The Sky at Night and the Red Button

This Sunday marks the fiftieth anniversary of monthly astronomy programme The Sky at Night. The same presenter, Patrick Moore, has appeared in every edition but one, which he missed through illness, having, the legend goes, consumed a dodgy goose egg. The show, for me, represents a continual late night comfort, a combination of the cosily familiar and the majesty of the unknown. I find it the most relaxing possible show. It's probably my favourite ever TV programme. (Doctor Who is more of a lifestyle choice.)

When I was very small, my Dad took me to visit Patrick Moore, in the seaside town where we were on holiday, where everyone knows where he lives. His housekeeper told us that he was about to set off for London to record a show. So we left. But then Patrick himself came running down the lane after us, calling 'wait a moment!' Very swiftly, he showed us round the telescopes of his garden, and gave me a copy of his latest book. He encouraged the young me to pursue the life of an astronomer, which I did until I stumbled at degree level and started writing instead.

This Sunday's edition shows off Patrick's sense of showmanship: John Culshaw from Dead Ringers plays the young Moore, while Brian May of Queen (a regular guest, being another astronomy student who got a bit diverted) presents an episode from fifty years in the future. I look forward to it enormously. It's him being willing to be a populariser and entertainer, combined with stunning factual work (the new Mars exploration edition a couple of months back being a great example) that's kept the show fresh for so long.

Of course, Patrick's politics were, the last time anyone heard about them, the sort of thing that one can only sigh at. But last time anyone heard about them was some time ago. And I'm one of those people who, not being a young firebrand anymore, is minded to let the old and non-pontificating off the hook.

So that's the second thing on television I'm excited about this weekend. The red button trailer for the new season of Doctor Who is on almost continual rotation in my house. 'WE ARE THE FAMILY OF BLOOD!' Ooh! I have learnt to dance to that. And my lovely scarecrows. Thank you Charles and Ed. I want action figures.

I haven't decided yet, but I may well pop along to Jeremy Bentham's launch night party in London. I'd turned down the invite a long time back, when it clashed with Caroline's Faringdon Singers concert last weekend (Rutter, and all that lovely quiet choral Lent stuff, thanks for asking), but I just realised I could go, and, hey, it'll be the start of a whole summer of seeing this show with as many people as possible. Doctor Who as a communal thing. What could be better?

Finally, a nice chap from Creative Screenwriting magazine did an interview with me a while back, and its's now online. Some of the content will be terribly familiar I'm afraid (there's a translation of 'french fries' for 'oven chips') but there's new stuff here. You can tell I can't say the words 'Human Nature' at this point:

If I'm here tomorrow night, I'll pop in to share the general squee for a great opening episode. Cheerio.

Martha on MySpace and Eagle Awards

I thought I'd just keep right on posting in the run-up to Saturday's first episode of Doctor Who. We're all excited, right? And I'm having some sort of crazy writing splurge, and really just can't stop of an evening. Perhaps it's the lack of alchohol.

First off, isn't it amazing who you meet on MySpace?

And rather well-written those entries are too. Never mind training to be a doctor, she ought to try journalism.

The voting stage for the Eagle Awards has begun, and you can vote:

Both of our Wisdom inkers, Paul Neary and Mark Farmer, are represented. And if I may point out a campaign that's already obviously had some effect, famed 2000AD letterer, the late Tom Frame, has nods both for his craft and on the Roll of Honour. He was by all accounts (including those of several good friends of mine) a lovely chap, who passed away before his time, and to honour him thus would be apt. I'd also like to mention Liam Sharp's Event Horizon, Liam being a sweet guy, and one of my favourite artists to have drawn the macabre Man-Thing. In fact, when last I saw him, I told him that I enjoyed his Man Thing so much that I'd like to have it hanging on my living room wall. Cheerio!

Doctor Who Hugo Nominations

The nominations for this years Hugo Awards are in. In the Drama, Short Form category, we have:

Battlestar Galactica, 'Downloaded'.
Doctor Who, 'Army of Ghosts' and 'Doomsday'.
Doctor Who, 'The Girl in the Fireplace'.
Doctor Who, 'School Reunion'.

Stargate SG-1, '200'.

Congratulations to Russell, Steven and Toby. Much deserved.

And congratulations to my friends Lou Anders (his first year with a Best Editor nod, may it be the first of many), Charlie Stross, Ian McDonald, Geoff Ryman, John Picacio and Sue Mason.

The full list can be found on Lou's blog, as listed on the right there. (But he forgot to mention the Stargate, which is why I had to edit it in later!)

But no Pan's Labyrinth in Long Form!

Oh, and PS: do check out tonight's Dead Ringers, which includes our own dear Doctor David in a sketch co-written by the show's creators, Tom and Nev, and Doctor Who novelist and audio writer Johnny Morris.


New Cliches

When one is stumbling through the last chapters of a novel, hacking to the left and right (there’s my career summed up in one line), one becomes very aware of clichés. They are one of the things you hack. I realised I’d gradually built up a little mental list of them. Not just from prose, from everywhere. So here’s the first part of an ongoing Dictionary of the Modern Cliché. Feel free to suggest your own.

It scarce matters. Ah, but this villain is overconfident following a minor setback. The rebels, and/or Doctor Who, will soon be sending her still outrageously high expectations crashing to the ground. She talks this way because of the lasting impact the works of that great master of aquatic drama, Cod Shakespeare, have had upon the genre. What genre? Every genre. Except perhaps the Western. Because that would sound silly. This is why Russell Davies’ Doctor Who villains say things like ‘we rock’.

It is none of your concern. Alien for ‘bog off’. First used in Cod Shakespeare’s Henry the Fish.

Flanking. I don’t really know much about military things. But I’ve got this battle scene. Hmm. You men over there… flank the enemy! Give them a good flanking! Take them from the flank! If they try and flank you, well you just jolly well flank them… more! Outflank them, even! And watch your flank while you’re at it. There, that sounds like I know what I’m talking about.

Stands to reason. What old women in London say. Perhaps one of them really did once, until sometime around 1942. There is no longer an ‘it’ that does the standing. And sometimes there’s not even a proposition that needs to.

What part of ***** don’t you understand? It’d be good if someone answered this seriously next time. ‘Well, to be precise, your use of the word “danger”, because we don’t seem to be in any, and you seem to have enough spare time to use what was once someone else’s quite original wit in an annoyingly flippant and repetitive way.’ There must be children out there who use this in real life.

And finally, some sport ones:

Flatters to deceive. ‘We know it’s actually bad, despite many people thinking it looks quite good.’ A phrase the English have been using ever since William the Conqueror flattered to deceive at the Battle of Hastings.

To be fair. After footballer Eric Cantona went bonkers and kung fued a member of the audience during a match, every football pundit became an expert on the matter of fairness. And they still are. To the point where it’s become the new Game Of Two Halves. To be fair, Barry, being fair, to be fair to him, in all fairness…

A great servant to.... And this started when England wicket-keeper Alec Stewart retired. He was a great servant to English cricket. And now everyone was a great servant to their country’s everything.

All right, I’ll talk about something meaningful soon. Probably Rome and/or Battlestar Galactica related. But… novel, other cool stuff, no time! Cheerio.

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

It's the start of British Summertime, what Americans call Daylight Saving Time. The start of wonderful light evenings. Caroline feels exactly the opposite, alleging that she's had an hour's sleep stolen from her. I've had a lovely weekend, with lots of sleep, having completed my 10,000 word week, plus loads of other stuff.

You remember the Time War, Russell's hinted-at happenings in Doctor Who between the end of the 8th and the start of the 9th Doctor? When I was a young Who fan, that would have been the territory purely of imagination and fan fiction. But these days, skilled video makers like to have a go at filling in that gap. For instance, as found by Nev Fountain...

I think that's rather good. The whole purpose of such gaps, as the old series knew also, is to stimulate our imaginations to do some work on behalf of the programme makers. It's one of those things that only this show does, and it does it very well. 'I was with the Philippino Army during the final assault on Rekyavik' said Tom Baker's Doctor, making the sets and special effects around him much better in so doing.

Another serious work week lies ahead of me, but I shall do my best to pop up again. Until then, Cheerio.

The Doctor Who Premiere

Just a quick post to say I did pop along to the media showing of the first two episodes of the new season, and had a vastly enjoyable evening. My absolute favourite Script Editor, Lindsey Alford, was there 'looking after' all us writers. She made sure that there was no red wine left to harm us. (Not that I'm back on the wine yet.) I hobnobbed with Moffat and Greenhorn (who it turns out is the writer of that new Proclaimers musical that everybody's been talking about this week) and the lovely Helen, and my old mates from SFX. The Doctor Who Confidential gang (old friends of this parish), were also running about, recording everything. And hey, paparazzi and fans crowding outside. That's how big this is now.

The episodes themselves are cracking. The sheer bounce of this start to the season. Have your high expectations and then double them, this is the stuff. 'Smith and Jones' is perhaps Russell's best crash bang wallop episode, full of one-liners, and Gareth's Shakespeare episode continues in just the same vein, only with that very particular Gareth voice that those of us who loved his Who books are delighted to hear from our TV screens. Freema does a fine job, with a wry little smile and an analytical joy about where she ends up, and the relationship is brand new, different, a fresh start. And it was great upon great to see some clips from 'Human Nature' in the trailer at the end.

It still boggles me sometimes. I actually got to write for Doctor Who. And thanks to that, got so many other great gigs too. One of these days I must corner Russell The Davies long enough to let him know how grateful I am. Maybe when we're ninety. And in the same retirement home. On Mars.

Anyway, I got home bouncing. And I'm on my way to a 10,000 words of prose week (though of course loads of it will turn out to be rubbish when I go back and edit), and have managed everything else too.

So all is good. Cheerio!

Bullpen Bulletins Podcast

And no sooner do I post that, than the Bullpen Bulletins podcast interview comes online. This one is mostly about comics, and I think it's quite a fun and rather in-depth interview. Here's how the guys there are blurbing it...

Gallifreyan transplant Paul Cornell drops by to chat about his Marvel Max miniseries, Wisdom, his work on the legendary, long-running BBC television series Doctor Who (Jelly baby, anyone?), Fortean subjects, and much more! After Mr. Cornell warps out via TARDIS, we finally come to terms with our experiences at this year's New York Comic Con, assisted by the one and only Dave Wachter of Scar Tissue! Over the course of the three-day event, we managed to corner great writer of stuff, Peter David, Mr. Web of Spider-Man, himself, Alex Saviuk, and good ol' Frazier Irving from Silent War! Also appearing: Chris, Sal, and Tom from Around Comics! Doombot! Domino Blue! Rick Gordon from the Pop Cult Online! Many Miguels! Matt S. from Comic Timing and That's What She Said! Pat Loika, the Awesome Sauce! Joseph the 4th from Australia! Dave Wachter delivers a stunning, tear-soaked rendition of Captain America is Dead by listener John Osborne! Listener email! All this and the usual dose of potty humor and pop-culture craziness that can (thankfully) only be found in one place: the Bullpen!

Or go find it on iTunes. And no, I didn't quite know which bits of that to treat as titles. 'Gallifreyan transplant?' But do check it out. Cheerio.

Phoenixcon and Lots of Other Stuff

I know, I know, I haven’t blogged since before I went to Dublin. I’m still knackered. I didn’t quite realise how much so until I got all teary on Friday when we saw the final episode of Patlabor. It’s not even particularly sad. And there’s a sequel show. Sitting on our shelf over there. How wussy is that?

It may be because I’ve been going hard at the novel all week, which makes me weirdly pretentiously writerlike at the best of the times. It’s really dredging up the dark stuff. I’m also in the midst of a couple of important and fun plotting things which I can’t talk about yet.

It doesn’t feel like too much work, it feels just right. But I guess it’s taking it out of me. I spent a couple of days inside in the last week without seeing anyone except Caroline. So it was nice to get out to local musician Neil Dwerryhouse’s birthday party last night. He was blindfolded, placed on a chair, and was approached by a full-size working Dalek in what looked at the time like the oddest possible strippergram. ‘Get your top off!’ I shouted at the Dalek. Neil was then told the Dalek was his now. And proceeded to trundle round the room in it frightening small children.

Caroline delivered her thesis on Saturday, on deadline day. She’s waiting for notes, and will have to defend it at a viva, but she’s relieved and happy, and will shortly be looking for gainful employment. (The Church of England likes you to have been out in the world for at least a couple of years before they take you on at vicar school.) It’s nice to hear her laughing at anime in her study now.

Phoenixcon in Dublin was gorgeous as always. It’s rather like a yearly party at which the same group of friends are a bit surprised that they have to do panels and things. I especially like all the games. I suppose it was rude of me to call ‘repetition’ on Juliet E. McKenna for mentioning Tintin during Just A Minute, but did she have to actually smack me round the head? That doesn’t happen to Clement Freud. I think I pushed her too far. We were on the plane over together, by sheer accident sat next to each other, which was fun. Me and Leah Moore, John Reppion (the authors of that wonderful comic Albion) and acclaimed fantasy author Catie Murphy (or C.E. Murphy as her novels have it) seemed to end up on a lot of the same panels together, and they’re all great fun. Catie just laughs all the time. Leah has this boggled sense of humour which appeals. It’s like she just woke up in this world and is still bemused by it. And John plays off that very nicely.

Leah Moore, last weekend.

(I took more photos, but, erm, my hands seem to have been shaking quite a lot that weekend.) I’ve now added Catie and Leah and John’s blogs to the list on the right. (The Moore/Reppion one has quite a few Phoenixcon photos.) Some of the more lovely panels included the blogging one (Ken MacLeod has this avuncular little smile that makes you feel you’ve done well to impress the great man of Hard Socialist SF), Padraig’s ‘Alan Moore Show and Tell’ (which turned into ‘my collection is bigger than yours’ with various audience members, and had Leah standing there, so much like an item that you felt Padraig had a big mylar bag waiting for her) and Kim Newman’s fascinating Guest of Honour interview.

Along with the fun, sheer erudition is one of the things which makes Phoenixcon tick, and this year we had along a group from the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies

Who are a free bimonthly online magazine devoted to exactly that, with a new issue out today. Their input livened up quite a few panels, and their journal has very high standards.

In the bars in the evening I broke Lent quite deliberately with lots of Guinness (I’m doing a simple forty days this year) and hung out with John the Comic Shop Owner and young Nick Roche, the Transformers comic artist, who sounds like he has a bright future ahead of him. And I tell you what: not one political row all weekend!

If there’s one thing that didn’t quite work for me, it was that I could have done with a bit more Kim Newman. We were given, for the first time I’ve ever seen at a con, a feedback form, and I should have mentioned that on there. But I’d also have said that, with increased attendance and actually breaking even this year, the new management (with the aid of the old) are playing a good game as it is.

Back home, I finally got hold of the first volume of Javier Grillo-Marxuach’s The Middleman, and am now in love with be-glassed heroine and temp receptionist Wendy Watson, who’s utterly real and boggled in the unreal world of the comic.

Wendy Watson, yesterday.

And I’m in ongoing negotiations with the panel organiser for Eastercon concerning what I’m going to be appearing on. I think I’m sending her mad with my pickiness. But she’s being vastly accommodating. Something lovely will result.

I’ve been asked to provide my first quote for the cover of a novel, so I’m reading that with some delight and trying to sum up how I feel in a couple of sentences. I won’t say what yet, let’s save that for when it’s out.

I’ve also been cheered by the success of the Ireland cricket team in the Cricket World Cup at the moment. Having tied (yes, tied!) with Zimbabwe, then beaten Pakistan, they’ve virtually qualified for the next round, and, in showing sustained quality, have done their march towards ICC full member status no harm at all. They’re also great fun to watch, with the best supporters.

We’re in the midst of an all-weekend Veronica Mars marathon that will hopefully banish The Melancholy of Paul. I’ll try and post again a couple of times midweek, on a short form basis. Until then, Cheerio.


ITEM! Wisdom issue four will be in your local comic shop (or possibly not if your local comic shop happens to be the Cardiff branch of Forbidden Planet, so I’m told… did the Welsh issue annoy them that much?) on Wednesday in the States, Thursday over here. This is the ‘all the different kinds of Jack the Ripper at once’ issue, which starts building the story for our finale.

ITEM! Meanwhile, a short interview with me, entirely about my Big Finish Doctor Who story Circular Time, forms part of the latest episode of the Podshock podcast, available at:

Or on iTunes. That should be joined by the Bullpen Bulletins podcast sometime this week.

Wisdom iMix for Americans

My good friend Lou Anders, boss of Pyr Books, sorted out a version of the iMix soundtrack for Wisdom issue three that's accessible from America:

It's meant to come online in the next few hours, if not already, but there's no way I can check, so, someone on that side of the pond, please do go have a look and tell me, thanks awfully.

Meanwhile, Newsarama have a rather lovely review of said issue three in their Best Shots column:

And the lovely Dave Wallace adds another nice review in Line of Fire for Silver Bullet Comics... and they say comics are full of violent imagery... well, the names of comic review columns are:

Steven Moffat directs me to one of the BBC's first cooperative ventures with youtube, a behind the scenes piece with Peter Davison talking about his new comedy series, Fear, Stress and Anger, produced by Steven's wife, the lovely Sue Vertue:

And for those of you who've asked, bless you, chapter seventeen is sorted. I read five pages of chapter one at the Fifteen Minute Club in Faringdon on Sunday night. And didn't get heckled. Much. Phew.

Proper blog soon! Cheerio!

Vote for Doctor Who, Wisdom Welsh and No Martina Hingis, Sorry

I’m really tired. It’s one of those annoying weekends where I feel I should be working, because I went off to Bath for a day midweek. I was there to meet up with comic writer Mark Millar and Nick and Steve from SFX Magazine, for what in their case was a pint, and in mine was a series of soft drinks, because it’s Lent. (I’m doing precisely forty days without alcohol, unlike last year when I did Official Lent, giving myself time off for Phoenix Con in Dublin next weekend, because Caroline delivers her thesis that Friday and frankly we are going to need a pint, and since bloody when is the aim supposed to be to Beat Christ’s Record?)

They were good company as always, and I managed to get some work on the novel done in a coffee shop. So I thought I’d get back to my desk on Friday and thump a bit more out before the weekend. But no such luck. I just stared and stared at it and didn’t have the energy to do much to it, and I’m pretty sure some of it said ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. I’m editing what I’d previously written before I sett off into the last third of the book. And I must say, I’ve come to loathe the Paul Cornell of 2006. How did you put up with him? Him and his meandering flashbacks. Chapter seventeen, for instance, in which Nothing Happens. But one can’t just cut it, because a few little threads run nicely into the really quite good chapter eighteen. Sod it. I’ve always said there’s no such thing as talent, there’s just hard work. So unless I can focus a bit and actually work on the weekend (I’ve plotted out what chapter seventeen should be like) I’m not talented at the moment. I’m either going to force myself to work, or lie around watching my new Strangers box set, feeling frustrated and angry at myself.

There are a few fun things to mention. I’d like to offer, for readers of Wisdom issue three, what the speech balloons in Welsh said before I had them translated (assuming my Welsh speakers weren’t having me on). They follow Pete’s lengthy anti-Welsh diatribe. They were:

Dai: If I thought for one second you meant any of that –

Pete: You know I didn’t.

Pointing out which might calm down my inbox a bit as well. I’m working on getting an American version of the iMix soundtrack for the issue in place. I’ll let you know.

Rob Francis tells me of a site where you can hire a Tardis, of a sort, on emergency call out. I like the picture of a ‘Tardis engineer’:

I'd love to call them up and ask if they could come over last Wednesday. They probably have rules concerning breaking the spacetime continuum.

Those of you who subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed may have been surprised recently by my sudden apparent interest in Martina Hingis – related porn. I have complained to everyone there is to complain to, and I hope the problem’s been sorted. If you’re still getting such material, and let’s assume you don’t want it, please let me know. If you’ve come here in search of Hingisaria… sorry. If you are Martina Hingis, well done. About the tennis, I mean.

It was lovely to see Russell’s kind words about my Doctor Who novel and now TV episodes Human Nature in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine. He says that it was as if, when he first called me up about adapting the book for television, I knew what he was going to say… and I kind of did. If I remember correctly, he said ‘I’ve been thinking about this since we got the show back…’ and I said ‘Human Nature!’ I mostly mention this so I can luxuriate in being able to say the title now. It’s like walking around the house naked. And Matt Michael’s review of Circular Time in that same issue was also most welcome.

You can vote for Doctor Who online in the Bulldog awards, Televisual magazine’s annual gestures to the great and good. I might point out that my friends Diederick Santer (for Jane Eyre) and Ben Evans (for Fantabulosa!) are deserving of mention along the way, having also been nominated in different categories. And I delighted in being able to write in 'No Award' as an alternative in the ‘Best Reality TV’ section:

And that’s it for this weekend. Those noises from Oxfordshire are me gnashing my teeth. But let’s hope for some keyboard tapping also. Cheerio.