Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Unbearably Patronising BBC History of Science Fiction…

I know I shouldn’t have been disappointed by the BBC documentary about science fiction, Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction, presented by Dominic Sandbrook and broadcast recently on BBC2 here in Britain. I should have realised that it would be a glib overview of the genre for those millions of viewers whose knowledge of SF goes no further than Star Trek, Star Wars, and Dr Who; I should have known that it would be skewed towards the visual, concentrating on film and television. But I was disappointed by the programme: how it told me nothing I didn’t already know; how it was padded with clips from movies and TV programmes I’d seen a hundred times before. I was also disappointed by the talking heads they inserted between these clips. We’ve had a few big name SF authors saying their bit, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson and Kim Stanley Robinson… but they’re not on for long, and not allowed to say much of relevance before the hapless viewer is subjected to another out-of-context film clip. Then there are the other talking heads, John Landis and John Carpenter among others, who contribute nothing to the discussion and do so at tedious length. And – god help us – we’re even treated to the views of an actor who was inside a robot in a Star Wars film.

But why am I complaining? What did I expect from a programme about SF aired at 9.45 on a Saturday night?

Well, I had hoped for something along the lines of Alan Yentob’s excellent Imagine series mainly about writers and artists, which isn’t afraid to let its subjects speak, and which doesn’t patronise its viewers with a plethora of film clips.

But then we’re talking about SF here, aren’t we, which the BBC has always regarded as little more than throwaway entertainment for children.

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Jani2

I finished the second draft of Jani and the Great Pursuit last week. It came out at 104,500 words, which gives me a bit of leeway for cutting when I go through the ms again with a red pen before Christmas. Jani and the Greater Game was 96,500 words long, so if needs be I can cut around eight thousand words. It’s amazing what I will end up cutting, everything from minor things like ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ and ‘he nodded’, etc, to bigger things like paragraphs of description. At the moment, I don’t think I’ll be cutting entire scenes – but I’ve said that before at this stage and, in the cold light of day, come to realise that what I thought were vital episodes were only so much dead wood that could be excised to the betterment of the story. We’ll see.

And then? I have the third Telemass novella, Reunion on Alpha Reticuli II, to rewrite and submit to PS Publishing, hopefully before Christmas, and a short story that needs work. As for what I’ll be doing next year… At the moment, I don’t know (other than writing the fourth Telemass novella, as yet untitled). I do know what I’d like to work on: the third Langham and Dupré crime novel and the third Jani book, but neither has been commissioned yet (it all depends on the sales figures of the previous books in the series), so things are still up in the air, work-wise.

But before then it’s the Christmas holiday, which we’re spending with family down in Haworth, Yorkshire, a world away from work, the dog, and work on packing up here (Tyninghame, Dunbar) for the move twelve miles south to the village of Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, which should be happening towards the end of January.

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