Wednesday 3 December 2008

And now......

The new Blake's 7 website is up and can be found at Since I will be contributing a blog to that site as well it means I have a brand new excuse for not posting here. I know the three of you will be thrilled.

Monday 1 December 2008

Signing on the 29th

I can't think of anything witty to say so we'll just stick to the facts. On the 29th of December I will be signing Battlefield DVDs and Eye of the Machine CDs at The Who Shop in East Ham London.

In an ideal world my presence alone should be enough to send you careering down to East London with a bag full cash and a pocket full of sharpies but, alas, the world is far from ideal. So to sweeten the pot I'm throwing in, strictly in a supporting capacity , Nicholas Courtney, famed thespian, Swahilli speaker and military officer impersonator.

If that doesn't get you to part with your hard earned cash (and by extension save the world from global recession) then nothing will.

Sunday 30 November 2008


As of the 29th December 2008 my Doctor Who adventure will be available on DVD. It's crammed with extras including interviews with yours truly and a commentary track where I can be heard desperately trying not to moan out loud at the awful bits. I am deeply ambivalent about this project but I have to say it wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered it being.

As a writer there's a special embarrassment that goes with a script that goes horribly wrong. Like a sexual encounter that ended badly you don't want to think about it and you resent having people bring it up in public. Still sexual failure doesn't (in my case) generate residuals so I'm not going to complain too loud.

Here's a good review and here's a bad review and here's the relevant page at Why not buy it and make up your own mind - at the very least you can revel in the near future zeerust and Jean Marsh's frocks.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Altogether now - 'It's the eye of the....'

It is a day of joy because finally 'Blake's 7: The Early Years; Eye of the Machine/Point of No Return' is out. The CD is almost as long as its title and packed with Blake's 7 goodness. In addition to Eye of the Machine you also get, purely as a bonus, James Swallow's Point of No Return which deals with a critical point in Travis' career. I'm very pleased with the way both of them turned out.

So buy Eye of the Machine/Point of No Return (or Point of No Return/Eye of the Machine as James insists on calling it) it's got drama, excitement and some quite reasonable writing.

It's available from Amazon, and the Blake's 7 Website

Friday 28 November 2008

The Painted Man

I was given a proof copy of this book at work, I am the resident geek after all, and because free stuff is free stuff I started to read. I had very low expectations, apart from the Blade Itself (reviewed below) I've become increasingly discontent with fantasy novels. I expected this either to be the kind of generic fantasy in which the author ticks off a list of cliches - obscure hero, wise mentor, vestigial empire - or one of the new breed of 'oh look how cynical I am' anti-Tolkeins where the same cliches are ticked off only this time upside down.

Instead the world building was startlingly fresh and original and the characterisations had that quality that all good writing aspires to - they felt 'true'. Not realistic you understand since human beings are almost never realistic in real life but true.

I'm going to pay the author the greatest compliment I know - I'm going to buy the second volume with my own money.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Play More Dungeons and Dragons

Once your youth has passed you by there is a tendency to look back at the things you did with a mixture of awe and incredulity. One thing that has struck me recently is how much time I spent bored out of my skull doing stuff I didn't really enjoy in the vain hope that someone would get off with me. So if you're aged 17-21 and slightly geeky listen carefully...

Play more Dungeons and Dragons, or go fishing, or get involved in cosplay or join a Carnival Krewe or something that you want to do. Don't spend your time in nightclubs listening to music you don't like very much, damaging your hearing and utterly failing to get off with someone nice. It doesn't matter how many hours of nightclubbing you do, if they don't fancy you, they don't fancy you.

It's good to socialise but utter boredom is nature's way of telling you that you're not having a good time.

Sunday 31 August 2008

Burn Notice

I was watching Burn Notice when I realised that the format was familiar, not familiar as in it plays with tropes established from classic spy fiction but familiar like something I'd just finished watching moments before. Burn Notice is Men In Trees with guns. Watch both pilots back to back and see if I'm wrong.

Friday 22 August 2008

Down And Safe

BBC7 is broadcasting the following on Monday.

Down and Safe - A Celebration of Blake's 7
Mon 25 Aug, 20:00 - 23:00 180 mins
One ship. Seven freedom fighters. Some tetchy computers. Intrigued? The BBC 7 bank holiday rebellion starts with the history and rebirth of a sci-fi classic. Loyal fan Mitch Benn presents.
Featuring the episodes: The Syndeton Experiment (10/04/1999), Liberator (2007) and When Vila Met Gan (2008).
The last item on that list are written by yours truly. Now I know two of you already knew this but I thought the other one might be interested.

Thursday 3 July 2008

Lawrence Miles - Again

And this is why I don't want him to stop posting...

Top marks for the Judoon's use of the phrase "cold case", though. This obviously presents us with the potential for a Judoon spin-off in the style of Waking the Dead, starring Trevor Eve as a tough, uncompromising space-rhino with relationship issues.
You know, that could work...

Monday 23 June 2008

Lawrence Miles

I expected better of Lawrence Miles I really did. I've enjoyed his blog, iconoclasty is always exciting and Lawrence writes a mean polemic in a fluid style that puts alot of professional pundits to shame. That I disagreed with just about everything he says is immaterial - he was a joy to read and always thought provoking - and now? Now he's just provoking.

Lawrence makes the classic mistake of interpreting other people's work entirely within the context of his own obsessions. The logic behind Genius Loci was perfectly simple - the Daleks were originally conceived as, and have continued to be, an explicit metaphor for Nazism. Therefore the war that forms the background Bernice's early life (a war started by card carrying communist Malcomn Hulke no less) is a metaphor for World War II. Now I believe WW2 was a 'righteous war' despite the horrible ambivalence of many of the things were done in the name of victory and this coloured the way the war was portrayed in the book.

Now Lawrence can believe that I got neocon cooties from my brother if he likes but until he accepts that people can do things for reasons outside his personal frame of reference his insight will continue to be limited.

The Strange Attraction of Willesden Junction

Recently, for a variety of reasons, I have spent some time waiting for a connecting train at Willesden Junction and because of the way my mind works the place has begun to seep its way into my writing.

Physically I'm fascinated by the multilayered interconnectivity of the place. I make my change at the 'upper station' which serves the London Overground (formerly Silverlink) lines. From my vantage point I can look over a landscape criss crossed with rail lines, roads, pedestrian walkways and canals. One railway line lies in a deep cut 10 meters lower than the canal that runs alongside - a road bridge and a viaduct cross both.

But it is the psychogeographical aspects of the junction that intrigue me most. I go there only to change trains, I've never left the station and so I have no true sense of where the Junction lies geographically. Given the amount of time that I've spent there it seems remarkable that you could drop me 200 meters away and I'd be totally lost.

This got me thinking - what if the junction were adrift in limbo, what if the canals connected to those of Ancient Mars, the railways to stations in other planets or epochs...

This version of the junction has begun to form in my imagination now, a junction between realities, staffed by a small community of people who, unlike me, never travel onwards from the junction, a society of the lost.

I have no idea whether these strange musings will ever become anything more than some sketch maps and an idle day dream on platform 4 but if they do I wanted both of you to hear about them first.

Thursday 19 June 2008


To Nurg (verb): to make an automatic negative statement in response to a previous statement which involves no thought whatsoever on behalf of the speaker. For example: in response to 'weather turned out nice today' the reply 'Bound to rain later' is a nurg not just because it is a negative response but because no thought was expended in formulating it.

It is possible for a nurg to be made in response to another nurg and so on leading to conversations that consist entirely of nurging - a nurgue (pronounced nurg-way). Indeed amongst professional northerners resident in London the nurgue is the dominant conversational form (see bhliming).

Tuesday 17 June 2008

The Blade Itself

I really like this book. Joe Abercrombie has taken the standard fantasy tropes, young heroes, wise wizards, bold barbarians and distressed damsels and twisted them into the kind of hyperdimensional pretzel shapes that quantum physicists use to describe string theory. I haven't enjoyed a book by an author I didn't know this much since the golden age of science fiction (aka when I was 12 years old).

What I like most about it is that while Abercrombie is going for seriously grim (ala Perdido Street Station) there exists within his work a rich vein of optimism and hope. While an iron determination to stick to the 'life is shit' zeitgeist keeps the plot spirally down to its nihilist conclusion Abercrombie's intent is undermined by his pesky faith in human nature.

The result is a wonderful tension between hope and despair that gripped me all the way to the end of the third volume.

Did I mention that the most sympathetic character is a professional torturer, and I don't mean he's the DESIGNATED HERO I mean genuinely sympathetic. Got to love a book like that. So I want both of you to go out and buy it right away.

Monday 16 June 2008

When Vila Met Gan

Just a quick note to let both of you know that my Blake's 7 audio prequel 'When Vila Met Gan' is now available from some good retailers or via the B7media website. I've finished writing the Avon prequel and I'm working on the last episode of the second trilogy.

In related news; Simon the Strange and James the Green have both finished their prequels - so there's plenty of B7 goodness being squeezed down the narrow pipe of production. Andrew the Happy is even now rounding up the usual suspects and writing budget sheets.

Sunday 27 April 2008

When Ben met Micheal

Just a note to let the two of you know that 'When Vila Met Gan' my latest contribution to the Blake's 7 canon has been recorded and is now in post production.

The recording session was especially fun for me because not only is Gan being played by my brother Owen but I got to meet Micheal Keating as well - cool.

I'm currently finishing up another prequel, this time centered around Kerr Avon, and other talented writers have either written, or are scheduled to write, stories about Jenna, Cally and Travis.

Which of us gets to write the Servalan story has yet to be decided - presumably by single combat.

Sunday 20 April 2008

Conspiracy Theories

The beauty of conspiracy theories is that it's so easy to invent one. To prove it here's one I prepared earlier.

What has Robert Mugabe got on Thabo Mbeki?
President Mbeki's attitude to Robert Mugabe has become increasingly bizarre. I can understand his desire to pursue 'quiet diplomacy' and not to be seen to be doing the bidding of the former colonial power. I can understand the ties that bind men who have faced a common cause and the well of gratitude that ZANU PF can draw upon with the ANC but really...

President Mbeki is now acting contrary to the interest of his nation, his party and the region as a whole. Assuming for a moment that he doesn't have a cunning plan why does he continue to give succor and support to a bloody handed regime like the one in the process of fixing elections right now?

The only plausible explanation is that Robert Mugabe knows something about Thabo Mbeki that the President of South Africa doesn't want anyone else to know. I suspect it dates back to Mbeki's time in Zambia. It can't be a sex scandal, I doubt that Mbeki would warp South Africa's regional policy over an ancient indiscretion, it must be something terrible, something that would not just destroy his career, he is wise enough to know that power is fleeting, but also his reputation.

Working for the KGB wouldn't cut it, the cold war is old news and anyway that would fall under the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' get out clause. I doubt it would be a massacre of civilians or some other atrocity committed during the war against apartheid - such things have too many witnesses, we'd at least have rumors by now.

No the only thing that Mbeki would literally do anything to keep secret, remembering that this is all baseless conjecture, would be proof that he collaborated and/or worked for BOSS during the struggle.

So there you go - one conspiracy theory served up piping hot - enjoy.

Thursday 14 February 2008

On the Occasion of Colin’s Funeral

They played the Doctor Who theme as they carried the coffin in
But the coffin was too small.
It should have been bigger, huger, vast
A super star destroyer technological terror
Thundering over our juvenile heads
It shouldn’t have been there at all.

There were too many of us too fit into the chapel
But there should have been more
There should have been thousands, an army
An honour guard of cybermen, a massed choir of daleks
We did our best
But we shouldn’t have been there at all.

They held the wake in the pub across from the station
I mostly stayed outside with smokers in the last of the sunlight
We told stories to stop ourselves from weeping
We had a chuckle but there should have been more
There should have been such laughter that they could have heard us back in London
But there wasn’t, because he wasn’t there.