The contracts came through this morning, so I can announce my news. I'm going to be writing the penultimate episode of the second season of Primeval, ITV's Saturday night family adventure series. Here's the official site:

Primeval Official Site

I'm pleased to be joining the show, because I'm very impressed with it. For those who don't know, the series is about a group of scientists who deal with anomalies that have started appearing, connecting different time periods. Their major problems concern the animals that wander through the anomalies, from pre-dinosaur reptiles to giant centipedes. I love the emphasis on genuine natural history, that the animals behave like animals, rather than 'monsters', and that our heroes have a duty of care towards them, and are fascinated by them. I like the SF emphasis on logic, and the family teatime emphasis on high adventure. I especially like the production team, how easy it is to work with them, and how they have a long term plan with some lovely twists (and a genuinely SFnal sense of dread and alienation creeping in around the halfway point next season). The showrunner is Adrian Hodges, who also wrote one of my favourite episodes of Rome. I've asked to not have to jerk any tears this time round, and write to the show's speciality: crash bang creature of the week adventure with a human dimension. If I was eight years old, I think I'd be glued to this show with my dinosaur books in hand, spotting the real creatures as they appear. If Eastercon was anything to go by, the British SF community like the series too. So I'm happy all round.

Now, before anyone says it, this isn't me 'joining the opposition'. The opposition in telly is what's on against you in the same time slot. And schedulers these days never try and fight like with like. I'll always be a Doctor Who fanboy at heart. Indeed, yesterday I recorded a podcast commentary for the second episode of 'Human Nature', having seen a rough version of the first one a couple of days earlier. I have to say that I'm absolutely blown away by what the production team have achieved. I particularly love Charlies Palmer's direction. I don't think I've ever been happier with anything I've done for TV. I'm so, so, proud to be part of that crew.

Finally, having had a dress rehearsal last week, now I can genuinely say: Wisdom issue five is out on Wednesday/Thursday, depending which side of the pond you're on. This one ends with our surprise villains crashing in.

So that's my news. Wish me luck. Until next time, Cheerio.

Lots of Small Comic Things and a Doctor Who Video

Still haven't got that contract. So still no big news. Sorry. So I thought I'd plonk up a few fun things and bits of news I've been meaning to chatter about for some time, mostly, as it happens, comics related.

First up, next Wednesday in the USA, a day later in the UK, issue five of Wisdom is out. This is the one with the big cliffhanger ending revealing our villains in all their glory, leading straight into our extra-length final issue. Hope you enjoy it. (Edited from it being this week. Yes, you would think I'd know! Thanks, Mark!)

Secondly, available soon is The Wolfmen, a complete graphic novel in glorious black and white, very much in the British crime/horror tradition, by Andy Bloor and Dave West. The art is particularly nice, and there are half a dozen pages of it for you to inspect here, wallpapers, a sketch book, all the fun of the web:

I mention this because the boys were kind enough to ask me to write the introduction. And a great pleasure it was too.

Thirdly, the latest edition of online comics roundtable The Panel is now out. I'm a member, and today's topic is 'how to break into comics'. I think I manage to sum up my thoughts on the matter pretty well:

Forthly, Nick Roche, the highly talented Transformers artist, tells me that this time next week the first comic that he's both written and drawn will be out. It's Transformers Spotlight: Kup, the story of grizzled warhorse Transformer Kup. Who, stranded on an alien planet as he is, has still managed, Nick tells me, to create his own page on MySpace:

Nick really has a way with the Robots In Disguise, and I heartily suggest you check it out. Even if I'm of the generation who were just too old for robots that turn into ghetto blasters.

Finally, showing that the young are really rather good at editing their own Doctor Who -related satire these days, it's Doctor Who in the Dragon's Den:

That courtesy of Dalek Emperor John at:

Dragon's Den being a British TV show where would be inventors pursue investors for money. If that made no sense to you over that side of the pond.

Anyhow, hopefully I shall news for you soon. Cheerio!

'Nine million Doctor Who fans just punched the air.'

If the FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester Utd. and Watford this afternoon goes into extra time (that is, if there's a draw at ninety minutes), the word from the BBC is that Doctor Who will be dropped from the schedule and reappear next week. This makes sense: a large chunk of Doctor Who's target audience will have bedtime to think about.

Manchester Utd. are all -conquering as this season draws to a close, with a chance of winning every competition, at home and in Europe. Lowly Watford, struggling in the Premiership, are generally regarded as lucky to have got this far. So Doctor Who fans are looking for the most likely outcome that suits them: a crushing Manchester Utd. victory within the ninety minutes.

What I love is the fact that people are talking about this. Mitch Benn, for instance, the famously Who -loving comedian and musician, and, it seems, Liverpool supporter (Liverpool supporters are averse to Manchester Utd. winning anything) performed a song about his mixed emotions concerning the match on Radio 4's The Now Show last night:

Mitch shows up 6.48 in. The most wonderful thing is, judging by the anticipatory laughter, a lot of the audience know just what he's going to say. You can bet that the commentators on the match this afternoon will mention something.

It's Doctor Who as pop again. The show not as minority interest, but as something that brings the nation together. Like it was when Tom Baker lived in TV Centre along with Basil Brush and Terry Wogan. And not just nations now, but tribes all over the world, fans at their PCs in Aussie and the USA, waiting to find out if Manchester Utd. score that vital goal. This is what Russell has done: taken our little prog rock album culture and made it into a string of hit singles, made it for the people again. For me, just being able, as my fortieth birthday looms, to be part of not one but several pop media is incredibly exciting.

Watford must feel picked on. If they score early, fandom will hate them, for making a draw look more likely. But if they get a late winner, the weight of fan opinion will swing violently in their direction. It is perhaps the first time that Doctor Who fans en masse have cared so utterly, or at all, about football.

So this is a moment that won't matter tomorrow, but is funny and involving and the subject of talk down the pub today. That's pop for you. Pop and the Face of Boe and, it's rumoured, old monsters returning. Isn't it great?

Eastercon, British Summertime, Bernice Summerfield and Projectile Vomit

Well, I’m now back from Contemplation, this year's Eastercon in Chester, and, obviously, I caught something, as everyone else seems to have, and I’ve just finished throwing up and am still feeling as weak as a piece of wet tissue paper. Thank goodness I drove home before I started feeling bad. But I am now back at my desk and working. Caroline’s on the final draft of her thesis, writing all day and now mostly all night, so I’m doing my best to keep up.

Eastercon was lovely, relaxed, and I found myself very much accepted into the fold of SF fandom. It was good to encounter other ‘hyphenates’ like my XTNCT collaborator D’Israeli. I had dinners with editor turned agent (there should really be the word poacher in there somewhere) John Jarrold, author Ian McDonald and his partner, and, on my first alcohol-fuelled night after the end of Lent, the good people of Third Row Fandom. This lot revolve around fan critic and Clarke Award judge Graham Sleight, like the planets revolve around the sun. If the planets spent all their time taking the piss out of the sun. It’s always good to find a gang, and the ones named after their regular position in panel halls are young… so very… very… bloody… young… and enthusiastic and are continually creating internet icons, conventions, magazines and argot. Exactly where I love to be. And they’ll show you their pants:

I was on four panels. On the Friday I interviewed SFX magazine editor Dave Bradley (‘cute’ according to someone in that link), which was meant to be a state of the nation sort of thing but ended up being entirely about the magazine, because I got as interested as the audience did.

On the Saturday I moderated what felt like a very successful panel/audience discussion of why so much mainstream fiction these days is Science Fiction without letting itself be labeled as such, with Graham, quiet fantasy author Freda Warrington, stand-in for Gollancz editor Jo Fletcher Ian Whates (I made him do everything Jo would) and the wonderful Ian Watson. Ian’s an author of long standing, but I’d never heard him speak before. He’s a natural comedian, coming out with sighing little soundbites like: ‘Why do they call them mobile phones when you need to carry them?’ Thanks to him, we found ourselves discussing Philip K. Dick’s genitalia. And not for the obvious reason.

I was surprised to find that the panel generally agreed that too much of a fuss is made about the mainstream stealing our clothes. Perhaps not to the degree I do: I think that genres should be formed after the fact by critical response, and that publishing and authorial intent play no part, or certainly not to the degree where we should be upset or pleased if an author does or does not show up for their Clarke Award. But generally the vision of Margaret Atwood being dragged into Worldcon in chains did not please the audience, so many of whom made good contribution. I love panels like that.

Monday brought a children’s literature panel at which I took a back seat to save the poor moderator from having to say things like ‘so, Paul, you’ve… read some children’s books… when you were young… right?’ (I think I might have been on there because of Doctor Who, but I’ve never written anything for children.) On the panel was a small child, which makes sense. Before the panel, I’d toyed with the idea of asking her things like: ‘So, in the latest edition of Vector magazine, I believe it's famed SF critic John Clute who says that his Mum is nicer than your Mum, and that you break all your toys, that you stole his ball, and that you smell, no returns, to infinity, nah nah nah.’ But in the light of day it seemed cruel. And she seemed a nice child. Though not as cute as the toddler (broody non-parent alert here) who kept pointing to the milk jug at breakfast and saying ‘milk on the table!’ ‘What’s your point?’ replied his Dad. Which is how I’d talk to my children too. Like they were the Minister for Overseas Development.

Following that panel immediately, in a room that was so air-conditioned that I now had my arms tucked into my sleeves and was rocking back and forth and shivering like something out of Trainspotting, there was the Battlestar Galactica panel. (Some small SPOILERS from here.) I’ve been meaning to blog about this season of Galactica for some time now, and got to rant about some of my main points. I think it wobbled badly towards the end, then recovered astonishingly. I think the nature of its audience identification is much more like that of a cable show like Rome than other network shows: these people aren’t asking to be your friends, and it’s often hard to love them. I think that its desire to interrogate, rather than take a position on, the Iraq war has got both sides in that debate convinced that it plays for the other team. And I think that Lee Adama’s speech at the trial in the final episode, which was played back to us at the start of the panel, and held the room rapt from a cold start, is the best bit of TV writing I’ve experienced in ages. It’s not just rhetoric, it’s a summing up of the theme of the show and season, it comes from character, it’s dramatically realised, and it’s truth truth truth. It’s someone not making a speech, but letting out something long held inside. It sounds easy for an actor to say, but I bet it took all of that season to compose. It’s also, if you’ll forgive me for a moment, the most Christian thing I’ve encountered in genre television. No, in a good way. (I’ll get called a fundamentalist in the Comments again in a minute.)

Speaking of which, I found it pleasantly easy to be a theist at a convention that holds a singalong Songs of Praise on a Sunday morning (not that I was, erm, up in time). From my old friend Jo Fletcher inviting me along to a choral service, to running into quite a few drunken believers on the Sunday night, it feels like SF fandom has started to be more comfortable with its ecclesiastical members. (My wife is never going to be able to come to an Eastercon, because she’s, you know, kind of busy.) Or maybe it’s just me feeling more comfortable, and seeing things that reflect that. That's be good.

Oh, and it was great to run into old mates like Sue Mason and Sandy Auden and the lads from Solaris Books again, and John Jarrold ran the entire BSFA Awards ceremony so that it lasted eight minutes in all (for three presentations and a reading list!) and hey, I think I got over my Awe Of Geoff Ryman! We had a wander in Chester together, and I might just be speaking to him like a real person now.

It’s good to have a convention in the middle of such a good-looking town, especially when it includes a Japanese shop that sponsors the event:

From which I bought much Pocky: thin, crisp sticks of biscuit with a chocolate coating. And some miso soup mix. And some green tea.

And I think I’m just about done now. Phew. Inspired by being in an audience talking about books, I even plotted out the end of the novel in my hotel room. I bought loads of books, subscribed to Interzone, came home feeling good about everything. And only then threw up.

There is, and this is sweetly typical of SF fandom, now an online poll devoted to our collective throwing up:

I’m sure some hard nuggets of knowledge can be fished out of that data.

The next blog should be announcement time. I’m just waiting for contracts to be signed before I can talk about it here. But I’m very excited. So hopefully see you again quite soon. Until then, Cheerio.


ITEM! An American edition of my second SF novel, British Summertime, will be out next month from MonkeyBrain Books, the noted specialist house who also publish such authors as Michael Moorcock, Kim Newman and Hal Duncan:

That’s not the final cover, but an indication of the legendary John Picacio’s design intentions. I await to see what he comes up with for the actual book. I’ll be making a bigger fuss about this on the day of release, because it’s wonderful to see one of my SF novels available in the USA for the first time.

ITEM! Big Finish productions has announced that Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story will be out this October:

I created Bernice in a Doctor Who novel fifteen years ago, and since then she’s appeared in more than 150 books and audio plays. This book, written by Simon Guerrier, is the story of how it all happened, and like all Big Finish’s accounts of their own works, it promises to be honest and in depth. Again, more of a fuss will be made when we get there.

ITEM! My friend Ian Abrahams has been gradually making a name for himself writing research-heavy yet popular (not written in a weekend is what I’m saying) books about rock musicians. His latest is Strange Boat – Mike Scott & The Waterboys of which I was delighted to be sent a copy, and very lovely it is too. May I suggest that if you have an interest in the subject matter, you check out his blog?

Geoff Ryman Story Online and Me at Eastercon

The lovely Geoff Ryman, author of such novels as Was, Lust, 253, The Child Garden and Air, is up for a Hugo award this time round, in the Best Novelette category, for a beautiful story that he's made available online and free to view:

It's called 'Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter'. It's about forgiveness. It aches with Geoff's usual sense of reality and place, and with all due respect to my friend and nominee in that category Ian McDonald, I love it to pieces. I ask you to consider it if you're one of those LAcon or Nippon attendees with a ballot to fill in.

Geoff is someone who figures in the lives of so many people in the British SF scene, authors and otherwise. He's often thanked for offering encouragement, notably in Susanna Clarke's Hugo acceptance speech. For someone of such intellectual and literary standing, he does not look down on that which is pulpy and fun. His 'Mundane SF' manifesto, asking why we in the genre are still dealing in time travel and faster than light drives when there's a planet here that needs attention may sum up the future of our work. He throws the best parties.

I particularly have good cause to thank him, though. When I first started hanging around in Brit SF circles, I found myself suddenly, painfully, shy. (Doctor Who fans may boggle at this point.) I went to my first Clarke Awards party, and found myself far too aware of the reputations of... well, everybody in the room, really. Particularly Geoff. Who I could barely talk to. He kept on making me feel better, went out of his way to calm those nerves, until I wasn't actually going to scream and run for the door. He had to do it again at Eastercon a while later. And all through dinner at his house. And then we argued about politics and we were fine. (And typically, he showed up at one of my panels after that debate, to make sure I was.) And from then on in SF fandom I've been as loud and rubbish as I am everywhere else. So... you lot have nothing to thank him for, really. But I do. Hmm. If he's reading this, he's probably stopped by this point.

Anyhow, since it was Geoff's literary abilities that made me into that gibbering mass, it's good to be able to try and make you, dear reader, gibber too. I hope you like the story as much as I did.

Hugo-wise, it's good to see that, in the Longform Drama category, the initial ballot was wrong, and this year we actually have a contest between Pan's Labyrinth (which had been missed out); Children of Men; The Prestige; A Scanner Darkly and V for Vendetta. That's the strongest field... ever, really. I have yet to decide between Prestige and Pan.

I'm off to Eastercon in Chester on Friday, and though the final programme hasn't been announced yet (at least, not that I'm aware of), it seems likely that I'll be on the following panels:

Friday, 10pm: 'Current SF, a Fireside Chat. Paul Cornell, author and scriptwriter, chats with Dave Bradley, editor of SFX magazine, about the current world of British SF.' We'll have to build that fire. And isn't it a bit warm for that? We're planning to cover everything and offer a kind of overview, and give an insight into SFX itself. Really pleased we got this together.

Saturday, 3pm: 'Universal Donor. Is it time for science fiction to stop bleeding? Other genres - fantasy, technothriller, historical - have been recently reinvigorated by taking a science-fictional approach: the New Weird in fantasy, the recent work of ( e.g.) Greg Bear, the resurgence of alternate history and time travel. Authors identified with SF have 'bled' towards the mainstream or other genres. Science fiction has become the default multimedia landscape. Is SF making a blood donation - or bleeding to death?' With Jo Fletcher, Freda Warrington, Graham Sleight, Ian Watson. (I'm moderating this. Looking forward to it hugely.)

Monday, Noon: 'Politics and Ethics in Battlestar Galactica.' With Simon Bradshaw, Phil Nansen, John Richards (moderator).

I think that's a nice blend, and gives me time for a lot of chattering and, post-Lent, drinking. If you're going to be there, do come over and say hello. Until then, Cheerio.

Smith and Jones

Wasn't that great? Pow pow pow plotting, a great introduction for Martha. It played really well at Jeremy Bentham's party. Big laughs in all the right places. And on the way home, members of the public talking about it on the train, in the railway station... a very good sign. Bit more about the party, and a photo, soon. Cheerio.