Rat People


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James Herbert’s “The Rats” is one of the all time great horror novels, featuring grisly scenes where mutant black rats en masse attack humans  trapped in confined spaces. Nothing is spared in describing how people meet their fate at the hand of The Rats – people are eaten alive, eyes eaten, tongues devoured, testicles ripped off – and they die in agony.


Even if anyone survives, a single rat bite ensures that the victim will contract an acute form of Weil’s disease that causes their skin to be stretched so tight over their skeletons it rips to pieces, causing yet another agonising form of death.

To teenagers like me, the novel was notorious for its sex scenes, including the immortal line “You couldn’t fuck a polo mint with that!”

Copies were passed around, ending up well thumbed and dog eared especially around the “crucial” sections.

There were follow ups – “Lair” which was equally gory and sex filled, featured the typical horror trope of “cheating wife gets eaten horribly” and a priest being consumed after finding the rats digging up the graves in his churchyard. Then there was “Domain” in which the  mutant rats terrorised the London survivors of a nuclear holocaust and added radiation sickness and rabies to the already churning mass of four legged slaughter.

There is a fourth graphic novel apparently, but I’ve never seen it.

The success of the novels makes you wonder why no-one has ever had a go at making a film. Well they have – it’s just that they were awful. With modern CGI it might be possible to have convincing killer mutant rats, but painting gerbils black just doesn’t cut it!

Copyright Mulberry Lightning 06.11.18




K9 is having a fag


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On the market I came across K9, and company. His little nose is out like he is having a cigarette, or a snort of coke if he was an American K9.

Being on the market, he probably costs more than he is worth. I’m not a collector either, I don’t have the room and I don’t know how these people who get a zillion loot crates do either.

But to see him reminded me of him saying “affirmative mistress” and makes me smile.

Soviet Spacecraft – Steampunk before we Knew the Word


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It’s probably been on loads of times before, but I greatly enjoyed watching the BBC4 “Cosmonauts” documentary this evening. While the US space programme was shiny, glamorous and eventually  won the big prize – the first lunar landing – the Soviets put their utilitarian, boiler-ish spacecraft atop their Quatermass  looking R7 rockets and the odd dog boiling, cosmonaut suffocating, parachute failing incident aside, mainly brought the occupants back to Earth in one piece.

All this is spacecraft that would have perhaps been more durable looking if they had been made out of Meccano.

It was with their space programme that the Soviets went truly retro. Responding to the pressure brought about by Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speechifying and their bosses at The Kremlin, the Russian engineers came up with the LK Lander.

The LK was something that Corea could have, and probably did, dream up for his illustrations of HG Well’s War of the Worlds. A craft that looked retro and dated in the mid 60s, it looks like a perfect steampunk creation now, with its shiny, almost Metropolis looking form, and interiors like the driving plate of a steam train. The pilot was even supposed to drive it standing up.

Then there was the giant rocket designed to launch it, the enormous N1 with its latticed support structure like a wicker chair for an old and perverted god.

The project never got off the ground. The fact that Apollo 11 had it well beaten was one factor, there is obviously not much point straining yourself in a race you can no longer win. The other was the fact that the N1 rocket had a 100% record – 4 launch attempts, 4 total failures.

The second of these resulted in one of the largest man made non nuclear explosions in history as the enormous  rocket inelegantly crashed back onto its launch pad.

The Soviets gave up the moon shot as a bad job after this.

However, for all this failure, the Russian Soyuz design, which killed its Cosmonaut on its first flight in 1967, is still the vehicle taking people to the International Space Station while the Americans haven’t launched a manned flight in years.

Bloody Mulberry

Aristophanes and the Moon-a-Muck go on Holiday


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Aristophanes Brown hadn’t had a country break for far too long, what with all the business of the concentrated wasp and hornet venom leading to the creation of a psycho-physical shortcut to the centre of the galaxy, and the moon-a-muck needed to get out into the countryside to be able to walk freely without its clumsy dog snout disguises to fool the urban Londoners they lived and researched among.

So taking advantage of a no-questions-asked cousin of Lady Alexia Laplace, they gained access to a pleasant country house on the banks of the renowned trout waters of the River Test.

Aristophanes, although missing the bustle and action of the city, found he enjoyed walking about the grounds with a happily unleashed and unmuzzled moon-a-muck, and the strange but joyous creature that had arrived so unexpectedly in his laboratory one day was obviously equally pleased with this state of affairs.

One of the recreations that Aristophanes found himself trying was a spot of fly fishing. Now he had never seen a copy of Isaac Walton’s “Compleat Angler” in his life, but he fancied that even he should be able to hook a brown trout or two from the clear waters for his supper.

He went every day while the moon-a-muck sang to flowers. “Hooo-hee hooo” it cooed while flopping its paw at butterflies, while Aristophanes applied himself to his fishing with great keen-ness.

He caught precisely nothing every day.

He tried wet flies. He tried dry flies. He tried a spinner. He might as well have been throwing pianos into the stream for all the good it did him. The moon-a-muck had no idea what he was doing, but had plenty of distractions. While not playing with the flora and fauna, it snouted down the alum crystals Aristophanes had brought with them, or lay its long ashy-silver body out in the sun.

Finally, on the last full day of their day, it heard a cry of joy from Aristophanes Brown. For he had finally hooked a trout, and was exclaiming what a fine spper it would indeed make as he swung it to the bank.

Finally the moon-a-muck caught on to what strange task his friend hat set himself to, and padded up to the bank to inspect the catch. In fairness, it wouldn’t really have made a hugely hearty supper, for it was barely a pound in weight, but Aristophanes couldn’t wait to eat something he himself had caught. Oh the primal man had awoken, the hunter gatherer was afoot!

Sensing all this, the moon-a-muck looked at Aristophanes with its almost Egyptian looking eyes, reached up with its snout and very gently sucked the writhing fish from

Brown’s hand.

It then ambled over to the water, and spat the fish back into the stream. “Hooo haa” it then exclaimed with finality.

When Aristophanes went to pick the rod back up and resume, the moon-a-muck looked at him with such a glance, he realised that there was to be no more fishing on this holiday.

He left the rod where it was, and the two of them headed back to the house.

And so it became that this gentle creature became so well known among the fishes, it was regarded as almost a benevolent god. But that is a whole series of other tales.

Copyright Mulberry Lightning 27.04.18

At Earth’s Core


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Humanity has never seen what lies at the core of the Earth, and although there has been much academic and cinematic speculation on what is down there several thousand kilometres beneath our feet, no one can really say for certain what it is like.

The presence of a magnetic field indicates a rotating iron core – but really? Is it actually a ball of glistening ferrous metal, or is at actually an enormous ball of mackerel pate that has been magnetised by forces unknown.

While questions of this nature were being pondered by the smart people of the world – and the pate theory wasn’t taken seriously by many – or indeed any – recognised scientists.

One day, a very powerful alien spaceship was cruising in the vicinity of the Solar System, when they intercepted a transmission of a highly speculative fictional film the plot of which was centred around the nature of the Earth’s core, and what might have happened if it stopped rotating.

When the aliens had stopped laughing in their extra-terrestrial way, they thought it would be highly helpful for them to demonstrate the actual structure of the inner workings of Earth to its inhabitants, just so they’d know what to do in the event of a real emergency.

So, in their infinitely powerful space time curving megacraft, they turned on their quantum displacement beams – carefully calibrated to operate at a frequency that would cause no damage to all inhabitants of the planet – and watched their handiwork unfold.

Space curved. Space bent. Space turned in on itself and vomited itself back up.

One minute the Earth’s surface faced out towards the effectively infinite universe, and all its inhabitants gazed up on blue skies or a velvet black glittered with stars. Now, they were at earth’s centre, facing each other over a tiny area, their cities piled up on one and another, the seas sloshing round like a swirling glass of brandy, their air at such a pressure their eardrums burst and their eyeballs telescoped.

Meanwhile the scorching core of solid iron glowed out across the universe, and the crew of aliens set off home.

“What a great job we did there” they said, slapping each other on their three shoulders.


Copyright Mulberry Lightning 13.02.18