Monday 30 June 2014

BBC Radio 4 Interview

About three years ago, I wrote a post on an anxiety forum about OCD issues and using computers. A week ago, the producer of BBC Radio 4's The Digital Human, Peter McManus, found it and contacted me to see if I fancied chatting about the topic of Risk and Technology on his show.

I visited the BBC studio at The Forum in Norwich today and had a very pleasant chat with Peter via studio-link. Hopefully my contribution will be in the show when it goes out in October. He was pleased with what we achieved but I can't imagine him telling me I did poorly.

Who'd have thought being a bit mental would come in handy one day.

Friday 27 June 2014

Dark Fiction - A Brief Study of Trolls

A Brief Study of Trolls

By Casey Douglass

as part of #fridayflash

Film and fairytale have let the side down in recent years. Trolls are either portrayed as blundering fools or as some human eating monster. Well I am here to set the record straight.

My name is Arthur Quint, and I have had the privilege of living and working with various Trolls for the last decade. This is no small achievement, as many people have never even seen one with their own eyes.

The difficulty lies in them being inter-dimensional beings. They don’t live under bridges or in dark forests you see. They simply use these as doorways into our world. They seldom use these however, as they have most of the things they desire in their own backyard, so to speak.

One night, I was cycling along a back-road near my home when I was bundled off my bicycle by something large and heavy. After a profusion of apologies and a hastily made splint for my broken arm, Jarth the Troll offered to make it up to me by taking me back to his world. It only took moments for my fear to be overwhelmed by curiosity and I soon found myself gazing across a literal uncanny valley.

The Trolls themselves are partially made from rock, and partially flesh and blood. They continue to grow throughout their entire lives. Once they reach a certain size, they stop moving and simply sit or lay, gradually becoming part of the landscape and losing their sentient spark. This is considered a good death in Troll society. Of course some die in civil wars and other conflicts but most Trolls can look forward to a very long and healthy life.

They live in an honour bound society and seem most like the olden day Samurai of Japan. This is partly why the governing hierarchy permitted my visits. They viewed it that Jarth had wrong me by injuring me and saw my visits as evening the score. I don’t think that I was originally permitted to visit as much as I have. I would like to think that I won them over with my manner and quick humour.

Their world is similar to ours but everything has a purple hue. In later visits I discovered that they actually live underground in their plane of existence, and the purple light comes from an enormous orb that is suspended from the ceiling of one giant cavern. The size defies belief. Let me put it this way, in the decade I have been visiting, I have only seen one third of what it has to offer. I did manage to get to an edge once however. There the light is very dim and things are quite dangerous; not all Trolls are friendly. The maladapted ones literally get pushed to the fringes of Troll society. On that day, Jarth and a host of Troll guards accompanied me. There was no fighting, just uneasy eye contact and chest bashing.

Troll society as a whole is very civilised, by some standards at least. They have institutions that we would recognise as schools, shops and banks. They have law and order, healthcare and all manner of so called modern inventions. They don’t quite have smart phones and computers but what they do have is a quite lovely steam-punk technology that does a superb job of imitation. You haven’t lived if you haven’t seen a Troll using a sputtering cog-bound calculator.

One aspect of their society that is hard to stomach is their currency. Their whole society is based on a body fluid system. These are, in ascending order of worth: urine, saliva, snot, blood and sexual secretions. Yes it turns my stomach to think of it. It is safe to say that every opportunity that arose where a Troll desired to pay me, I kindly refused. It also goes without saying that you never ever want to win the Troll lottery.

This leads us to one of the main reasons why some come to our world. They make dangerous trips to biohazard bins, abattoirs and the occasional raid on sperm-banks to make their equivalent of easy coin. You might think that this influx of external fluid would unbalance their economy and you would be right. That is why the various gateways are heavily guarded. Enterprising trolls occasionally avoid the beating bestowed by the hulking guards and manage to sneak through.

Along with biological fluids, they are also quite partial to human pornography. A copy of Penthouse would go for...well...let’s just say that you’d need a few buckets to collect your payment.

Sadly, the doorways are closed now which is why I feel I can publish this small paper without endangering them. I don’t know what has happened in their realm but one day I found a small purple pebble left outside my back door. It was broken in two perfect halves and was covered in fluid. I think it was a message from Jarth, my friend and my guide to that world that is now lost to me.

We have lost the opportunity for something remarkable and I have lost my friend.


Saturday 21 June 2014

Dark Review - The Forest

My review of PC horror/survival game The Forest is now up on Geek Syndicate here. A plane crash, cannibals and a rumbling tummy all make for an intense, if overly buggy (at the moment) game.

Friday 20 June 2014

Dark Review - Mizfit Tha Menace "Horror Himself"

If you like a bit of horror and you love your soundtracks and dark music, you would do well to check out the music of Mizfit Tha Menace "Horror Himself".

Self-described as "Gothic Horrorcore", his songs involve some great bass beats and dark rapped lyrics that are a joy to listen to. His music is for mature minds though, so if you are easily offended it might be worth skipping. Also, if that is the case, what are you doing on Dark Distractions?

Check out his new single 'Moves like Jigsaw' below:

Featured on, and among others, working with other artists and being included in a guidebook to the Goth/extreme music scene, I think it's safe to say a lot of people like a bit of Mizfit Tha Menace.

Check out his site at Horrorhimself and have a poke around. If you go to the Discography page, you can download five albums to listen to at your leisure, which strikes me as very generous indeed.

Dark Humour - Keep Out

I opened my new CD Marker Pens today. While I was idly waiting for a disc to burn I read through the warnings on the side. They probably heard my laughter down the street!

Keep out of children! It had never occurred to me to use a small child as a pen holder! Proofing is obviously something beyond the manufacturer of this particular pen. Hilarious!

Thursday 19 June 2014

Dark Review - Oculus

Dark Review

Oculus Review

By Casey Douglass


Oculus Film Poster

I often wonder what he's feeling.
Has he ever heard a word I've said?
Look at him now in the mirror dreaming
What is happening in his head?”
- Some lyrics from Go To The Mirror Boy by The Who.

The quoted lines above are incredibly fitting for a review about Oculus, a new horror film with a possessed mirror at the centre of every ghoulish event.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media

Oculus is the tale of a family torn apart by the machinations of said mirror, it’s need to ‘feed’ and sow discord ultimately breaking them apart with violence and murder.

After a highly charged flashback, the film starts with Kaylie (Karen Gillan) trying to hook up again with her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites). Tim has been staying in a mental institution since things all went south and has only just been released as he has been deemed ‘cured’. Kaylie is horrified that he has repressed, explained away and pushed down everything that happened to them when they were younger, even his promise for them both to come back and ‘deal with it’ when they are bigger and stronger.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media
This dynamic informs the rest of the film and it is one of the ways that Oculus seems quite cerebral. By the midpoint of the film, I was unsure which of the siblings was correct in their view, which is a testament to the writing. I must admit that I didn’t find myself particularly concerned for their well-being, but such is the way of any horror film.

The film is interlaced with flashbacks to their younger days, the young Kaylie and Tim living with their parents Alan (Rory Cochrane) and Marie Russell (Katee Sackhoff), and settling into a new house as strange things start to happen. Rory’s Alan is the unfortunate who decides to hang the mirror in his office, and so succumbs first to its influence. Marie then becomes paranoid and nervous about what he is up to locked away in there all day. I must say that Katee Sackhoff steals the show in these flashback scenes and plays Marie’s dwindling mental health very deftly.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media
As the film moves on, the flashback scenes intersperse with the modern day attempts to destroy the mirror and you are treated to the older grown up Tim and Kaylie watching their younger selves living through the horror the first time. I found this to be incredibly effective and added another layer of ‘what the heck is going on?’ to things.

Oculus Screenshot
Image © Relativity Media
I also appreciated the soundtrack which was simple but ominous, much like I appreciated the uncluttered filming location of the abandoned childhood house. I felt it all gelled together really well and came away feeling impressed. It is also a rare horror film that doesn’t resort to cheap jump-scares on more than a couple of occasions. Although by another criteria, I didn’t actually find the film that scary. It was more psychological with a bit of grim drama than a balls-to-the-wall full-on horror.

I would give Oculus 4/5. If it had been that little bit more scary with two main characters that I could actually care about I might have given it a 5.

Oculus on IMDb.

Friday 13 June 2014

Dark Fiction - Stress and Sunshine

Stress and Sunshine

By Casey Douglass

as part of #fridayflash


‘You’ll be okay until I pop in again Mr Oakes?’
‘Yes yes of course. You don’t need to come as often as you do Mrs Smith.’
‘You know it’s part of your bail conditions...’
‘So you keep reminding me!’
‘Be good Mr Oakes.’
He watched the door slide shut behind her with a hiss. Meddling old crone. Sixty one years under her belt and she spent the whole lot of it meddling in other people’s affairs.
The phone began to ring. He reached out from the comfy chair, moved his arm over the mints and daily paper. Lifted the receiver.
‘Hello, our records indicate that you could be entitled government funded-
‘I’m not interested.’
‘-solar panels installed by our specialists-’
‘No thank you!’
‘-based in the UK!’
‘Piss off!’
He slammed the receiver down.

‘You look a bit flushed today Mr Oakes!’
‘I’m fine.’
‘You aren’t over doing it are you?’
‘Me? Perish the thought!’
‘No schemes? No plans? You know it’s-’
‘Against the terms of my bail! Yes I know!’
‘No need to snap Mr Oakes.’
‘Then don’t treat me like a simpleton!’
He watched her bustle around straightening this and that. It was strange as his room was to the minimalist style. He marvelled that she found anything to do. His eyes began to droop as he watched her leave for the day.

The shrill of the phone woke him from a peaceful slumber.
‘Hello, our records indicate that you could be entitled to-’
‘I won’t tell you again! Bugger off!’
‘-panels installed-’
‘Are you deaf?’
‘-in the UK!’
The phone cracked as it hit the other side of the room.
The trembling old man threw aside his leg blanket and stood on his wiggling legs. His teeth gritted, he shuffled across to the large curtains covering the floor to ceiling windows. Taking a handful of the velvet fabric, he heaved to the left, dragging them until a satisfactory gap split the darkness. He moved to the glass, pressing his face to it and looking down.
A large and rusted metal aperture split the ground of the island, the sea glimmering at the far edges of his vision, the volcano looming ahead belching out small parps of black smoke. Large loading equipment stood idle, automated defence drones swinging from their chains in the breeze.
‘To hell with it all!’
A wrinkly hand smacked the glass. He walked back across the room with increased assurance, parts of his body activating that hadn’t for years. He clutched at the phone and jabbed in a number.
‘It’s me...Yes I know...Bugger all that!...Assemble the teams, I’m activating the base again!...Yes now!...We will begin Project Darkness...Details?...We are going to blot out the sun!’


Contact Me

Thursday 12 June 2014

Dark Review - Space Engineers in G.S Magazine

My review of space exploration and plundering game Space Engineers is in issue 10 of the fantastic Geek Syndicate magazine. It's nestled amongst lots of other geeky goodness so have a peep here.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Dark Review - Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow Review

By Casey Douglass


Edge of Tomorrow is another one of those Groundhog Day style movies. Not in so far as the humour but someone doomed to live the same day over and over and over. It is to Edge of Tomorrow’s credit that this doesn’t get boring.

The film follows PR soldier man Major William Cage (Tom Cruise). He is forced into what should be the final victorious battle against alien invaders that arrived on Earth via an asteroid some time ago. He is the man who ‘sold’ the war effort to the masses, gaining the army new recruits on the basis of their newly designed combat ‘jackets’ (ExoSuits). These half-pint mech-like body add-ons are purported to make any soldier a deadly killing machine, even if they have had next to no training.

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
Unfortunately the aliens know they are coming. The aliens are referred to as Mimics due to their ability to mimic human military behaviour which makes them very hard to beat. The final assault on the shores of France doesn’t go well, and through some ‘good’ fortune, Cage ends up with the ability to start the day over again if he dies. And die he does.

This is where the occasional humour of the film comes in, seeing Cage gradually learn what happens if he does this or that and then fall afoul of something totally mundane like being hit by a truck. He always wakes up in the same place with an angry soldier standing over him shouting at him to get on his feet.

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
As the story progresses, Cage meets Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) a Special Forces soldier and poster girl for the whole war effort after her victory in previous battle Verdun. The two become entwined (not that way filthy people) and revelations abound at what is going on and how much they share the same burden. There are other characters too of course, the one that stands out the most being Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome who is always on Cage’s back and has a wry couple of lines that just made me chuckle.

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
I went to see Edge of Tomorrow with no real expectations. I don’t mind Tom Cruise as an actor and his performance in this, and his fall from grace at the start of the story all make a nice coherent whole. Emily Blunt plays Rita in a convincing way and it is truly a nice thing to see their friendship blossom as each day plays out in different ways.

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
The Mimics are scary multi-limbed adversaries that put me in mind of The Sentinels from The Matrix. They are brutal and quick and really gave the impression of something humanity would struggle to overcome.

The action on screen was frenetic and added to the impression of a chaotic massacre for Cage to run through really well. Even as a viewer, the day repeating gives you a chance to see things more and more clearly, on the battlefield at least.

Image © Warner Bros. Pictures
The film doesn’t outstay its welcome at just under two hours and I really didn’t notice that amount of time passing, which is another thumbs up from me.

I would rate it 4/5 because it exceeded my expectations and I am struggling to find anything negative to say about it. It's a 4 because it wasn’t a perfect movie by any means, just highly likeable.

Edge of Tomorrow on IMDb.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Dark Review - Ominous Realities

Ominous Realities Review

By Casey Douglass


Ominous Realities

If you are a fan of happy endings, I wouldn’t pick up a copy of Grey Matter Press’ Ominous Realities. Some of the tales inside might not have a particularly bad ending, but even those don’t come anywhere near happy. If happy was an exclusive VIP bar where all of the drinks are free, these stories linger two blocks away huddled around burning tires fighting over who gets to swig the turpentine next.

Sixteen stories are contained within, each offering the authors’ own takes on speculative fiction and reality, from hellish beings to apocalyptic end of times survivalists struggling to keep humanity going.

The stories are:

“How to Make a Human” by Martin Rose is a tale of robots trying to recreate the extinct human race.

“Angie” by John F.D. Taff is the tasty survival tale of a bickering couple during a zombie-type apocalypse.

“On the Threshold” by William Meikle is a tale of boffins bringing dangerous things into our own reality.

“Doyoshota” by Ken Altabef is the story of a strange background hum that residents of Doyoshota begin to hear one day.

“Third Offense” by Gregory L. Norris follows an unhappy soul who just wants to express himself in a world of advertising and stifled creativity.

“Metamorphosis” by J. Daniel Stone follows a brother and sister on a subway ride that opens their eyes to a whole new aspect of the world.

“We Are Hale, We Are Whole” by Eric Del Carlo depicts a future where people are paid in health credits and the ones with the deadliest jobs gain the most whilst risking it all.

“Pure Blood and Evergreen” by Bracken MacLeod is set in an internment camp and tells the tribulations of two strangers who develop a painful friendship.

“John, Paul, Xavier, Ironside and George (But Not Vincent)” by Hugh A.D. Spencer tells the story of a world beset by dangerous clouds of nano-bots ripping everything asunder and one man’s job of caring for a disabled man in the final days of his life.

“And the Hunter, Home from the Hill” by Edward Morris is a quirky look at superhero tales and what they might really be based on.

“Born Bad” by Jonathan Balog delves into the topic of good and evil and nature against nurture. Which will prevail?

“The Last Bastion of Space” by Ewan C. Forbes shows a world where corporations pay people for the unused capacity in their brains.

“Every Soul is a Grimoire” by Allen Griffin is a story of the occult, madness and the perils of dabbling.

“From the East” by Alice Goldfuss follows a scientist lost in a jungle and desperately trying to work out what has brought about the end of humanity.

“Deciding Identity” by Paul Williams is the tale of two parallel worlds about to collide and a vote to decide which will be destroyed.

“The Last Elf” by T. Fox Dunham is a tale of the hunt for and extermination of the thing that brings man false hope.

I enjoyed reading all of the stories in Ominous Realities but the couple of stand-out ones for me were We Are Hale, We Are Whole and Deciding Identity. The former just intrigued me with its look at the question of taking the safe route through life or going all out and hoping for something great to come of it. The latter I enjoyed because it was written in a clever alternating paragraph way and gave the ending that I didn’t expect.

I would recommend Ominous Realities to anyone who enjoys dark and apocalyptic fiction, and who used to enjoy The Outer Limits kind of ending, where the best outcome you might hope for was somewhere between the poles of happy or sad.

Ominous Realities is bleak, in a cerebral and satisfying way.

Check out the Grey Matter Press page for Ominous Realities here.

Rating: 4/5

You might also like to check out my review of Grey Matter Press’ Splatterlands here. A compilation of splatterpunk stories that make you feel dirty for reading them.

Sunday 1 June 2014

Trailer for upcoming zombie tale 'Disease'

M.F. Wahl, author of soon to be released zombie novel Disease has released an impressive teaser trailer.  

Disease is set in a world where humanity's war with zombies has been lost, and the zombies themselves pale in comparison to the demons that can live in the survivors' minds.

“It’s been said many times before,” says Wahl, “but that’s because it’s so spot on. True horror is what we see when we hold up the mirror to ourselves. Whether it’s zombies, serial killers, or unseemly circumstances, it all boils down to how the characters relate back to us.”

Disease by M.F Wahl Cover
Disease is set for release in the summer of 2014 and will be available as an eBook for all the major formats, and as an audiobook. If you love your zombies, you'd better keep an eye out for it.

Visit M.F Wahl's Website here.