Wednesday, 27 February 2013

In the Post



New books by two of my favourites have arrived!

A COTTAGE BY THE SEA by CAROLE MATTHEWS

BLURB: Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick since university. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time. Now in their thirties, Grace is always a bit disappointed about how little time they get to spend together, so when Ella invites them all to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change in pace will help her reconnect with her husband, Harry. Unfortunately for her, Harry isn't as enamoured with Cwtch Cottage as she is. Then Flick arrives; loveable, bubbly Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah, and suddenly the week ahead looks as though it may be even more confusing for all the residents of Cwtch Cottage.




DEAR THING by JULIE COHEN

BLURB: Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy facade, they've been desperately trying - and failing - to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire's ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben's best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them. Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She's already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben's child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she's kept hidden for a very long time: Ben's the only man she's ever loved. Two mothers - and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Doctor Who - Lady of Mercia trailer!

Big Finish have posted the trailer for my forthcoming Doctor Who audio and it's to be found on the pre-order page - here


Monday, 25 February 2013

Iris Wildthyme Series Four Announced!



Big Finish have just revealed details of the fourth series of Iris Wildthyme adventures on audio - as well as this splendid piece of art by Paul Hanley.

Here are the story details and authors:


Whatever Happened to Iris Wildthyme?  by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Iris is living the life she always dreamt of, swanning from one party to the next. From the swinging Sixties to the roaring Twenties to Freddie Mercury’s 40th birthday bash via Ancient Rome, Iris has become the ultimate party girl. What more could she want? But who are those sinister ticking figures hiding in the mist? Why are partygoers snapping out of existence? And who is this Panda she keeps talking about?
Iris at the Oche by Mark Wright
Super, smashing, great! It’s the annual Pondside World Darts Championship. As down-at-heel pub darts player Ted Taylor steps up to the oche, Iris realises that the fate of the entire universe depends on the result of this one game of arrows. What are the calculations streaming through Ted’s mind, why are the bullish Hankians determined to drag a Kent Country Club into a temporal rift and will Panda ever get to enjoy his chicken-in-a-basket in peace? Game on!
A Lift In Time by David Bryher
Ever get a tune stuck in your head? Annoying, isn’t it? Especially when it transforms you into a mindless, murderous zombie. After years of righting wrongs and wronging rights, is the fat lady about to sing for Iris Wildthyme? As Panda becomes the next big thing and the bus is stolen by an insane artificial intelligence, Iris’s future finally catches up with her. Ding ding, going down…
As a special treat, anyone who pre-orders Series Four of Iris Wildthyme will also receive a free ebook featuring four short stories from Obverse Books’ Iris Wildthymeshort story collections. The Further Adventures of Iris Wildthyme includes Unhappy Medium by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, The Dreadful Flap by Paul Magrs, First Meeting by Stuart Douglas and Iris Wildthyme and the Unholy Ghost by Ian Potter. Pre-order today and receive the ebook when it is published in early March.
You can pre-order the boxset here!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Cover Reveal!

www.Bigfinish.com have just revealed the cover of my Fifth Doctor story they're releasing in May.




Synopsis

The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa to the University of Frodsham, close to where the warrior queen Æthelfrid fought a desperate and bloody rearguard action against the savage Danes. Over a thousand years later, in 1983, battle is still being raged, with student activists taking on savage funding cuts… and disrupting a conference about Æthelfrid convened by history professor John Bleak.
Meanwhile, over in the Physics Department, Dr Philippa Stone is working night and day on a top-secret project – but can her theoretical time machine really be the solution to the university's problems?
Present and past are about to collide – and the results, as the TARDIS crew is about to discover, will be far from academic!
Written By: Paul Magrs
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Mark Strickson (Turlough),Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Anthony Howell (Professor John Bleak), Abigail Thaw (Dr Philippa Stone), Rachel Atkins (Queen Æthelfrid), Catherine Grose (Princess Ælfwynn), Kieran Bew (Arthur Kettleson), Stephen Critchlow (Earl of Wessex)

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Books I was too old for, first time round...

did anyone ever read Nicholas Fisk?  when i was a kid i remember reading 'Space Hostages', 'Robot Revolt', 'Grinny' and 'Trillions' - taking them out of Newton Aycliffe library. They seemed just *enough* like the Doctor Who books I'd run out of. Now i'm catching up with a Fisk that came out after I'd passed that age (the first time) - 'On the Flip Side', and it's just wonderful.


At first it's about a girl, Lettice, who can speak to her pets - and then, very quickly, it turns into a novel of impending global catastrophe. It turns out that the animals are all being menaced by... giant, semi-transparent, stripy Blobs. Doctor Kalabza - a wildly eccentric TV personality - is one of the first to believe Lettice's ideas - landing his helicopter in her garden and inviting her onto TV to tell the world about what's really going on.

It's written so beautifully - and, though my description has made it sound ridiculous - it's carried out with utter seriousness. The scenes with Lettice talking to her dog and other animals are actually very touching - filled with her compassion for them, and her sense of the limits of their perceptions.

Another YA author I have been completely bowled over by this year so far is Betsy Byars. Someone i never read when i was young - simply because i wouldn't have been allowed to take 'girls' books' out of the library! She's a wonderful writer. Somehow her language, her sentences - the twists that her characters' thoughts take - they are extremely accurate. They're so *true.* Recently I've read The Cartoonist, The TV Kid and The Midnight Fox - the last of which was my favourite, and one I know I'll go back to. Yesterday I was delighted to find that the majority of her work was published on Kindle - just last week! (A little bit pricily, compared with most kindle books - but never mind.)


Friday, 15 February 2013

What I've Been Watching...



What have I been watching this week..?

'Nashville' started well last week, i thought. Just cheesy enough - with lots of proper potential there characterwise. Enough to keep me for a few weeks, anyway. It hit the glitzy-sleaze button for me in a way the reborn Dallas *didn't* quite. I'm still loving 'The Hotel' on Sunday nights, though that's hurtling towards a final episode - and disaster, it seems. And the second part of 'People Like Us' last night built upon the brilliance of the first.

A lot of what I've watched this week has been vintage. I have been watching and thinking about 80s kids' anthology show, 'Dramarama'. Network publish a first double volume and a set of 'Spooky'-themed episodes - and mostly they're terribly good. There's a haunted house episode by Alan Garner easily the equal of anything else he ever did for TV, and better than most supposedly spooky tv shows.

I've been watching and rewatching Anthony Newley in 'Gurney Slade' - the very glossy black and white ATV series from the early 60s. What a show that was! Sophisticated and crazy - fourth-wall-breaking and absurd. Silly for the sake of it - and resembling nothing so much as arthouse european cinema crossed with every kind of TV genre you can think of. It's a stunning show - and with each viewing it rises in my estimation. It's a sit-com version of The Prisoner - made before we knew what the Prisoner was - or even what a sit-com was. Newley's is a beguiling performance throughout - equal parts Camus to Tony Hancock - a kind of glum, twinkling existential gnome.


 One of my favourite documentaries this week was a BBC 4 Arena from 2008 about Ken Dodd. A pasty-faced, glowering, manically-intent octogenarian - still giving hundreds of live performances every year, on the same circuit of theatres he's played since the 1950s - every show going on beyond midnight - and every show bringing the house down. He is an amazing force and this was a very reverential piece - presenting wonderful archive footage - especially from 1965, when he must have felt he ruled the world. ('They were outside the Palladium shouting 'We want Doddy!' the day that Liverpool won the Cup!') I loved seeing him being interviewed alongside the Beatles and leaving Lennon (!) lost for words.

Also great on BBC 4 this week - the 90 minute essay on 'When Albums Ruled the World'. Like many BBC 4 docs it was a perfumed love letter - to crackling, oily vinyl on turntables and the decade or more when the long-playing concept album became an artform in itself. Placing Dylan firmly at the start of the story and taking us through the Beatles, prog-rock, Glam and into punk - this was a fantastic piece of TV. Maybe too heavy a concentration on the excesses of the prog-rock fellas (if i hear another word from the very spoiled rich boys of post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd this week i shall scream.) i loved hearing about Marvin Gaye proving his point with Motown and breaking out of the limits of the three minute pop song. We needed more on Bowie's adventures with the form, of course. This really should have been a series.



Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Guest Post - Cody Quijano-Schell and Fester Cat!



UNGOW! Hello! Fester Cat here, taking control of Paul’s blog. I often attempt to reach the keyboard, but he always interprets these as opportunities to take adorable photographs of the two of us.  I humour him, but I have always had an urge to do some investigative journalism. He’s off watching some episodes of Crossroads at the moment, so today I am interviewing author Cody Quijano-Schell. (I fully realize this is a piece of fluff journalism, but I have to get my paw in the door somehow)
Fester: So Cody, you have been involved with Obverse Books since its inception?
Cody QS: Yeah, Obverse published my first short story. I’ve since written other Iris stories for Obverse, a Bernice Summerfield story for Big Finish and have a Dark Shadows audio script in the works called “The Flip Side” (for Big Finish as well).
Fester: Tell meow more about your current project.


Cody QS:  My Iris Wildthyme story in the very first Obverse Iris collection (“The Celestial Omnibus”) served as a backdoor pilot for this current endeavor.  The novella series is called “The Periodic Adventures of Senor 105” and is written by myself and others. The concept is roughly based on the tradition of the surreal Mexican Masked Wrestler films and comic books of the 60’s. Senor 105 is a semi-retired luchador turned scientist who obsessed with the Periodic Table of Elements.  His wrestling gimmick is that he has a different mask for each element. And since the series is set in 1970, he has only 105 masks instead of 118 or whatever. 
Fester: So the series is all about Mexican traditions?
Cody QS: No, not at all. It’s sci-fi/fantasy/spy/weirdness. There’s a whole cast of international characters. 105’s sidekick Sheila is from Paris, and he has associates from Canada, Japan, the United States, etc.   He has a Japanese friend named Mr. Tea who is obsessed with England. Then there’s Lori, a woman who aspires to be a Canadian Mountie.  Jorge Zumbido is a Mexico City nightclub owner and schmaltzy easy listening recording artist.  And more!  The series has an international scope, but tends to avoid adventures taking place in England.
Fester: What’s wrong with England?
Cody QS: From 105’s perspective, nothing interesting ever happens in England - No alien incursions or world-threatening crises.  What he doesn’t realize is that there’s someone else who is taking care of all of those.
Fester: Ungow!  Who do you mean?
Panda: He obviously is referring to ME!
Cody: Among others.
Fester: Panda, please just hold the microphone quietly. You are neither interviewer nor interviewee.
Panda: Bah!
Cody: Here Panda, you can sit on my knee.  There. Later, I’ll hold the microphone when he interviews you, okay?
Panda: You’re patronizing me, but that’s fine. I’m only here because I want to know if you talk about me. There’s only one thing worse than being talked about and…
Fester: UNGOW!!!  Let’s get back on track. Cody, you were talking about the Periodic Adventures… I take it the title is a play on words that they’re released periodically? Like a comic book?
Cody QS: Yes, the Periodic Adventures are released as e-books, usually every other month, but we also plan to collect them in special-edition printed omnibuses, 3 or 4 novellas in one! The spines, when lined up, will resemble the Periodic Table. Collect them all!



Fester: So with an ocean of ebooks and genre fiction out there, why should my readers be interested in your series?
Cody QS: I think the PA’s have a unique viewpoint and the authors are given a lot of room to put their own creativity into their novellas. There is also a deliberate effort made to use settings and unique cultural viewpoints. For example, the international settings/explorations of other countries, but also many of the stories have supernatural or fantasy elements to it, which is not as common in a world of science fiction. Senor 105 is a man of science, but he’s seen evidence of unearthly goings-ons.
The most recent release is called “Green Eyed and Grim” by Selina Lock and features a rogue Grim Reaper.
Fester: So potentially, you’re as likely to see a real werewolf as you are to see aliens who look like werewolves?
Cody QS: Exactly. And the point is: in a world of fiction, calling something alien is often just a gobbledybook technobabble explanation of why something is “scientific” instead of “magic” and that can be rather boring.  The supernatural has mystery and intrigue. Occasionally using those kinds of elements in fiction doesn’t negate the ability to also write from a science-realism point of view in the same series.  It keeps the mix fresh.
Fester: But there –are- aliens in the Periodic Adventures of Senor 105?
Cody QS: Oh yes. In fact, 105’s sidekick Sheila is a mass of intelligent Helium atoms. She’s of a race called the Sentients, one of the founding families from the time of the Big Bang. And she’s searching for her family from whom she’s been separated. We get hints here and there about them, and we will eventually find out what happened to them, and who the Aurorals are.  Other aliens mentioned so far are the Modulars, the Binaries, the Wandering Ones…
Fester: The Clockworks?


Cody QS: Yes, when 105 crosses over with Iris, they’ve been mentioned. But generally, 105’s universe is his universe, and hers is hers.  They meet up occasionally.
Fester: Oooohhh?
Cody QS: They’re just friends.  I think.
Panda: Definitely!!! Iris would never get herself involved with a such a musclebound moron, even if he is a world-class scientist and inventor!  So what if he can also play the piano!  Besides, I think it would break her mother’s heart if she didn’t marry a doctor, in fact….
Fester: HISSSSS!  You are ruining my interview!
Cody QS: It’s okay, really.  But it is true that Iris is the only person (that we know of) who has seen Senor 105’s face without his mask. Well… there was a Venusian, but they kept all but one of their five eyes shut when they looked.
Fester: Is this one of the Venusians from Paul Leonard’s “Venusian Lullaby”?  Is Senor 105 a Doctor Who spinoff?
Cody QS: Oh no, he’s an Obverse Books original character, like the Manleigh Halt Irregulars or Theo Possible.  But I love Doctor Who books and Paul Leonard was kind enough to allow Blair Bidmead the use of his literary property in his Senor 105 novella “By the Time I Get to Venus”. 
Fester: What else has the series done, or plan to do?
Cody QS: There’s been a mysterious crater full of alien technology. The Chixhulub crater in Mexico is evidence of the impact that killed the dinosaurs. In the 105 universe, this is the reason there’s so many strange goings-ons in his country.  Other stories have been about strange towns, beings who are the personification of the planets of the solar system, Venusian martial arts, and a Christmas story.  Coming up we have stories with visitors from the future, living tattoos, a globe-hopping adventure with a submarine, and a story from Philip Purser-Hallard featuring his characters named Wood & Stone who have been hinted at for years…
Fester: Well I think Crossroads is over… we should probably sneak out of here now.  But remind us where you can buy the Periodic Adventures of Senor 105?
Cody QS: At www.senor105.co.uk or www.manleighbooks.co.uk  Thank you Fester!
Fester: My pleasure. This is Fester Cat, signing out and headed to take a nap. UNGOW!!
---------------------------------------------------------------
Also visit:
follow Cody on twitter at: @CodyQS
follow Señor 105 on twitter at: @Senor105



Monday, 11 February 2013

Must Read Monday - Dune 4, Beaches 2


 Here's an update about my current reading pile... and it all seems to be about series at the moment! I'm in the middle of a couple of books - one real, battered paperback and one spanking new ebook (which seems to be the way it has to go - so the ipad can recharge itself. All those glorious illuminated pages tend to wear it out, poor thing.)

I'm reading Iris Rainer Dart's sequel to the glorious Beaches - a book that's been waiting for a while. Judgement's still out on this one. I'm still not sure whether it needed a sequel at all - but i do love the way IRD writes. It's one of those novels that feels like a really good gossip with a friend. Something that people *think* is so easy to write... and isn't anything of the kind.


My virtual read is the first in Michael Scott's series about The Immortal Nicholas Flamel and his centuries-long battle with his one-time appentice Dr Dee - involving more ancient gods and immortal elementals than you can shake a stick at. Its updating of myths and legends and the involvement of two 'modern kids' in contemporary San Francisco all feels a bit like stuff we've seen before (Eoin Colfer, Neil Gaiman, etc), but there's something very enjoyable about Scott's writing. A leanness and zippiness that reminds me a lot of the early Doctor Who books. Which, perhaps, is no coincidence, since Scott is writing this month's Puffin novella about Doctor Who. Perhaps a fan of Targets, then? The announcement of his Doctor Who story made me seek out his series, and I'm glad I did, and will probably go on to read the whole lot.

I'm enjoying the Puffin series so far, by the way. I thought Colfer's 'Big Hand for the Doctor' was enjoyably daft - a bit like a story from the old World Distributors' DrWho annuals in the old days. It had very little to do with the series as we know it - but i really didn't mind. I quite like the spectacle of Hartnell's irascible old fogey scrambling about on rooftops and being a bit swashbuckly... However, these Puffin things are much, much too short. Perhaps they could have invested in fewer authors than 11 and dragged more actual words out of them..?


I brought in a heap of vintage paperbacks from the summer house, and thought about series I'd like to resume. With Piers Anthony's Xanth I'm still only at book 2... and i feel like anything that combines humour with fantasy is something I need to know about. And this particular 1960s copy of Dune 4 has been waiting for me for a very long time. I read the first trilogy when i was 15, and a school prefect - reading indoors on long, rainy lunchtimes in the mid-eighties. And I've not really been back to Dune since... I wonder how I'll cope..? I hope I don't find it too solemn and mystifying...


Friday, 8 February 2013

Shenanigans now in stock!



SHENANIGANS! is an anthology of brilliant short fiction by a group of wonderful writers.

It's now in stock and available from www.obversebooks.co.uk

Do please order it and support this great Small Press.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Two fab documentaries this week


EYES DOWN! 
Jeremy taped this off BBC 4 for me - knowing i'd love it. One of their documentaries that comes across *a bit* like an undergraduate essay with illustrative archive footage... but lovable for all of that. This maybe relied on one or two of its interviewee's too heavily (that bingo moghul fella, whoever he was!) and was at its most charming when it interviewed current bingo addicts - the extremely old and the new, surprising, younger generation. I liked the fact that it was so strong on exposing the horridly sniffy middle class derision of the 1960s bingo explosion - 'cretinous' etc. I also liked how it was keen to talk about the history of working class entertainment and its endlessly negative portrayal by the media / intelligentsia / etc. There were even some academics on show, talking sense and not talking down. All with the dulcet tones of Sarah Lancashire narrating - and some really smashing vintage footage from Butlins and the hallowed halls of Meccas and hollowed-out cinemas up and down the land. 

It made me remember how central and sacred bingo was to all of my grandparents. Do catch this if they show it again.


PEOPLE LIKE US.
BBC 3 last night had their first episode of a new docu-soap shot last summer here in Manchester, focusing on a small community in a rough corner of Harperhay. The increasingly-snotty and patronising Guardian warned us not to go into it expecting just another 'look at the funny chavs' show... because this one has real heart. And that's very true - but i don't need the Guardian to tell me that, thanks.

This is a beautifully made show. I don't know if we'll follow the same scattered groups of characters through all the remaining episodes, but i hope so. Rather like a Russell T Davies drama - not only in its setting - but in how it begins with very bold, almost vulgar strokes of colour to denote its characters, and then fills in the glorious, revealing details. It almost seems like Channel 5 crap when it picks out its subjects at first - the budding drag queen behind the newsagents counter; the teen girls off to Magalouf; the twenty something alkie living with his 50 something transsex girlfriend; the ignorant shagger from the market place stringing his dopey girlfriend along...  But then, in the telling, something very magical happens. The documentary makers are actually *listening* - and what they get from these people is just gold. It reminded me at its best points very much of Paul Watkins' The Family from 1974, and his subsequent work. It felt very endebted to his style of attentiveness.

The girl from the Wishy-Washy laundrette is thinking about her impending holiday in 'Shagalouf' and she muses over whether she'll get a tan. 'I don't even know if i can get a tan.' And the point isn't underlined - we just see her staying indoors, with the broken washers and dryers, waiting for the sun.

It's all heart-breaking stuff. Every minute of it. The woman with her umpteen pets, stroking lizards to sleep, telling us how she's always looked after damaged animals - as her boyfriend queasily irons his t-shirt for going down the shop to buy more cider. It's strong stuff, in a surprisingly quiet way.



Oh! here's the poster for something Jeremy's been very much involved in during recent weeks. They're trying to close down our library and swimming baths here in Levenshulme. This sucks. So - there are readings and all sorts going on this weekend at the library. If you're near - come and support!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

This Week's Viewing...



Did I tell you I cancelled Love film?  I've subscribed to that since before it was even called Love film - when it was just Amazon sending things out in orange envelopes. Anyway, very nice woman on the phone, asking why I wanted to cancel. And I found myself saying, 'Because we've got *loads* of stuff already in the house to catch up with watching.'

And that's quite true. Boxsets and stuff everywhere. Series that I'm stuck in the middle of, and films that  in some cases haven't been watched once yet.

TV watching is very important round here. Most often it's vintage stuff - i feel like I'm still catching up with episodes from decades ago. But I like to have a good mix - picking up contemporary shows and hoping to have new favourites.

I take watching tv and films as seriously as reading fiction and I always have. It's all important material to be immersed in, when you want to write... Lots of good telly and film is just as important as lots of good books and lots of walks. (Actually, lots of bad telly and bad books are important too - but that's another discussion!)

Here's this week's viewing so far...

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS!
Jeremy picked up the Blu-Ray in Blockbusters' sale, and it's been so many years since I saw this. Funny, how you appreciate different things as time goes by. This time it had none of the ominousness and dread that I associate with early viewings (and even from when i read the marvel comic strip adaptation in 1978!) I realised how sketchy the lead characters really are. We know nothing about them at all, really.

Terri Garr stands out as a character that gets badly served - and she's wonderful in every scene she has. There's a brilliant bit where she's trying to cope with the Dreyfuss's character's escalating madness and she just winds up losing her temper. It's the realest thing in this film that just seems... a bit dopey and sentimental now, really.

We clicked on the Special Edition to see again the extra bits aboard the mother ship that were all the rage at one point. They were even skimpier than i remembered. What a swizz that must have been! Dreyfuss steps into a shopping mall and looks amazed...

SOUTH PARK
A show i haven't watched for years. It's been going on the whole time and I thought of myself as someone who didn't find it funny anymore. Like i feel about Family Guy - or Robin Williams. I can see other people rolling about - but i just don't get it. But Viva are showing recent episodes and i happened to watch and just loved them - especially the one about the undercover cop becoming a tranny hooker. It can still make me gasp with surprise and shock. Which is always a good thing. I had to order a 'best of' compilation at once - though, so far, the best of the first ten years isn't as good as what i'm watching from recent times...

FOUR IN A BED
This is my deliciously guilty pleasure of the moment - and the Reality Show that currently has my heart. These are all More4 repeats, I believe - and I hoover up the Sunday marathon with huge enjoyment. Anything that can bring out the subtle variations of snobbery, silliness, sniffiness and sheer bad behaviour of Britons like this just makes me howl. 'Come Dine With Me' had the knack for a while, as did 'Coach Trip' and 'Wife Swap' - but they lose it when they become successful and become too self-conscious, attracting show-offs as guests. But the current repeats of this B&B show are just heaven.


THE HOTEL
Actually, this is better. Sunday night's C4 reality show - more of a fly-on-the-wall drama, in its second season. The focus is mostly on the staff and they're wonderful characters - though at times their dramas and haplessness feels a little directed and set-up (as it did in this sunday's - with the resignation of events manager, Christian) But the vignettes about the guests are often heart-breaking. This week's son-on-a-pilgrimage to the home of his dead father was quietly touching in a very unshowy way.

This is a beautifully made programme. It's shown opposite ITV's flashy, stupid Mr Selfridge (i stuck with this drama for three episodes - and that was enough. Sorry, Andrew Davies.) The juxtaposition of the two sums up everything I feel about tv at the moment. The glitzy and hollow and middlebrow masquerading as quality drama, as 'masterpiece theatre' - as opposed to something that looks tacky and exploitative on the surface having terrific heart and a wonderful sense of real, vital narrative going on.



MRS BROWN'S BOYS. Ended wonderfully - a couple of cracking last couple of episodes. The gay wedding polemical stuff in the finale was brilliantly timed, sincere - with just a touch of righteous ire (i loved her chucking the priest out on his ear). After a couple of very dodgy Christmas episodes and a shaky start to season 3 - i loved this run of Mrs Brown. (I'm still in two minds about the recently-ended Miranda season 3, which double-billed with it. Brilliant moments mixed with over-indulgent bollocks, i thought.)

DOCTOR WHO - THE HAPPINESS PATROL. I always wait till the DVDs come down in price, and so i've only just bought the ACE ADVENTURES boxset, which came out last year. I only really buy the DrWhos when they're ones I particularly like. And I *love* Dragonfire (still feels christmassy to me!) and the Happiness Patrol. Watching episode One I'm beguiled all over again by the ambition and wit of Doctor Who in the final years of the 80s. The Kandyman's entrance into this story is as shocking as any revelation the show ever had - from the daleks' first appearance onwards. Sheila Hancock is marvellous - and there are some great guest actor turns. McCoy's diction grates, just as it always did, and there's an over-earnestness about the whole thing at times that alternately annoys and charms - just as it always did.

One of the most boring received opinions on the planet is that DrWho went downhill after 1980. Never believe anyone who tells you this. It's like the bores who say Bowie never recorded anything worthwhile after Scary Monsters. People need to be sat down and made to watch some of the 80s Who highlights - and Happiness Patrol is one of them. (I can supply a list of the rest!)




ROSEANNE. I had a little Roseanne Barr marathon last night - after reading a couple of interesting re-evaluations  online in recent days. My family loved this show at the time. I was at college - without tv! - and it's something i remember watching, with pizza, on weekend trips home. Somehow it's slipped down in my estimation over the years - perhaps because of that disastrous stuff near the end - and that awful AbFab crossover episode. But last night I watched four episodes from Season Two - when the show still knew what it was about. Sisters fighting because a man's come between them. Ambulance-chasing lawsuits. And, in an episode I remember very well, Roseanne recalling her ambition to become a writer. It's a very simple episode in a way - about the need for time and space to get the writing done - and the trying to remember what it was you wanted to say, anyway... It's a smashing piece of tv, i think.

So - that's been the viewing this week - so far!

How about you? Are you watching anything I should know about?

Monday, 4 February 2013

Reviews for Vince Cosmos



I thought I'd do a round-up of some of the reviews 'VINCE COSMOS - GLAM ROCK DETECTIVE' has been getting from various blogs, websites and the sci-fi press...

Starburst magazine covers it here and Sci-fi Bulletin does so here, and Kasterborous here. The Medium is Not Enough writes here

Daniel Tessier has just written about it on his blog, as have the Fiction StrokerGirlycomicCavan Scottfrom a story by, a pile of leaves and George Mann.

I'll add more if and when they come in!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Introducing Poppy Munday!





Poppy Munday was going to be new in town.

Sunday morning in South Shields, her parents waved her off at daybreak and now it was Monday afternoon. Getting to London took as long as it took to fly to Australia, probably. All the way down she looked with interest out of the window and saw cars, cars, cars and motorways and cars and cars and the occasional transport services café.

She threw up just once, very discreetly, into a Woolworths plastic bag. Her mam worked in Woollies and had popped a quarter pound of pic-n-mix in Poppy’s packed lunch, and that had been her undoing. She threw up on her copy of Jackie, her much-loved paperback of Valley of the Dolls, and her partially-knitted flame red scarf, which would wash, she hoped.

That’s if the new flat even had a washing machine. She hadn’t asked her cousin Trish about that. In fact, she’d asked Trish very little about this flat-share business. She was just glad there was room for her and she was sure that, when she arrived down South and in The Smoke, her whole life would begin. Things would be easy after that.

Her parents were very fretful about the whole thing. Two girls barely out of their teens, living in a flat in the filthy city. Poppy imagined she could hear them fretting at her back, several hundred miles up the motorway.

In the transport services toilets she sat with her bag of vomity belongings and sobbed. Then she looked at her watch. Oh hell. She’d be late getting back on the coach. The driver had said he wouldn’t hang about for stragglers.

She dove into the shop on her way back outside. A big bag of Opal Fruits seemed like a good idea, as did a fresh magazine and – she stopped in her tracks at the magazine rack – a copy of The Vincent Cosmos Holiday Special. It was a poster magazine she hadn’t even seen before. Must be brand new out. Ridiculous, she knew, but Poppy felt herself swaying on the spot at the face looking out from the glossy cover.

That pale, thoughtful face. Those dreamy eyes looking out of the mag and somehow straight through her, into vistas that were breath-taking and most likely intergalactic. Without even thinking, Poppy yanked up the mag and emptied onto the counter the rest of her spending money for the journey. She had to have it, just like she had to have everything with Vince Cosmos’s face on it, or his name, or the sound of his voice. She had even bought the special Vince Cosmos toothpaste that was guaranteed to give you a smile as bright as Venus, which was the planet the rock star sang about hailing from.

Back on the coach, Poppy hardly noticed the funny looks from fellow travellers, objecting to the sickly smell of her hand luggage. She barely registered the fact that there were other passengers at all. Or that they were trundling on the motorway once more, on the last fifty miles to her destination. Around her the grimy city was making itself evident, as the buildings reared up ever higher and the roads became more congested, tangling and looping around each other.

Poppy was lost in dreams of Vince Cosmos as she flipped through her new mag. Brand new photos of the alien superstar. From a photo shoot in a lime green catsuit. In a futuristic tie and tails in some sheeny silver material. Then more candid shots before and after his recent, legendary performance at the Astoria.

She could play his wonderful music to herself inside her head. It was something she frequently did, to drown out the world around her when it seemed too pressing. It was as if she carried all of those recordings with her, pressed and stacked inside her mind, like she was a living juke box, devoted solely to Vince Cosmos. The greatest rocker on planet Earth. The greatest Glam Rocker the world would ever know.

She blocked out the world right now. Just when she should be paying attention to the landmarks and all the famous bits of the capital city as her coach lurched and shunted into the traffic. Instead she was closing her eyes and imagining herself brave enough to wear make-up like Vince’s. The purple eye shadow and black lipstick. The silver moons and golden stars. The fuschia slash of cheekbones.

Perhaps now in London she could branch out and make herself up like that. Get herself a Vince-styled haircut in some fabulous salon. Spend her first wages on some amazing clothes. She could make herself over into someone new and groovier. And when she went home again, on a visit, they’d all gasp and be amazed at the change in her. She’d have become so metropolitan, so cosmopolitan. 

No, more than cosmopolitan. Cosmic. 

Poppy Munday would become cosmic.

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(PIC: Lauren Kellegher, who plays Poppy Munday in VINCE COSMOS: GLAM ROCK DETECTIVE from www.bafflegab.co.uk)