Damien Seaman | Why Rebus is Batman

Why Rebus is Batman: the 6 obvious signs
By Damien Seaman

When it comes to the dubious distinction of ‘gritty realism’, no pop culture product is safe from the label. Yes, I’m looking at you, Harry Potter series. They even tried to grit-up Superman, the idiots.

In the world of contemporary crime fiction, gritty realism is the unquestioned dogma. Take Ian Rankin. He’s had some less than glowing things to say about the work of Agatha Christie in the past, one of his key moans being the lack of said grit in her country house mysteries. Which is a bit like disliking cats for being unable to bark.

‘Gritty realism’ is a lie because all fiction is a kind of fantasy, and Inspector John Rebus is no more real a character than Batman. The essential reason is simple: Rebus cannot die. That makes him a super hero. End of. Even Poirot died in the end, putting him above Rebus in the reality stakes.

But why is Rebus Batman, you ask? Obviously he couldn’t be Spiderman: that would just be ridiculous. But if you remain unconvinced, then read on for the six obvious signs. Go on. I dare you to disagree with me after this…

1.Miserable loner haunted by ghosts of the past that compel him to put himself in harm’s way, sometimes for no logical reason (other than plot).
2.Cultivates reputation of a ‘detective’ despite being a miserable loner unable to work as part of a team for long, other than with long-suffering sidekick.
3.Due to alleged conscience and reasons of mainstream popularity, is unable to kill anyone except by accident. (Is allowed to beat the shit out of super villains though.)
4.Since 1980s has been depicted in terms of occasionally laughable ‘gritty realism’ to lend frisson of danger to pampered readership.
5.Despite having no superpowers to speak of (besides disgusting, monopolising wealth), being in the thick of the action and braving almost certain death in every adventure he has, HE CAN NEVER DIE.
6.Has never been seen in the same room as Inspector John Rebus.

Inspector John Rebus
1.Miserable loner haunted by ghosts of the past that compel him to put himself in harm’s way, sometimes for no logical reason (other than plot).
2.Cultivates reputation of a ‘detective’ despite being a miserable loner unable to work as part of a team for long, other than with long-suffering sidekick.
3.Due to alleged devotion to public service, actual risk of losing job, and eventual mainstream popularity, is unable to kill anyone except by accident – unless he wants the PCC on his ass. (Oh, and the PPC isn’t so hot on the whole beating the shit out of suspects thing either, but there are ways and means when the plot demands it.)
4.Since 1980s has been depicted in terms of occasionally laughable ‘gritty realism’ to lend frisson of danger to pampered readership.
5.Despite having no superpowers to speak of (not even wealth), being in the thick of the action and braving almost certain death in every adventure he has, HE CAN NEVER DIE.
6.Has never been seen in the same room as Batman.

About the author:
Damien Seaman’s first novel ‘The Killing of Emma Gross’, a police procedural set in Weimar Germany, is out now from Blasted Heath http://www.blastedheath.com

Retrospective | Simon Bestwick on Blake’s 7.

Blake’s 7: a science-fiction TV series that ran for four seasons from 1978 to 1981. In a grim, nightmarish future, resistance fighter Blake fought the evil Galactic Federation with a hi-tech spaceship, the Liberator, crewed by escaped prisoners. It tended to be pretty damned pessimistic at the best of times. Blake went missing after season two, leaving his second-in-command Avon in charge; the Liberator was destroyed at the end of season three.

Even so, the final episode was an emotional kick in the nuts by any standard.

The final episode found them on the planet Gauda Prime, trying to find Blake. They succeed- but Avon, mistakenly thinking Blake’s betrayed them to the Federation, shoots him. Dead. While we’re still reeling from that, Federation troops burst in; Avon’s crew are shot down around him. Surrounded, Avon stands astride Blake’s body, raises his rifle, and smiles bitterly… cut to black, and a volley of shots ring out.

I fucking bawled. (I was seven at the time, I should hurriedly add.) Blake’s 7 was a regular fixture, like Dr Who, and it’d just ended in the most bleak, brutal way imaginable. They hadn’t even gone out in a blaze of glory or with Blake and Avon reunited. I hated that bastard scriptwriter (Chris Boucher.)

But now I admire him greatly: that final episode is still burned into my memory thirty years later. Because this wasn’t supposed to happen. They were the good guys (though Avon was a ruthless bastard;) the good guys were supposed to win. Not kill each other in a tragic misunderstanding and be mowed down in disarray.

Welcome to the real world, kid. You keep fighting overwhelming odds for too long, it’s only going to end one way.

Here’s the thing, though: if Blake’s 7 had ended less unhappily, I doubt I’d remember it so fondly, or so well. Ramsey Campbell once said of Stephen King that he gave readers what they thought they didn’t want. That final episode did the same.

The great love stories: Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Heathcliff and Cathy… do they end with love conquering all? If they did, would they be so memorable, so moving?

The lesson: honesty, in writing, beats clichés hands down. Two of your characters might end up getting horizontal: doesn’t mean they’re going to settle down, get married and have kids. It might be the expectation; it might be the easy option- but unless it’s the truth it’s lazy, clichéd, a lie. Where are the characters’ drives and motivations taking them? Look at their final destination and don’t flinch; Look for whatever truth the story and characters have.

I’ll leave you with three quotes to sum it all up:

‘This is my truth; tell me yours.’ –Aneurin Bevan.
‘Never underestimate people; they do desire the cut of truth.’ –Natalie Goldberg
‘What’s important is not what an audience thinks the night they see a play, but what they think six months later’ –Edward Bond

Or in my case, thirty years.

Retrospective | Kat Richardson

The Curious Matter of Inspiration

Kat Richardson

The funny thing about inspiration is that it doesn’t always come from the sources some might expect. For instance, I’m known for writing slightly creepy, hardboiled urban fantasy that is in no way romantic, yet one of my inspirations is Jane Austen. Well, and Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler too, as well as a lot of other writers who never wrote a psychological

So why Jane Austen? Because she was a keen observer of society. She based her stories on the little social interactions of very ordinary people and how they can go horribly wrong. That’s a wonderful ability and it can lead to some lovely plot devices and character actions. And from there it is only a tiny step to writing crime novels, since a crime is often precipitated by little social breakages and personal stresses―camel-breaking straws that set things off on an inevitable track to mayhem.ly disturbing or paranormally-inspired paragraph in their lives. Though of course there are plenty in my personal faves list who are nothing if not creepy and bizarre. But it’s not just people who write the way I do who are inspiring to me. I like writers who are articulate and clever and very very good at something a little obscure….

For this reason, I’ve always thought Jane Austen would have been a wonderful crime writer―just imagine how different Pride and Prejudice would have been if, instead of marrying Lydia, Wickham had dodged Darcy’s do-gooding, had his way with the wayward Bennett sister, and then cut her throat…. Elizabeth and Darcy would have finally worked out their differences trying to understand what had gone so horribly wrong and how in a situation much more stressful and difficult for them both. And it would have predated Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White as the first “mystery novel” by almost 50 years! And wouldn’t that have been nice?
Oh Jane, why didn’t you…?

Guest Spot | Colin F. Barnes on Genre Fans

Colin F. Barnes is a dark fiction writer from the UK specializing in Science Fiction, Horror and Thrillers. He likes to take the gritty edginess from his surroundings and personal experiences and translate them into his stories. He is currently working on an anthology of horror stories in his ‘City of Hell Chronicles’ setting after recently debuting with a crime anthology titled ‘Killing my Boss’ that he co-authored with best selling author Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff.

Website: www.colinfbarnes.com
City of Hell Chronicles: http://www.cityofhellchronicles.com
Killing My boss: http://www.colinfbarnes.com/books/killing-my-boss
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Colin_Barnes

Genre fans are clearly the best kind of fans, we know it, they know it, here are ten reasons why.

1. Passionate

Few groups of fans are as passionate about their favorite books or programs than genre fans. They’ll cue up outside bookshops dressed as wizards or elves; they’ll talk endlessly online and with each other about the newest release or what they’ve just read, and they’ll happily spread the word of their latest purchase. Word of mouth is very among genre fans.

2. Loyal

Production companies and publishers know this. Genre fans are exceptionally loyal. They stick with authors and shows through thick and thin. You’ll often hear the genre fan outcry when a program is cancelled. Such uproar can be seen with the recent cancellations of Firefly and Stargate Universe. Savvy producers and authors know all about genre fans loyalty and make the most of it. Long running series such as Wheel of Time and Doctor Who are both examples of where longevity has sprung from loyalty.

3. Zombie Walks

What more needs to be said? You don’t find James Joyce Walks, or Romeo & Juliet walks. Genre fans embrace the weird and fun and aren’t afraid to show it.

4. Inventive

They’ll make almost anything in honor of their passions. They’ll produce their own sequels or fan made interpretations of movies:


Then there are those who make costumes, accessories or jewelry. Steampunk especially is a sub genre that has garnered a reputation of creating some amazing fan produced items. http://steampunkworkshop.com/

5. Friendly

It’s because of the shared passion, and because most genre fans aren’t douches. There’s very little in the way of a class system amongst geeks and nerds and genre fans, they are all in it together for the same thing: fun. If you want an example of this, just pitch up at your next convention and you’ll instantly be made to feel welcome.

6. Early Adopters

Anything from new comics, to new shows, and new authors, the genre fan will gladly and willingly try out new things. It’s a race, each genre fan wants to be one of the first on the train and will often spend a great deal of money and time on searching for new authors and new shows.

7. Forgiving

Some books or shows just tank. There comes a time when someone drops a clanger and makes a huge mistake. The genre fan will scream and bellow their annoyance, and make it clear that something isn’t right, but they’ll give you a second or third or fourth chance. Doctor Who again is a great example of this, during the dark years, it was in often in poor shape, but the audience held their confidence, and lo and behold, DW is now enjoying a renaissance of popularity.

8. Sexy

When not dressing as zombies, many genre fans like to don a variety of costumes, mostly at conventions (and probably in the bedroom), both men and women will squeeze on the tight revealing warrior outfit. The women seemingly enjoying the ‘slave Leia’ and the Xena approach, and the men the rubber clad Batman’s outfit. Of course you get also get the other end of the spectrum such as Chewbacca, Freddy, Swamp Thing etc. But I don’t judge, some people like that kind of thing.

9. A little bit mental

Just look over the previous 8 points and you’ll see that occasionally some genre fans can go a little bit too far – which of course is a good thing.

10. Keep authors on their toes.

Because of their tendency to talk loudly both in real life and on the Internet about their likes and dislikes, authors and writers are kept on their toes. Their Sci-Fi story better be well researched. The fantasy story better do something new and not just rip-off Tolkien. Writing genre isn’t easy to get right, and the fans will keep you honest in your endeavors. They can be your best friends in your career, so listen to them, respect them, and you too can avoid the wrath of the genre fan.


Huge thanks to the lovely (and he is) Colin for a fun and well argues post. I of course conceed the point, Genre fans are clearly the best, well done Col, i’m sold.

If you would like to add your own reasons, I expect we could easily get the list to 25, chip in with your comments. – Hagelrat