiguration (Michael O’Shea 2016)
Die Tür/The Door (Anno Saul 2009)
Twenty-Nine (Brian Cummins 1969)
Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman 1971)

Uchu kaijû Gamera/Gamera: Super Monster (Noriaki Yuasa 1980)
Ums tägliche Brot/Hunger in Waldenburg (Phil Jutzi 1929)
Underwater (William Eubank 2020)
Up Periscope (Gordon Douglas 1959)
Us (Jordan Peele 2019)
Us (Jordan Peele 2019)
Us (Jordan Peele 2019)

Varieté (E.A. Dupont 1925)
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (Curtis Harrington and Pavel Klushantsev 1965)

Waltzes from Vienna (Alfred Hitchcock 1934)
The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye 1996)
When A Stranger Calls (Fred Walton 1979)
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah 1969)
Wild Card (Simon West 2015)
Willy’s Wonderland (Kevin Lewis 2021)
The Witch (Robert Eggers 2015)
Without Remorse (Stefano Sollima 2021)
Wonder Woman 1984 (Patty Jenkins 2020)
Wrath of Man (Guy Ritchie 2021)
Wrong Turn (Mike P. Nelson 2021)

Yip Man 4/Ip Man 4: The Finale (Wilson Yip 2019)
You Should Have Left (David Koepp 2020)
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay 2017)

Zatôichi monogatari/The Tale of Zatoichi (Misumi Kenji 1962)
Z for Zachariah (Craig Zobel 2015)
Zhong guo chao ren/The Super Infra-Man (Shan Hua 1975)
Zhong guo chao ren/The Super Infra-Man (Shan Hua 1975)
Zoku Zatôichi monogatari/The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (Kazuo Mori 1962)

My top 22 books of 2021

This year I read 256 books – 243 of them for the first time. This included 91 by straight white men writing in English and 156 by the rest of the world (including 105 by women). And 9 that were edited collections or otherwise too complicatedly authored.

Of them, my top 22 were:

Fiction
In joint first place:
Alfred Döblin, Mountains Oceans Giants: A Novel of the 27th Century (1924)
Harry Josephine Giles, Deep Wheel Orcadia: A Novel (2021)

followed in no particular order (other than alphabetical):
Stephen Baxter, Evolution (2002)
Jim Crace, The Gift of Stones (1988)
Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (2017)
Susan M. Gaines, Accidentals (2020)
M. John Harrison, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again (2020)
Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Before the Coffee Gets Cold (2015)
Andrea Lawlor, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (2017)
Maja Lunde, The History of Bees (2015)
Annalee Newitz, The Future of Another Timeline (2019)
Sarah Pinsker, A Song for a New Day (2018)
Albert Robida, The Adventures of Saturnin Farandoul (1879)
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future (2020)
Carter Scholz, Radiance (2002)
Audrey Schulman, Theory of Bastards (2018)

Non-fiction
In joint first place:
Joseph Mitchell, McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (1943)
Ben Myers, Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place (2014)

followed in no particular order (other than alphabetical):
Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (2015)
Daisy Hay, The Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives (2011)
V.F. Perkins (ed. Douglas Pye), V.F. Perkins: Collected Shorter Film Criticism (2020)
Amitav Ghosh, The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2021)

And in case anyone’s interested, here’s the full list of 256 titles:

Alhaji Abubakar Imam, Ruwan Bagaja: The Water of Cure (1934)
Tawfiq  al-Hakim The People of the Cave,(1933)
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (2018)
Kathryn Allan and Djibril Al-Ayad, eds, Accessing the Future (2015)
Richard Allen, Boot Boys (1972)
–. Smoothies (1973)
–. Terrace Terrors (1975)
Anon, ed., Casting Shadows: Extraordinary Tales from New Writers (2013)
Catherine Asaro, Primary Inversion (1995)

Paolo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (2015)
Honoré de Balzac, The Centenarian Or, The Two Beringhelds (1822)
–. The Quest of the Absolute (1834)
Stephen Baxter, Evolution (2002)
Agustina Bazterrica, Tender is the Flesh (2017)
Lauren Beukes, The Shining Girls (2013)
Michael Bishop, No Enemy But Time (1982)
Carmen Boullosa, Heavens on Earth (1997)
Jennifer Marie Brissett, Elysium or, The World After (2014)
Erna Brodber, The Rainmaker’s Mistake (2007)
Charlotte Bronte, The Professor (1857)
John Buchan, Mr Standfast (1919)
–. The Three Hostages (1924)
–. The Island of Sheep (1936)
Pearl S. Buck, Command the Morning (1959)
Edward Bunker, Death Row Breakout and Other Stories (2010)
Katharine Burdekin, The End of This Day’s Business (1989)
Sue Burke, Interference (2019)

Peter Cannon, Long Memories: Recollections of Frank Belknap Long (1997)
Terry Carr, ed., Universe 5 (1974)
Angela Carter, Heroes and Villains (1969)
Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Clone (2019)
Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (2014)
Félicien Champsaur, Ouha, King of the Apes (1923)
Anne Charnock, Dreams Before the Start of Time (2017)
Leslie Charteris, The Saint Goes West (1942)
Claire G. Coleman, Terra Nullius (2017)
John Collier, His Monkey Wife (1930)
Zoraida Córdova, Labyrinth Lost (2016)
Peter Cowie, Revolution! The Explosion of World Cinema in the 60s (2004)
Jim Crace, The Gift of Stones (1988)
Julia Cruger, A Diplomat’s Diary (1891)

Anthony Delius, The Day Natal Took Off: A Satire (1963)
Comte Didier de Choosy, Ignis: The Central Fire (1883)
Agustín de Rojas, A Legend of the Future (1985)
Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (2017)
David Diop, At Night All Blood Is Black (2018)
Alfred Döblin, Mountains Oceans Giants: A Novel of the 27th Century (1924)
Cory Doctorow, Walkaway (2017)
John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel (1930)
–. Nineteen Nineteen (1932)
–. The Big Money (1936)
Todd Dufresne, The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (2019)
Katherine Dunn, Geek Love (1989)
Corinne Duyvis, On the Edge of Gone (2016)

David Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives (2009)
Janet Edwards, Earth Girl (2012)
Greg Egan, Incandescence (2008)
Kate Egan, Trash or Treasure: Censorship and the Changing Meanings of the Video Nasties (2007)
Carol Emshwiller, The Mount (2002)
Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God (2017)
Frank Espinosa, Rocketo: Journey to the Hidden Sea, volume one (2005–6)
–. Rocketo: Journey to the Hidden Sea, volume two (2006)

Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (2015)
Jack Fennell, ed., It Rose Up: A Selection of Lost Irish Fantasy Stories (2021)
Tom Fielder, Infinitum: An Afrofuturism Tale (2021)
Mark Fisher (ed. Matt Colquhoun), Post Capitalist Desire: The Final Lectures (2021)
Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (1987)
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom (2010)
Lester D. Friedman, Bonnie and Clyde (2000)
–. ed., Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (2000)

Susan M. Gaines, Accidentals (2020)
Jessica Gaitán Johannesson, How We Are Translated: A Novel (2021)
Emma Geen, The Many Selves of Katherine North (2016)
Sulari Gentill, A Few Right Thinking Men (2011)
Amitav Ghosh, The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2021)
Harry Josephine Giles, Deep Wheel Orcadia: A Novel (2021)
Ted Gioia, The History of Jazz, third edition (2021)
Molly Gloss, Wild Life (2000)
William Golding, The Inheritors (1955)
Matthew David Goodwin, ed., Latinx Rising: An Anthology of Latinx Science Fiction and Fantasy (2017)
Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017)
Mira Grant, Into the Drowning Deep (2017)
Nicola Griffith, So Lucky (2018)

Sarah Hall, The Wolf Border (2015)
Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic For Small Change (2016)
Thomas Hardy, Two on a Tower (1882)
Dan Harries, Film Parody (2000)
Anne Harris, Accidental Creatures (1998)
Jordan Harrison, Marjorie Prime (2016)
M. John Harrison, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again (2020)
David M. Hartley, Own Worlds (unpublished manuscript)
L.P. Hartley, Facial Justice (1960)
Daisy Hay, The Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives (2011)
Jason Heller, Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded (2018)
Carlos Hernandez, The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria (2016)
Carl Hiaasen, Native Tongue (1991)
William Hjortsberg, Fallen Angel (1978)
Ada Hoffmann, The Outside (2019)
Eva Hoffman, The Secret (2001)
Rob Hopkins, From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want (2019)
Justin Hopper, The Old Weird Albion (2017)
Leon Hunt, Danger: Diabolik (2018)
Kameron Hurley, The Light Brigade (2019)

Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1985)
Muriel Jaeger, The Question Mark (1926)
Liz Jensen, The Rapture (2009)
Ruchir Joshi, The Last Jet-Engine Laugh (2001)

Joanna Kavenna, Zed (2019)
Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Before the Coffee Gets Cold (2015)
–. Before the Coffee gets Cold: Tales from the Café (2017)
Oleg Kashin, Fardwor, Russia! (2010)
Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon (1966)
Caitlín R. Kiernan, Agents of Dreamland (2017)
–. Black Helicopters (2018)
–. The Tindalos Asset (2020)
Margaret Killjoy, A Country of Ghosts (2014)
Geoff King, Film Comedy (2002)
–. American Independent Cinema (2005)
David Kipen, The Schreiber Theory: A Radical Rewrite of American Film History (2006)
Damon Knight, The Man in the Tree (1984)
William Kotzwinkle, Doctor Rat (1976)
Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ascension (2013)
Nancy Kress, An Alien Light (1988)

Andrea Lawlor, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (2017)
Georges Le Faure and Henri de Graffigny, The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist Across the Solar System, volume one: The Moon (1888)
–. The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist Across the Solar System, volume two: The Sun and the Inner Planets (1889)
–. The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist Across the Solar System, volume three (1890)
–. The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist Across the Solar System, volume four (1896)
Jules Lermina, Mysteryville (1904–5)
Doris Lessing, The Cleft (2007)
Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn (1999)
Roy Lewis, The Evolution Man (1960)
Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith (1925)
Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity (1980)
Maja Lunde, The History of Bees (2015)

Ross Macdonald, Experience with Evil (aka Meet Me at the Morgue) (1953)
Ken MacLeod, Learning the World (2005)
Ania Malinowska and Pola Dwurnik, Unhappy Ending: Poems for the Broken/Hearted (2020)
Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire (2019)
Colin MacInnes, Mr Love & Justice (1960)
Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (2015)
Diana McCaulay, Daylight Come (2020)
J.R. McNeill and Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945 (2013)
Elle McNicoll, Show Us Who You Are (2021)
Andreas Malm, Corona, Crisis, Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty- First Century (2020)
–. How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2020)
Jennie Melamed, Gather the Daughters (2017)
Kenneth Millar, The Dark Tunnel (1948)
Louise Michel, The Human Microbes (1887)
Denise Mina, The Long Drop (2017)
Joseph Mitchell, McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (1943)
–. Old Mr Flood (1948)
Laura J. Mixon, Glass Houses (1992)
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus (2015)
Elizabeth Moon, Speed of Dark (2002)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Gods of Jade and Shadow (2019)
David Morrell, The Totem, restored text (1979/1995)
Tamsyn Muir, Gideon the Ninth (2019)
Haruki Murakami, IQ84, book one (2009)
–. IQ84, book two (2009)
–. IQ84, book three (2010)
Ben Myers, Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place (2014)

Alec Nevala-Lee, The Icon Thief (2012)
–. Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (2018)
Annalee Newitz, The Future of Another Timeline (2019)
Emma Newman, Planetfall (2018)
Vítěslav Nezval, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1945)
Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (2014)

Nnedi Okorafor, Binti (2015)
–. Binti: Home (2017)
–. Binti: The Night Masquerade (2017)
Malka Older, Infomocracy (2016)

Manjula Padmanabhan, Harvest (1997)
Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning (2016)
Caroline Parkhurst, The Dogs of Babel (2003)
William Paul, Laughing Screaming: Modern Hollywood Horror and Comedy (1994)
Edmundo Paz Soldán, Turing’s Delirium (2003)
Mervyn Peake, Titus Alone (1959/1970)
Claire Perkins, American Smart Cinema (2012)
V.F. Perkins (ed. Douglas Pye), V.F. Perkins: Collected Shorter Film Criticism (2020)
Gary Phillips, The Underbelly, Plus… (2010)
–. Matthew Henson and the Ice Temple of Harlem (2020)
Sarah Pinsker, A Song for a New Day (2018)

Dora Raymaker, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit (2018)
Maurice Renard, The Blue Peril (1911)
Mack Reynolds, The Earth War (1963)
Waubgeshig Rice, Moon of the Crusted Snow (2018)
Lilliam Rivera, Dealing in Dreams (2019)
Rebecca Roanhorse, Trail of Lightning (2018)
Albert Robida, The Adventures of Saturnin Farandoul (1879)
Kim Stanley Robinson, Galileo’s Dream (2009)
–. The Ministry for the Future (2020)
Sally Rooney, Normal People (2018)

Saki, When William Came: A Story of London under the Hohenzollerns (1913)
Thomas Sanchez, Zoot-Suit Murders (1978)
Sathnam Sanghera, Marriage Material (2013)
John Scalzi, Lock In (2014)
Franz Schätzing, The Swarm (2004)
Paul Scheerbart, Rakkóx the Billionairre & The Great Race (1901)
Carter Scholz, Radiance (2002)
Audrey Schulman, Theory of Bastards (2018)
Tai Shani, Our Fatal Magic (2019)
Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, eds, Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By The Men Who Made It (1955)
Steven Shaviro, Extreme Fabulations: Science Fictions of Life (2021)
Mary Shelley, Matilda (1819–20; 1959)
Lucius Shepard, The Golden (1993)
Clifford D. Simak, The Trouble with Tycho (1960)
–. Way Station (1963)
Upton Sinclair, What Didymus Did (1954)
Johanna Sinisalo, Birdbrain (2008)
–. The Core of the Sun (2013)
Joan Slonczewski, Brain Plague (2000)
Zadie Smith, Feel Free (2018)
Rivers Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017)
–. The Deep (2019)
Vladimir Sorokin, The Blizzard (2010)
Jeff Sparrow, No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson (2017)
Francis Spufford, Golden Hill (2016)
Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Machine’s Last Testament (2020)
Brian Stableford, The Plurality of Imaginary Worlds: The Evolution of French Roman Scientifique (2016)
–. New Atlantis: A Narrative History of Scientific Romance, volume I – The Origins of Scientific Romance (2016)
–. New Atlantis: A Narrative History of Scientific Romance, volume II – The Emergence of Scientific Romance (2016)
–. New Atlantis: A Narrative History of Scientific Romance, volume III – The Resurgence of Scientific Romance (2016)
–. New Atlantis: A Narrative History of Scientific Romance, volume IV – The Decadence of Scientific Romance (2016)
Anna Starobinets, The Living (2011)
Izumi Suzuki, Terminal Boredom: Stories (2021)

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Children of Ruin (2019)
Aiden Thomas, Cemetery Boys (2020)
Valerie Valdes, Chilling Effect (2019)
Jean-Christophe Valtat, Aurorarama (2010)
A.E. van Vogt, Slan (1940)
Hans Jakon Cristoffel von Grimmelshausen, The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus (1669)
Vercors, Borderline (1952)
Kurt Vonnegut, Galápagos (1985)

Jo Walton, My Real Children (2014)
Rosie Warren, ed., Salvage 9: That Hideous Strength (2021)
–. Salvage 10: The Disorder of the Future (2021)
David Weber, On Basilisk Station (1993)
H.G. Wells, The Star-Begotten: A Biological Fantasia (1937)
Bernard Werber, Empire of the Ants (1991)
Will Wiles, The Way Inn (2014)
Elvia Wilk, Oval (2019)
Ellen Wilkinson, Clash (1929)
Connie Willis, Doomsday Book (1992)
–. Bellwether (1996)
Val Wilmer, As Serious As Your Life: Black Music and the Free Jazz Revolution, 19571977 (1977)
Daniel H. Wilson, Robopocalypse (2011)
Ben H. Winters, Underground Airlines (2016)
P.G. Wodehouse, The Swoop!, or How Clarence Saved England (1909)
Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Fiction (1788)
–. The Wrongs of Woman or, Maria (1798)
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (2016)
Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins, Peter Wyngarde: A Life Amongst Strangers (2020)

Lisa Yaszek, Galactic Suburbia: Rediscovering Women’s Science Fiction (2008)
Yoss, Red Dust (2004)

Émile Zola, Doctor Pascal (1893)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer 1982)

…and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer 1982) is the way in which Kirk passes the real Kobayashi Maru test when he is backed into a no-win situation by his two best (i.e., only) friends, barely able to suppress their rivalry for his affection, competing with each other to present him with the bestest of best birthday gifts, with Bones giving him reading glasses and Spock giving him the most monumental edition of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities ever printed (more disproportionate even than the Neo’s humungous copy of Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation), so massive in fact that it must be the largest of large-print editions ever printed, and he serenely navigates these tides of desire by changing the conditions of the test and reading it with his reading glasses on…

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Patrick Hughes 2017)

… and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Hughes 2017), and undoubtedly the reason it is currently blighting our screens with a sequel, is not motherfucking Salma “motherfucker” Hayek, motherfuckers, although she is otherwise the best thing The Hitman’s Bodyguard, nor is it the bizarre decision to set part of it in the middle of Coventry…

The Bull Yard, Coventry city centre

…no, the very best thing about The Hitman’s Bodguard is – having inexplicably set some of it in Coventry, which makes no geographical sense – to then have Coventry played by Kensington.

some rich fucks’ houses, Kensington

Without Remorse, or possibly Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (Stefano Sollima 2021)

…and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Without Remorse (Stefano Sollima 2021), which might actually be called Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (and why shouldn’t he be since he – well, his estate – gets a pay cheque for this drivel regardless of how tedious it is?), is not Jamie Bell, who is never less than brilliant regardless of how bad the film he is in, or Michael B. Jordan, who until now has never been less than brilliant regardless of how bad the film he is in, is the way Michael B. Jordan spends the second half of this leaden ‘thriller’ doing everything he can to get his character killed so as to avoid having to make any of those pesky contractually-obliged sequels while the writers come up with increasingly cliched ways of preventing him from doing so…

Why I suck at writing conclusions; and a modest proposal

This week has mostly been spent trying to finalise the revisions to my forthcoming book (pictured left, though that is neither the real cover nor the actual subtitle).

By which I mean all the revisions were done weeks ago, apart from overhauling the conclusion, which – as it stands – is a nice little riff on the Fast and Furious movies that ends a bit abruptly but has a killer last line that I want to be the last line of the entire book.

The problem is the nice little riff does not work as a conclusion for the entire book.

Or so I am told.

Because the purpose of – and desire for – conclusions continues to elude me.

I mean, what is wrong with you people? You’ve read the whole book and now you want me to chuck in the Cliffs Notes version at the end cos you weren’t paying attention? I’ve spend x-thousand words giving you ideas to think about and now you want me to tell you what to think about them?

You bums. You lazy good-for-nothing bums.

So can we all agree that in future instead of conclusions books will come with a pencil and some blank pages at the end for you to make notes and draw your own conclusions?

And if possible, can we all agree this before my deadline on Monday morning?