Friday, December 24, 2004
I can't believe that I promised updates back at the start of December and nothing has happened since ... all I can say is that I am *still* suffering from this cold which flared up again last week - at least today, Christmas Eve, it seems to be finally getting better, though I still have a bit of a cough. Over the Christmas break I want to try and take stock of all the bits and pieces that need sorting, and hopefully I'll get a chance to post some thoughts here about random subjects. Until then, I'd like to wish my regular readers (if there are any :)) a very merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful new year.
Monday, November 29, 2004
Just a quick note ... I was going to post some comments on some WHO stuff here, but came down with a wicked cold at the weekend ... all sneezing, coughing, muzzy head stuffed with cotton and blocked ears ... not nice. So I'm dosed up to the eyeballs and slobbing around at home until I feel better. Until then
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Sunday, November 07, 2004
It's hard to believe that it's the 25th anniversary of Doctor Who Magazine. I still remember getting the weekly issues way back in 1979, and I have every issue since. It's certainly grown and expanded since then, and today is an impressive magazine, well designed and put together and still containing some fabulous writing. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, which coincided with the 350th issue, we had a party last night up in London at the Motion Club on the banks of the Thames by Embankment Tube. It seemed that anyone who had ever had anything to do with the Magazine were invited and the smallish venue soon filled up to oxygen depravation levels. It was an amazing assortment of people who all started out as Doctor Who fans in some sense, but who had moved onwards and upwards and who were now influencing and creating their own visions or working on the show itself. The roll call is far too many to mention everyone, but here's a few of the people I remember seeing there (and sorry in advance if I miss anyone as I'm bound to do so). Clayton Hickman, the current editor was there of course, as was Gary Russell, Jason Haigh-Ellery, India Fisher, Stephen James Walker, James Goss, Rob Francis, Ann Kelly (who I called Jane for some reason when I first saw her there - I was having a lot of problems with names all night), Stephen Payne, Jan Vincent-Rudzki, Mark Wyman, Peter Darvill-Evans, Rebecca Levene, Alister Pearson, Daniel O'Mahony, Paul and Caroline Cornell, Rob Shearman, Steve Roberts, Sue Cowley, Paul Vanesis, Ed Stradling, Steve Lyons, Chris Howarth, Michele and Colin Howard, Dicky Howitt, Jeremy and Paula Bentham, Kevin Davies, Peter and Jo Ware, Tom Spilsbury, Gordon Blows, Andrew Cartmel, Marcus Hearn, Mark Ayres, Richard Landen, Richard Marson, Patrick Mulkern, Nick Briggs, Robin Pritchard, Steve Cook ... and many, many more. The drink was free, the music was loud, and it was a superb evening. I met so many people from my life in the last 25 years it was untrue ... and slightly scary ... There was a massive cake that I couldn't see for people, and the celebrations were led by Nicholas Courtney, looking as dapper as ever - we all sang 'Happy Birthday' to Doctor Who Magazine and then downed glasses of Champagne to celebrate. Here's to the next 25 years.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Sunday last (which was also Halloween) I spent a very pleasant evening at the annual Sutton Film Festival, organised by Marq English. Marq had invited me along as he was showing DAEMOS RISING (the Doctor Who/Daemons spin off film I scripted for Reeltime Pictures). The venue was the UCI Cinema in Sutton - one of the big multiplexes and we had Screen 3 for the duration. The films on show ranged from the short (3 minutes was the shortest) to the long (at 52 minutes, DAEMOS RISING was the longest) and everything in between. What impressed me the most was the sheer quality of the films. The direction, lighting, camerawork, editing and acting in practically all of them was top notch, and the ideas were also inspiring. Among my favourites was HOLLY BOLLY - hard to explain, but it's sort of the story of two filmmakers who want to make a film, but the only finance they can get is from some porn film distributor who wants a sort of Hollywood/Bollywood blockbuster but has no idea how to go about it. The laugh out loud scenes included hard-men dancing Bangra style, and the realisation that songs were needed! THE OTHER SHOE is one of those deceptively simple ideas: a woman at a bus stop has just one shoe on, and so the other people at the bus stop imagine how this might be (including a theory from a dog!). The actual reason is inspired. F.I.S.T. was a trailer for a full length science fiction action blockbuster which looks very impressive indeed - apparently it's nearly complete now. THE DAY BIFFO WOULDN'T WAKE UP is an achingly funny cartoon about a boy and his dog, who dies one day and comes back as a zombie. Done in the style of the old 'Charlie Says' road safety adverts of the 70s, this was inspired lunacy. I also loved GOODBYE, a tale of a man trying to move on to date other women, all the time egged on by his girlfriend who he really loves ... it's a poignant film and certainly brought a lump to my throat. Finally of mention is THE CAVENDISH PRINCIPLE, a clever, clever little drama about police investigating child abduction with a wicked twist. Extremely professionally put together, this one featured top actor Julian Glover in a cameo. There were some spoofs, some Doctor Who related tomfoolery, some films which were unsettling (one about an evil landlord certainly had some moments of effective terror) some which were just plain strange (one about a woman made of cheese and officious MIB-like officials who clamp your feet together in a forest!). There was even a sex comedy about a man who is subjected to a sex ray and becomes instantly attractive to all sexes. Overall, there were 21 films on show, and the cinema was packed out for most of them. If this is the quality of film making we can expect from the next generation, then it's in safe hands indeed. For more information on the festival, check out the website at http://www.mevproductions.co.uk/filmfestival.html
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Apologies for the long time between updates ... there's been a lot going on and so finding/making time to pen some words here has sort of taken a back seat. So what's been happening. FANTASYCON I attended the annual FantasyCon event as usual in September ... a good line-up with Muriel Gray and Robert Holdstock as GOHs, plus a load of other editors and writers and artists crammed into a soulless hotel in Walsall (literally just off the M6). The event was good - well attended - and the folks seemed to have a good time. Unfortunately the hotel couldn't seem to organise anything and Saturday night food was a disaster (queuing to book in, no bookable tables, no way of ensuring that everyone had their food at the same time ... sort of like trying to organise a sit-down meal in a motorway cafe!). We had a Telos launch there but a panel overran and so no-one came, and the book room was dead. We did manage to get a little awareness of our titles there, but it really wasn't what I had hoped for. Never mind. At least some people left with copies of some books. PARIS Straight after FantasyCon was my 20th wedding anniversary, and as a surprise I booked up for a weekend in Paris for me and the wife. It was a really nice break - we had a meal in London friday evening, and then off on the Eurostar to Paris and then to the hotel ... except that the map on the internet site for the hotel was wrong and we ended up in Bastille with no map and no way of finding where the hotel really was. All praise to the Parisian taxis, and at 11pm we ended up getting a taxi to the hotel - which was on the other side of the city up by Opera and the Moulin Rouge! However once ensconced in the hotel, things were fine. We walked all over the place, and Metroed when not walking. I don't know why, in hindsight, but outside Notre Dame, I was amazed to spot some people I knew!!! John and Phil along with some friends. We said hi, and they assumed we were in Paris for the same reason they were - it was the 25th anniversary of the transmission of the DOCTOR WHO story CITY OF DEATH, which was of course filmed in Paris! But no, we had to disappoint them ... Talk about small world though. I usually see John at the annual Gallifrey convention, and I hadn't seen Phil for an age. Rosemary and I went up Notre Dame this time and the views were very nice indeed. Several good meals and lots of touristy stuff, and we were on the train back on Sunday. Totally worn out but having had a good time. BOOKS Of course in the middle of all this running about to Walsall and Paris, piles of books arrived: we got the hardcovers of ALICE, and then the final shipment of paperbacks of four other titles we had been waiting on and which had been delayed in port strikes in India for a month or so ... so this week we've been knee deep in books and bubble wrap getting them all packed and despatched to everyone that wanted copies ... publishing isn't too glamourous at times, I can tell you. And that's pretty much what's been keeping me from the keyboard for the last few weeks, that and finishing off the outline for another DOCTOR WHO related drama for Reeltime, and the editing and finalising Telos' catalogue for next year, and the sorting of books for Jan and Feb next year ... and ... so on and so on. Hopefully I'll be back before long with some views and comments on some of the new WHO merchandise that I've been picking up as and when I see it.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Just been looking through the new BBC DVD of the Doctor Who adventure Ghost Light ... and it's well up to the usual standards. For folks that might not know, this was the last Doctor Who adventure recorded at the BBC before the show was cancelled, and it's certainly one of my favourite stories. It's so rich in content, both script-wise, in the Victorian sets and characters, and in the performances ... it's hard to single anyone out as being stand-out as they are all stand out. The DVD comes as usual with a host of extras, this time including a pile (about 15 - I lost count) of deleted scenes, a documentary about the story which interviews most of the cast and crew (which is competently edited, but perhaps lacking a little of the flair of other releases), some sequences of the story being recorded in studio, an interview with author Marc Platt from a 1990 convention as well as the usual commentary track, a couple of easter eggs and stills and so on. It's always amazing to me that BBC Video and a team of people calling themselves the Restoration Team can come up with so much to pack out the CD with. The Doctor Who DVDs put most commercial releases to shame with their content, most of which has been especially created or uncovered for the releases - none of reusing material from earlier laser disk or video releases here. The story itself is also pretty good. At the time I remember thinking/saying/writing that this was Doctor Who for the video age as it is actually really hard to figure out what is going on from just one viewing - Ghost Light is an adventure which stands up to repeated showings, and each time you hear/see something which adds another piece to the puzzle for you. It's a great little production all told, and, if you hadn't guessed, comes highly recommended.
I managed to pick up a DVD of this Hammer title recently and watching it I realised how much you forget, just how good the old Hammer films were. I think I must have seen this one before, but to be honest I couldn't remember that much about it. However it's a cracking mix of Hong Kong Kung Fu style action, vampires, Dracula and ladies with their tops off. I was impressed with the fights, fast and furious, and the idea that this rag-tag band of people could cross the wilderness to battle seven decaying zombified vampires was somewhat hilarious. I loved the make-ups for the risen dead - all skeletal and decaying - but I wondered how they got back to their graves ... when they first rise, they are all but fricaseed by Cushing and pals, and yet next time, they all rise from the same graves again ... obviously something clever going on there. Unfortunately John Forbes-Robertson as Dracula at the start and end looks as though he has just been playing the part on stage - his make up is simply dreadfully overdone. He's also really chatty, but it's a blessing when Shen Chan takes over for the bulk of the film as he's just so much better. When the zombie-vampires rise, I was interested to see that some of them seem to be hopping - hopping Vampires is a Chinese phenomenon that I know about from films like Mr Vampire, and I guess that the Chinese extras roped in for the sequence either weren't told what to do and some just made it up, or that the director knew about the differing mythologies and asked some of them to move like that. Whatever the reason, the pack of jogging/hopping/running corpses is really quite impressive. The ending rather lets it all down, when Dracula turns back into Forbes-Robertson in the hallway, and Cushing manages to spear him first time. Some good disintegration effects ensue. But what on earth is that (very small) vat of boiling blood doing in the lair ... and why does one of the vampires seem to emit steam when it's bat medallion is taken near the start ...? The great thing about these films is that even the bits that don't make sense add to the whole, and overall the film is just great fun. Even Julie Ege gets to do something, even if her death at the end is somewhat gory and nasty.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Some people out there might know that for the last 20 years or so I've been reviewing books for a variety of places, but mainly for Starburst and Shivers magazines. It's a strange life being a reviewer, you get to pen about 100-300 words on something which might have taken years of someone's life to create, and in those words you can destroy it completely. To be honest I often think that some reviewers take great pleasure in doing just that, and that they are unbearably smug with it (and I know that some magazines actually ask their reviewers to submit bad reviews and actively give books to people they hope won't like them). Me, I try and find something nice to say if I can, and if I really can't find anything nice then I'll probably not cover that book. Why spend space saying that something is awful when you could be helping to spread the word about something that is good. It's also worth noting that as with any other sort of writing, sometimes you get things wrong in a review: you spell a name incorrectly, or get some other detail wrong, and of course then the author comes down on you like a ton of bricks, especially if you're daring to criticise their masterpiece. I mention all this as I had an email today from an author, basically having a right old go at me for a recent review of his book ... seems that because I had not praised it to the skies like others apparently had, and because I callously (and unprofessionally of course) gave away the ending of one of the short stories, and because I couldn't tell from the book whether it was self-published or not, and because I dared to have an opinion as to the type of story I like ... it all amused me more than anything. As if being accused of not knowing what I was doing, of getting more experience before I reviewed short stories, and being described as 'simple minded' is really going to endear me to this author and his work in the future. I'd like to share with you his closing line: "In short, this inaccurate, incomplete, superficial treatment of a very strong story collection is an injustice. This book is receiving rave reviews, often five star reviews, in longer, more comprehensive treatments by other reviewers. Your review, as written, is amateurish drek." Thank you and goodnight. I think that every writer would benefit from being a reviewer, to try and exercise tact and diplomacy when discussing works which they then may appreciate the effort that went into creating. And that every reviewer should have a piece of their work that they're proud of reviewed by someone else at some point, so that they can see how it feels to be on the receiving end of criticism. Maybe if this happened, then people would be perhaps a little more tolerant of criticism, and perhaps not be so keen to slag off and put down works based on their own agendas.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
I've been thinking about the new series of Doctor Who quite a bit (as you might expect) and having seen the coverage being given to it by the various magazines, I'm finding it amusing how they're all trying to outdo each other with the coverage, while trying terribly hard not to 'spoil' anything. One of the magazines has a sealed section wherein there are 7 pages of photographs and a location report. Others have interviews with the designers and of course with Russell T Davis ... it's all very interesting. Now cast your minds back ... I'm old enough (!) to remember when Season 12 was on, and I still remember the continuity announcer at the end of The Ark In Space saying that the next episode was called The Sontaran Experiment. I have to admit that at the time I had no idea what a Sontaran was ... the name hadn't 'stuck' from The Time Warrior at all ... and then after Genesis of the Daleks, they announced that next week would be Revenge of the Cybermen ... I still remember that as I knew what/who the Cybermen were and this was *so* exciting. My memories of Invasion were there for me, and of being terrified witless by the Cybermen in that story ... Flash forward to today, and I wonder if this new series will retain that excitement. I really hope it will, and that the feeding frenzy of each magazine trying to top the one before will tail off and that some real surprises will be had by viewers. There's a part of me who wishes already that I didn't know that the ------- were in the first episode, or that the -------- were going to appear ... and I'm concerned that I'll come to the episodes already expecting a lot when perhaps my expectations will never be met. Of course there's also a rabid Doctor Who fan side of me which wants all the scripts now, as many photographs as I can assemble, and copies of all the merchandise :) However experience from 1996 tells me that this won't happen. Fans won't get scripts in advance this time around. There won't be photographs galore until afterwards (and even then there might be actually not that many). There won't be actor interviews in which things are given away ... in many senses fandom is a *very* different place than it was even in 1996. The Internet has changed it all considerably - any news can be read instantly by millions of people within seconds of it happening - so trying to keep things quiet becomes something of an impossibility. Print media must therefore concentrate on what has not got online, and so we have a culture of secrecy emerging again which all but made Doctor Who fandom impossibly insular and unfriendly in the seventies and early eighties - the 'I've got/know something you don't know' attitude where photographs/videos were hoarded and only a select few had any access to anything at all. I like the modern fandom where virtually nothing is secret - episodes can be bought on VHS or on DVD or even downloaded from the Internet for free if people have a good connection and a lot of patience. I hope the concern that the production team has not to let anything out about the new series doesn't end up breeding secrecy and lack of trust ... I hope people appreciate new WHO for what it is, and don't try and spoil it all before it's even started.
Monday, August 30, 2004
Just saw this Dario Argento film ... sometimes called Creepers. What a strange film. Jennifer Connolly is excellent - although she has this spooky quality which I'm not sure is wholly acting or not. Donald Pleasance with a Scottish accent takes a little getting used to as well. Overall it's a bit of a jumble of ideas, elements of Suspiria mixed in there with stuff about being able to control insects and so on. Some nice decaying bodies - Argento loves those maggots - but the cinematography was a little bland I thought. Also saw recently, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and this is another mish-mash of ideas which never really gels. I loved the Invisible Man out of all of them - he seemed the only one with any character. The rest are pretty faceless. I wondered how Mina, being a vampire, could wander around in daylight, and Nemo's ship seemed way to big to head through the canals of Venice ... Some nice effects in there, but overall nowhere near as good as it could have been. The Haunted Mansion ... yes, I can watch Disney as well. Generally dreadful, but with some of the best zombies I've yet seen! Total cudos to the Master Dick Smith on that front. I guess it might be appealing to children (which is who it seems to be aimed at) but the zombie sequence is way better and more scary than anything I've seen in many a 'proper' zombie film ... go figure. I've also just got hold of a pile of new DVDs (Virgin were having a 40% discount sale) and so expect tales of many more films in coming weeks.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
An update to the shoe situation ... the shop refused to give me a refund as they claimed the shoes were not damaged and I had worn them ... so next stage is a letter to them. I suppose all these little annoyances keep life interesting. I watched THE SHINING again the other night. It was the first time my son had seen it and I think he was fairly impressed. It's long been one of my favourite films, far better than the Stephen King-authorised mini-series of more recent years. Kubrick seems to have tapped into why the book works very well indeed, and the ending in the frozen maze is just genius. I also love the use of the Bartok music in the film - and it's interesting to see how well the same piece of music works against three different scenes: the maze; bouncing the ball on the wall; and the chat with Danny. I guess to make this sort of thing work, the film has to be edited with the music in mind (normally of course music is written after the film is complete so it naturally matches the action) and that can't be an easy thing to do.
Monday, August 09, 2004
I bought some new shoes on Saturday ... and as I couldn't find the usual 'soft' ones I took a chance on a more regular pair. After wearing them for around an hour total today (I took them off when not outside as they were too painful), I now have a two-pence sized area of totally raw flesh where the skin has been scraped off at the back of each ankle and a huge blister on my second toes on each foot. This is *despite* my protecting my feet with plasters this morning. I have never felt so crippled. The shoes will be returned to the shop on Wednesday by an unamused and very limping David.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
One of the problems with being an author, editor, designer and genius as well as holding down a full time job, and running a publishing company is that you tend to overlook minor things like holidays ... after 5 years therefore without a proper family break, we decided that enough was enough and popped over to Northern France for a fortnight. We stayed in a nice place called Deauville, just along from LeHavre, and enjoyed many days lazing by the pool, on the beach, or wandering the streets of places like Bayeux (where we saw 'the tapestry'), Honfleur (where it rained all day) and Trouville (where I won a rubbish bit of plastic in the casino). Driving in France is an experience in itself. They haven't invented bypasses and so every road takes you into the middle of every town, and in every town I suspect there's a rule that says you can't have any signposts telling you which way to get out again. So we spent a bit of time being hopelessly lost in just about every place we drove through. The writerly side of me never rests, however, and I picked up a couple of books which looked interesting as potential Telos fare, as well as a copy of a French horror magazine called TOXIC - really nice looking mag it is as well, published by the same folks who do L'ECRAN FANTASTIQUE which I didn't even know was still going, and which published, aeons ago, the articles by Jean-Marc Lofficier which eventually became THE DOCTOR WHO PROGRAMME GUIDE. I also enjoyed wandering around Mt Canisy by Deauville which is where one of the German Batteries was based in WWII. Lots of spooky deserted gun emplacements, ruined concrete and underground tunnels and rooms. Lots of scope for stories there, so I took a few pictures of different aspects to act as inspiration if a good idea hits me for something set in this environment. But now it's back to work and back to sorting things out. While we were away, loads more books arrived for Telos, and we've been packing them all up in 80 degrees of heat (or whatever it is). Certainly too hot for working, but we've got to get them all sorted or people start to send me emails wanting to know where their books are ... Thankfully among the new arrivals were the new Telos catalogue so we've finally got something to send to people. As it happens I now have to start work on the *next* catalogue covering Jan - June 2005 ... it seems so long away, and yet we're already late on at least one title for that period. Oh well.
Friday, July 16, 2004
Just got back (literally) from a British Fantasy Awards showcase in central London, at which loads of authors and editors and other interested parties were viewing and discussing this year's British Fantasy Awards. Telos has three books in the running, as well as Telos itself, and it was great that Daniel O'Mahony managed to get along to keep the Telos flag flying. Steve Jones MC'ed the event and gave a great talk on the Awards and the importance of them before having a kind of open discussion about what the Awards meant to people and why they are an integral and key part of the genre in this country. It was nice to meet and chat with fellow Telos author Christopher Fowler, as well as other folks like artist Les Edwards, and publisher Andrew Hook. As is always the case I drank a little to much, but it was a tremendously fun evening with some stunning books to see, and to take for free in some cases :)
Saturday, July 10, 2004
I finished watching ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS 3, a film which seems to have been called AFTER DARK in a previous life as this was how it was credited on the cast biogs ... a strange tale combining voodoo ritual with opening the gates of hell which seems to bring the dead back to life as rather speedy zombies with the usual taste for chowing down on anyone close, and spewing green slime from their mouths when not eating ... The acting was down to the usual terrible standard, and all the zombies had sacks on their head - maybe to disguise the fact that they were all Portuguess extras or something. There were a couple of nice moments there ... an early attack by zombie birds made me smile, there's a loony gun-obsessed chap there who's good for a laugh, and also a woman who seems to have a total recall memory of things that happened when she was about two years old - including exact details of what her parents were working on. The end of the film has perhaps the best effect as a girl is 'zombified' as she looks in a mirror, but overall it seemed to be the usual mix of running about pursued by the undead and backing towards open doorways ... I love these films though ...
One of the great sadnesses of recent years has been the move away from every mainstream publisher in the UK from horror fiction in any form. Previously admired horror writers have either had to change genres - into crime or fantasy - or have found themselves publisherless. Imagine my surprise then when, in the same week, two horror collections are promoted by two major publishers! The 'accepted wisdom' from the editors at the major houses is that horror doesn't sell, and also that collections don't sell ... and yet here are two books which are both. First up is a book by John Connolly called NOCTURNES and this arrived in the form of a blad (a prepublication pamphlet containing a selection of stories from the finished book) and a rather neat t-shirt which will be called into use over the summer. Connolly seems to be going the other way: he's a crime writer who now has a collection of short horror stories out. Hodder and Stoughton seem to be putting quite a push on this one, which is of course excellent news indeed. The other book is an anthology of short horror stories edited by Ramsey Campbell, Jack Dann and Dennis Etchison called GATHERING THE BONES. This contains 34 original stories and is a chunky paperback. It seems to have originated in Australia as far as I can tell as the copy I've been sent is from HarperCollins in Australia ... and it was first published in 2003 ... It's superb to see some major clout being put into horror fiction again by at least two of the main publishers. Hopefully this will help to enliven the horror field and increase sales for some of the small presses which never gave up the flame and which have been keeping horror alive for the last 10 years, as well as nurturing much new talent along the way.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
I'm at least starting this new Howeswho blog with the intention of posting things regularly. We'll see how it works out. I watched ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS 2 the other night. What a strange film. I saw the original ZFE when I was a kid when it first came out, and that was fun - I *hated* the splinter in the eye scene though. But this one wasn't even a Zombie film as far as I could tell. More an infection that makes people go mad. I thought it was hilarious the way it was meant to be LA and Malibu but looked like somewhere in the wastes of Mexico, and all the zombies looked like Chinese or Thai people. I guess it was filmed in Italy somewhere ... and these were all the locals appearing as zombies. I sort of enjoyed it, but it wasn't what I was expecting. I've just started watching ZFE3 now and that looks wierd and wacky as well ... David
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Welcome to the new-look Howeswho pages. For too long now the old site languished, unupdated and unused ... and so I thought I'd better do something about it! For the moment, this blog is all that's here while I get the hang of customising the page. Hopefully I'll get links added to some of the old content, and also clean out some of the material which isn't really relevant any more. Cheers David