Make / Let

I’m beginning to see a theme emerging in the various discussions taking place about the future – specifically, the changing nature of the interaction between individuals and organisations, be they commercial or social. Two TED talks I have watched in the last week both articulate the same thought, and bring the theme into sharp relief. Both are very worth your time. Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud A brilliant, funny, inspiring mashup of history, science and pedagogy. “It’s not about making learning happen, it’s about letting it happen” Amanda Palmer: The art of asking I backed her Kickstarter, and although I remain agnostic in some respects, her contribution to the conversation is invaluable. Plus, crucially, her album kicks ass. “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is how do we make people pay for music. What if we started asking, how do we let people pay for... read more

Toodle-pip 2012! Brace yourself, 2013!

So 2012 was a hell of a year for me, personally. I started the year two stone overweight, in financial freefall and actually pretty much depressed. I had no writing gigs lined up, was struggling to find any joy in my day job and generally felt like things were Not Going My Way. But did I wallow and fester in misery? Yes. Yes, I did. A bit. But not for long!* The start of 2013 finds me two stone lighter, black dog free, with a new day job, a new accountant and much smaller debts. I’m also a teetotal gym-bunny, which my younger self is finding deeply upsetting, but my 41 year old self is finding oddly satisfying. I would like to stress that this IN NO WAY constitutes any kind of mid-life crisis. Anybody suggesting such a thing will get a slap (from my now finely toned, oh so youthful arm, which, now I think about it, would probably look great draped around the shoulders of, say, a smouldering young secretary in the front seat of  a red ferrari, y’know, the kind that goes VROOOOM!) So aside from sorting myself out personally, what have I achieved on the writing front this year? Stuff I started AND finished I needed to get myself back into the routine of writing after taking 2011 off (except for a short story and some work on a computer game). Happily, in January Abaddon asked me to write a novella for them, and I used it to ease myself gently back into the swing of things. When it comes to completed projects I can... read more

UNIT: The Coup

In 2004 I made my acting debut for Big Finish. Well, I say ‘acting’ I was playing a news reader, so it was hardly Hamlet. I remember trying to be very naturalistic and being told by the director to make it a bit more ‘Day Today’, so I made it hammier and that got the thumbs up. I must have done something right, as I came back again in another play as the same news reader – only to get blown up! Anyway, it was a huge privilege to be in the same play as the late and much lamented Nicholas Courtney, who played Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who and its spin-offs for so many years. And you can hear the whole thing in the embed below courtesy of Big... read more

My next big thing

Damn it, that Guerrier chap tagged me in a writers Q&A meme and I’m bound to follow suit or my entrails will be forfeit to Lord Beelzebub and his horde of demonic kittenbats. (Also, it will help prevent me writing a 10,000 word screed on the unbelievable corporate fuckwittery that is the Hellblazer cancellation.) Since Guerrier, and Joseph Lidster before him, have gone off-piste I am going to do the same. I DO have a new novel in the works but I’m not willing to talk about it yet, so I’m going to talk about a new book I’m contributing a short story to. What is the title of your new book?  My story ‘Grit’ is appearing in A Town Called Pandemonium, which comes out at the end of the month. Where did the idea come from for the book? A commission. Anne Perry and Jared Shurin asked me if I wanted to come play in their shared universe along with nine other authors, and I said yes please. Oddly, they’d asked me to contribute a Dickens/London themed tale to a previous anthology, and as a Dickens fan and a London resident, I leapt at the chance and then… came up with nothing. Eventually I recused myself. They then said, how about a western? And I had a story within ten minutes, as if delivered by the ideas fairy. Odd how it happens sometimes. The germ of the idea was a man waking up naked in the main street of a frontier town. How did he get there and what will he do next? What genre does your book fall under?... read more

2012 – half-time report

I started this year with a long list of shit I needed to get done, some personal, some professional. The personal stuff has gone damn well, thanks for asking 🙂 On the professional front, I needed to get my hand back in to writing after a year off. I picked four projects and worked through them, finding my feet again. The first was the Target Hitler novella; the second was a short story for another Pandemonium anthology; the third is an audiobook script, which is nearly finished. I also got the Farscape re-watch blog running over at tor.com, which has been, and remains, a pleasure. There have been disappointments this year too, with one book turned down by a publisher, and an audio play falling through after a lot of effort due to unforeseen circumstances. But that’s all grist to the mill – there’s been far more positive than negative so far in 2012. The plan was to work through all this in six months – in fact it took seven – and then devote the second half of the year to bashing out the first draft of a new novel. I have three novels at the same level of development – three chapters and a synopsis. So I had to choose which one to pursue and then just sit down and get down to it. This is a change for me, in that I have no commission. My five and a half books have so far all been write-for-hire, and have been commissioned with a set delivery date and fee. This book, the first that I will retain... read more

Leave it Scott, just leave it!

Online conversation I nearly had today but didn’t quite, because, well, life’s too short. In fact, I spent years having variations of this conversation on Compuserve, Usenet, eGroups, Yahoogroups, Listserves et al. I achieved nothing, but somehow I’m still occasionally amazed by people who are still randomly either rude or stupid. Or both. I try very hard NOT to have this conversation on Twitter or Facebook but sometimes it requires enormous willpower. Friend: I really like this TV show. Me: I think the latest season of that TV show is the best. Friend of a friend: How can you say that the latest season was the best? It was dreadful. Me: Gosh, I guess I can say it because I have a different opinion to you. The clue was in the ‘I think’ bit, which indicated I was stating an opinion. Since you, however, omitted this clause I surmise that you are stating Absolute Truth. Which is a huge relief to me. I’ve always wondered where and how Absolute Truth is generated and now I know it’s IN YOUR BRAIN! Thanks. So now we’ve established that, some help please with a few things that have been REALLY bugging me – how should I vote? Who was the sexiest member of Abba? Which is better, Coke or Pepsi? I await The Truth with bated... read more

Doctor Who: The Anchorite’s Echo

In 2005 I was lucky enough to contribute a Doctor Who short story to a Christmas-themed anthology from Big Finish –  Short Trips: A History of Christmas , which was edited by Simon Guerrier.  It’s long out of print, and I certainly can’t charge for it, but I don’t think there’s any rule against me giving it away. So here is some free stuff – my first published short story, an adventure for the seventh Doctor and Ace. — I have measured out my penitence in Christmases. It was Christmas day when they bricked me up in my cell at the back of the church. The choir were making the most beautiful music. The congregation prayed for my good health and gave thanks for my sacrifice as the mason laid the bricks that sealed me in, leaving only a small window through which I could receive food and water. It was an honour to serve the people of this parish as their anchorite. I became part of the fabric of their church, fasting and praying for the safety of the community that had raised me. I was their talisman, their totem, their good luck charm. My offering served to insure the village from pestilence and famine and drought and war. As long as I remained in my cell, praising the Lord and begging his mercy, my charges in the world outside would remain safe. No calamity would befall them. Even now, so many years later, I still ask myself what it was about me that was not worthy…   ‘Thank you.’ ‘You are… welcome. Are you… are you an angel?’ ‘No.... read more

1990 – Season One

Some years ago, browsing through a second hand bookshop, I stumbled across a TV tie-in book for a show called 1990. I was instantly intrigued. A BBC drama starring Edward Woodward as Jim Kyle, heroic leader of a resistance movement in totalitarian Britain? How is it that I had never heard of this show? And how could I see it? Amazingly, for reasons long forgotten, I didn’t buy the book, but recently, after years of searching I finally got my hands on the series. Created by one of TVs great unsung heroes, Wilfred Greatorex, it ran on BBC2 for two season of eight episodes broadcast in 1977/8. But although 1990 was on at exactly the same time as Secret Army, a show with which it shares many similarities and themes and on which Greatorex was a creative consultant, it has aged far less well. The first problem is Gretorex’s opening two parter. It’s strong on character and ambience but frustratingly free of details. Who are the totalitarian rulers, how did they come to power, what are their objectives, how do they exert control? It’s only over the course of the first eight episodes that the details are, sparsely, pencilled in, and then it’s done so piecemeal, by different writers, that it’s hard to extract a definitive statement. But as the picture clears we are presented with a very sub-Orwell collection of oppressors. In the series’ fictional timeline the Unions have brought the country to a standstill. The economy has totally collapsed, and a strong arm, union-led left wing government has taken power. No one can work, buy food or be... read more