All posts by Tim Kimber

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Posts, projects and a pandemic…

Hello everyone. Just a quick update to tell you I’ve posted two pieces recently: one for a movie mag site called Frame Rated about coronavirus affecting cinemas and what that might mean for the future of filmmaking, and a new instalment in my International Oscar Showdown series, featuring harrowing slavery drama 12 Years A Slave versus The Great Beauty, a weird hedonistic Italian film about a socialite in Rome who finds himself in a creative rut.

It seems most of my creative output has been in these movie articles recently – and I think that’s because freeing up the cognitive bandwidth to write an entire novel these days feels as fantastical a concept as the damn books I try to write. Between the one-year-old running around my house and a job that has only intensified since lockdown, there’s been very little space left to tackle the sheer breadth of thought required to envision a book in its entirety.

Still, writing is writing, and these articles are a nice way to hone my skill. I hugely, hugely appreciate every read I muster, so thank you to those of you who are (a) interested in this stuff, and (b) have time yourself to read them!

Meanwhile, I’ve been inspired to write a sci-fi anthology – I realised I had a small but varied catalogue of short stories that, with some not inconsiderable work, would make an admirable collection. Smaller nuggets of fiction certainly feel more manageable!

Anyway, thanks again for reading my stuff. Feel free to share if you like it! And let me know what you think in the comments.

Big love, and stay safe, you excellent maniacs

Tim

International Oscar Showdown – 2015

Good morning lovelies. I know you’ve all been clamouring for more retrospective Oscars reviews, so here you are, you lucky devils!

The 2015 winners make for an interesting duel. On the one hand there’s Birdman, Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – [yes, that it is its full title] – a movie about a Hollywood actor trying to make something artistic and meaningful, and failing.

Up against it is arthouse movie Ida, a serious, dour, black & white film about an orphaned nun confronting her Jewish roots in 1960s Poland.

I mean, come on! It’s a little on the nose, isn’t it?

Anyway, you can read the review here.

Do comment if you enjoy the review, or even disagree with my analysis! I would love to hear from you.

All the best, you maniacs x

Tim

International Oscar Showdown – 2016

Hello movie fans!

I haven’t done an Oscar Showdown for a long time, mostly because we started watching the 2016 winner of Best Foreign-Language Feature, Son of Saul, and had to stop half way for some reason. Thing is, I couldn’t muster the resolve to return to it for almost two months…

For those of you (most of you?) who aren’t familiar with this Hungarian movie, Son of Saul is probably the most harrowing depiction of Auschwitz ever committed to film. It is an astonishing piece of cinema, while being extremely difficult to watch.

I recommend it, though it’s difficult to recommend a good time to watch it. It’s like Schindler’s List, or Citizen Kane… or trying to get Swarns to watch the Godfather trilogy. You can’t just say “oh, do you fancy watching this Hungarian holocaust film?” – it is not a whim movie.

Anyway, I reviewed that and Spotlight for the 2016 International Oscar Showdown – if only Mad Max: Fury Road had won, eh? I don’t know what the Academy is up to, sometimes, I really don’t.

I’ll continue to post links to the Medium post via my Twitter feed, because clicking through to Medium from Twitter is free for you, my lovely, lovely readers.

 

I hope you all are well and staying sane. Wash your hands, black lives matter, Johnson out, and all that jazz…

Big love xx

Tim

International Oscar Showdown – 2018 & 2017

Hello again!

If, like me, you have a bit more time on your hands for some reason, why not spend it reading about movies? Remember the cinema? No, me neither.

I’ve continued my look back at previous Oscar years to see if – prior to this year’s trailblazing winner Parasite – any other winner of Best Foreign-Language Feature really ought to have beaten whatever won Best Picture that year.

In the first review, Roma beat Green Book hands down, but can Chilean transphobia movie A Fantastic Woman beat weird gothic romance The Shape of Water? And can Iranian domestic drama The Salesman overcome gay coming-of-age movie Moonlight?

I’ll continue to post links to the Medium post via my Twitter feed, because clicking through to Medium from Twitter is free for you, my lovely, lovely readers.

Hope you enjoy the read. And all the movies are cracking, so seek them out if you can.

Hope you are all well and staying safe.

Much love

Tim

International Oscar Showdown!

Hello!

Would you like something to read that isn’t about Deadly Pandemics; or how to manage working from home while raising children during a quarantine; or ideal hand-washing methods and the perfect ditties to hum while scrubbing your digits?

ME TOO

So I started this movie review series, inspired by Bong Joon-ho’s groundbreaking triumph at this year’s Oscars. Parasite was the first non-English-language movie to win Best Picture, which is crazy!

So, I wanted to go back and see how many times the Best International Feature Film was objectively superior to whatever the Anglosphere managed to serve up.

Thought I’d run this in reverse-chronological order, which brought up the hilarious comparison between Green Book and Roma.

Have a look here!

 

 

Please press the clap button if you have a Medium account. You can applaud up to 50 times, apparently, though I’m not sure it deserves that many clicks, frankly.

Hope you are all well and staying safe.

Much love

Tim

Ambiguity, duplicity, hypocrisy – this is British politics now

Hello!

What a lovely time we’re all having. What charming chats. Such playful political bantz. Terrific raving, spittle-flecked tirades. Families broken asunder. A Christmas election. What a lovely… lovely time.

I wrote a thing about why politics is so shit these days.

As far as I can tell, it’s down to a breakdown of language – if no one can agree on the meaning of words, then no meaning can be gleaned from an argument. The futility of trying to debate this slippery eel is what frustrates us.

The word in question, of course, is “Brexit”, which exists in some kind of inter-dimensional phase space, enveloping contradictory co-ordinates in the minds of millions of people, simultaneously one thing while being absolutely not that particular thing at all, thank you very much.

What we need is a quantum Brexit that manages to sustain these impossible paradoxes – perhaps we can stay in the customs union, single market and retain freedom of movement, while simultaneously having blue passports, over-fished oceans and racism? I mean, it’s not ideal…

Anyway, I wrote about it here: link.medium.com/ZrbhInEsX1

A special note, though, on how ambiguity has led to duplicity and hypocrisy: we did not define Brexit, and that left it open to abuse. Lies – though challenged – went unpunished. And lies won the day. Consequently, deceit is now a mainstay of debate.

Meanwhile, we have politicians who declare their opinions emphatically, only to change them as their boss is replaced, and a new opinion must be adopted in order to secure a cabinet ministership. Theresa May, Nicky Morgan, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock; the list of gutless hypocrites goes on and on, one day professing this, the next professing the opposite. I hate it.

The state of it is depressing. So, please, just vote the Tories out, will you? They’ve given us nine years of a stagnant economy, rising in-work poverty, even more national debt, food banks, shocking homelessness, cruel cuts and now the poison pill of an unidentifiable Brexit that threatens the very fabric of our nation.

We deserve better than this. And so do our kids.

Peace.

(please read my piece: link.medium.com/ZrbhInEsX1 and click the clap button a lot if you have a Medium account!)

*Title photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What IF: the highs and lows of making babies in your thirties

I haven’t written anything on this blog for a while, but that’s mainly because we’ve been rather busy looking after The Boy. Love him.

But I wanted to write about how we came to have Coen, because there’s a lot of taboo in this country around fertility and IVF, and maybe by sharing this, other people will feel more at ease talking with their friends and family about what they’re going through.

It’s a story that chronicles a number of years, so it’s a bit long, and for that I apologise, but I had lots to say!

I’ve posted it to Medium, my other blog site, because it looks a bit more professional and open to the public than this hidden little spot in this corner of the internet. The link is below. Do let me know in the comments if you found it interesting! And do share if you think you know anyone who would appreciate it.

You can read it here.

Big love to you all!

What I learned about pacing & structure reading obscure pulp sci-fi THE BIG EYE

I have of late, and wherefore I know not, begun to colour-code my bookshelves.

Bookshelves.jpg

As you can see, I clearly don’t have enough books yet. However, to that end, I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of time and money hunting for book bargains on eBay.

One fine seller I discovered has reams of sci-fi pulp fiction that they’re selling in sets of three, original prints from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

The covers are amazing.

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(Of course, with my new-found book ordering system, I no longer judge a book by its cover, nor indeed its contents, but its spine. I am currently in desperate need of more greens and blues.)

One of the novels, which came bundled with Ray Bradbury’s The Golden Apples Of The Sun, tickled my fancy in its own right; for its name, its cover, and, upon delivery, its musty odour.

Look at that ridiculous title, that 50s artwork, that awkward pose, as though someone has been caught entirely by surprise by a meteor. Holy shit!

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So I dived into The Big Eye by Max Ehrlich with an unblinking fervour, and was engrossed within a few pages. The story is fairly simple – the near-future world of 1960 (!) is on the brink of cataclysmic nuclear war. Our protagonist, a research scientist working at the largest cosmic observatory ever constructed – the eponymous Big Eye – is sent to New York with a briefcase to deliver to US generals deciding whether or not to make the first strike against those blasted Commies.

The book opens as PROTAGONIST (let’s call him 1950sMan, for there’s not much more to him, to be honest) is flying in to land in New York, which has been all but evacuated for fear of being the prime target for the damn Ruskies. There are reports that earthquakes across the States are being cause by a new Soviet secret weapon, and…

OK, it’s not that simple.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence now by warning you of SPOILERS. The freaking front cover is the spoiler. It turns out the earthquakes weren’t administered by a Soviet super-weapon (gasp!), but were in fact the result of magnetic interference from a gigantic rock hurtling through space towards Earth.

Unfortunately, unlike me, the author does insult your intelligence, by persisting with this conceit for a good hundred pages before anyone admits the world will end by meteor and not by missile.

So the story rattles along with the reader in no doubt as to what is happening, and the author pretending it isn’t obvious, like a partners in a failing marriage too polite to mention the D word.

I suppose Ehrlich wouldn’t have known while he was writing it that the cover would give the story away, but regardless, it’s clear there’s a lack of story here. It’s all padded out with a fruitless errand (1950sMan is ordered to take a briefcase (containing we don’t know what) to some generals, but is ordered to return before he can make the delivery, and to no consequence), and a mundane love story.

Double vision

There is a twist – two, I suppose. The first is really, really silly. It turns out, the celestial body spotted with The Big Eye turns out to resemble… a BIG EYE. The planet has a mountain range on it of prominently ocular proportions, similar, I suppose, to Jupiter’s red storm.

Then there’s the really big twist, and it is a shameful doozey. IT TURNS OUT… the Big Eye was always going to miss the Earth, and the astronomers got together to play a trick on the world, in the hope it would prevent a nuclear apocalypse.

The ruse works – the world becomes a peaceful, decent place, with a world government and the dissolution of borders – and for some reason inspires a cure for cancer. There’s a little drama concerning the head astronomer, who kept the secret even from his sick wife, who might have lived had she felt there was a world to live for. But otherwise it’s a bit of a damp squib.

But also, the big reveal – like everything else in the book – is so laboriously signposted you find yourself once again clawing at your eyes for Ehrlich to spit it out.

So what did I learn reading this piece of pulp from the Atomic age?

  1. Treat your reader with respect. Acknowledge their intelligence, and don’t needlessly hide things from them that they no doubt have already gleaned.
  2. Cataclysmic sci-fi requires more than the end of the world to retain your attention. Interesting characters are paramount, with the odd perplexing moral dilemma for good measure. Global events are meaningless unless they physically and emotionally affect your protagonist.
  3. Padding your book is as obvious as stuffing a pineapple down your trousers – no matter how impressive the girth, upon closer inspection you will appear misshapen and ultimately unsatisfying.
  4. (Unless you are particularly enamoured with pineapples)

 


 

Thanks for reading – leave a message if you’ve ever delved into pulp, I’d love to hear recommendations or if you just have fond memories of these silly stories.

And if you’re not already, feel free to sign up to this blog. There’s a follow button at the top of this page on the right!

Take it easy!

 

Escaping the rut, a rancorous work, and the world – with writing

It’s been a long time since I posted a personal update. I’ve had a tough year for various reasons, but thankfully my writing has continued unabated. And I am immensely proud to announce I will shortly have finished my second novel, having started it a little over nine months ago, during #NaNoWriMo.

What an invigorating annual challenge National Novel Writing Month is! I was stuck in something of a rut, creatively speaking, before I took part in 2016. I’d been working on Citadel, my after-life fantasy epic, for practically a decade, and it was increasingly clear it would never end.

The story had evolved so much since first embarking upon it – and more importantly I had learned so much in the process – that the themes I had hoped to tackle at the beginning had been masticated and regurgitated, popping out in the narrative in weird morsels that no longer represented my initial vision.

Etch-a-sketch-a-story

For better or worse, I’ve now shelved that project. It was an incredibly hard decision – 10 years of work, for heaven’s sake! – but I am certain it was the right choice. Maybe one day I will return to it, as there are certainly some scenes in that hot mess of which I am proud.

But setting it aside cleared the path for more focused work. Where Citadel had become my practice clay, upon which I tested new techniques of storytelling, it was nevertheless just that: practice. Now I’m using what I learned messing about with that hunk of mud, but on some new fancy material.

What have I learned, specifically? Well, it includes, but by no means is limited to:

  • Concept of agency (I hadn’t heard of this until long after I started writing)
  • Perspective focus
  • Importance of diversity
  • How to lace backstory into action and dialogue
  • How to skip journeys
  • How to build tension in action scenes
  • How to construct a character arc
  • Importance of arcs for all characters, not just the protagonist
  • How to ruthlessly murder your darlings
  • How to reach the end

My new novel, prospectively titled Peace & Quietus, has been my most ambitious project since starting to write – but not due to its potential length, or number of characters, or exhaustive worldbuilding. On the contrary, the story looks to be about two thirds the size of Citadel, has only a handful of characters, and is set in London, rather than a fantastical reimagining of Hell.

The reason it has been ambitious is because P&Q is a much more emotionally driven piece than I have previously attempted. It was borne of my own despair watching the western world kowtow to fascism, nationalism and isolationism, with the Brexit vote and the election of that racist neon beanbag in the US. It grew out of anxiety attacks on the London underground, out of visibly increasing homelessness in the world’s sixth largest economy, out of the frustrations of a much-derided generation left with the carcass of a free-market economy picked clean by their parents.

twitter-logo-finalTweet: “If you can identify what your story is about, and are able to express it in a single sentence, everything in the story will inform that central proposition”

The story tackles body shame, social media anxiety, racism, the political shift to the right, the hopelessness among so-called Millennials, and the ever-present attraction of just giving up and abandoning the rat race. It’s escapism, in a word.

Yes, it has a science fiction element – the story concerns an apocalypse of sorts – and that’s because I wanted to describe a character who, when the end of civilisation came, would find solace in its blessed relief from modern life.

That’s another thing I learned: the importance of comprehending what your story is about, and being able to express it in a single sentence. If you know that, everything in the story will inform that central proposition.

Helpful hiatus

So, I hope to finish the first draft by the end of the week, and then? Well, then I’m going to set it aside for a while; I’ve a couple of short story ideas I’ve been stewing away in the back of my mind that need fleshing out, plus it would be good to start thinking about my next #NaNoWriMo project. Either way, edits for P&Q can wait.

How I will broadcast any achievements is anyone’s guess, though. In a fit of reactionary paranoia, I deleted my Facebook account, severing the ties I had made with hundreds of people around the world. What was I thinking? I could have sold stuff at them!

Yeah, but no, delete your account. It’s great.
(But don’t forget to subscribe to Right Place, Right Tim first!)

Cheers!

(cover image by Linh Nguyen)

If you don’t see me in November, blame #NaNoWriMo

With November fast approaching, I felt the need to explain my impending month-long withdrawal from society. Friends will be dismayed when I decline their invitation to the pub. Colleagues will wonder where I go every lunch break with my laptop (incidentally, I go to the pub to write, but don’t tell my friends). And my wife will offer me coffee while she catches up on all the rom-com trash I’ve hitherto vetoed.

I will not have time for such dalliances. I will be too busy creating!

If you don’t mind setting aside the pretentiousness of that statement, I shall explain: November is National Novel Writing Month, or #NaNoWriMo for short.

This means I will be joining thousands of other bleary-eyed writers around the world in attempting to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Yes, you exceptional number crunchers, that does indeed equate to 1,667 per day. Also known colloquially as “a right proper slog”.

Back for seconds

I attempted (and completed – barely) the challenge for the first time last year, despite only discovering it on October 30th. That gave me two days to decide on an idea and plan some semblance of story from it.

The result was The Divine Alliance, an epic reimagining of The Iliad if Diomedes had recognised his ability to hurt the Gods. Thirty-odd chapters of Ancient Greek and Trojan kings rallying together to defeat their greater foe: the lords of Olympus.

If I’m honest, it has some problems, but there’s a body of work now, where once there was only the neurons in my brain keeping the idea in existence. It needs some rejigging, a little more agency for secondary characters, and an ending (I got to 50,000 words, I didn’t say I finished it), but I was pleased with it. There’s some great scenes, some neat concepts, and events that transpire as they do in the wider Greek tragedies, stoking themes of predestination and self-determination. I like it. And one day, I’ll go back to it and fix it up.

But not in November – no sir! In November I have something very different in mind.

End of the world as we know it

This year’s attempt will be a post-cataclysmic tale of survival. A woman finds herself trapped on the upper floors of a Piccadilly Circus building by a toxic mist that has come to rest over the streets of London. When escape becomes an impossible feat, she must turn to her copy of An Island To Oneself, a survivalist’s story of life on a desert island – only she’s on the rooftops, so scavenging for coconuts is out of the question.

The thrust of the story is the protagonist’s happy adoption of this new life, devoid of all the exhausting emotional trauma modern civilisation inflicts upon us. She builds a network of bridges between the rooftops, grows plants in a self-made greenhouse, collects rain water in office recycling bins, and sleeps in the empty luxury flats, devoid of utilities.

Now, my usual writing process is to just blurt out an idea and see where it takes me, something the writing community calls a “pantser” – ie, one who writes by the seat of their pants. So, spending more than a week on planning is an interesting experiment for me. We shall see if it reaps rewards.

In the meantime, please don’t take offence if I’m a little unresponsive for the next four weeks.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Good luck to everyone else participating! May your creative juices flow like the saliva of a dog in a butcher’s shop.


Featured photo by Mikhail Pavstyuk on Unsplash