Archive for December, 2014

Kicking The Lid Off

Baby in neonatal incubator.

This is not me. Imagine this, but stroppier and ginger. THAT’d be me.

Well here’s a strange thing. I was pootling about on a Facebook Writing Board today, when someone posted pictures of The Gower. I made a comment that the first time I ever broke a leg was in The Gower.

Provocative? Yes, probably – I remember roaring with laughter the first time I heard the construction – “the first time a publican pelted me with peas was in…” by William McGonagall, and so frankly take every opportunity I can to steal the construction and use it. A conversation ensued about the other times I’ve broken bits of myself, or had them kindly broken for me by obliging passers-by.  Somehow, that snowballed into a broader conversation about my medical exploits: the time I was ambulanced out of a BBC audience after eating a lasagne cooked by a celebrity; my occasional tachycardic fainting spells in Starbucks up and down the country; the unfortunate and terrifying instance when the sentence ‘”We’re going to need the wide bore and the spreader’ wandered into my life for hopefully the only time; the moment when I woke up halfway through an operation, aged 8, to find bits of myself being clamped by terribly nice, apologetic young blond ladies. And so on.

‘You should write those down, quickly,’ said a few of my fellow writers, rather implying that I should do so before anything major snapped or fell off me. So, somewhat encouraged by their words, I’ve made a start, and there will be occasional entries in the Shorts and Non-Fiction section of the site detailing some of my misadventures – medical and very much otherwise (this will not just be The Hospital Diaries) – to fill in the time when I’m not writing articles on WarpedFactor, interviewing other writers or updating you on the progress of the novel.

For the first such story, I’ve gone a bit David Copperfield, detailing my very first stay in hospital. No-one’s under any obligation to read these witterings of course, but if you fancy the story of my birth, you can take a look at it now.

 

Read the piece here.

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Stephen Amos

The demon Hammersmith in a multi-coloured coat, and with shoulder length hair

Hammersmith as he started out – Hair by Anne Rice.

They often say it’s not what you know that counts in life, but who you know.

Of course, they’re frequently wrong. Frequently, but not right now, because in the wake of Christmas and before we get all frantic for the new year, it occurs to me that I know some seriously good and talented people.

Being an editor in my day job of course, I’m privileged to know a lot of people who are either published, or good enough to be published. And yes, you’ll get to meet some of them over the next few months. I know talented podcasters – and from time to time I’ve even been honoured to help out with one or two of them – Jake Farr-Wharton’s Imaginary Friends Show in particular. As an editor, I also surround myself with talented people on a daily basis – I have two authors working as editors at Jefferson Franklin who are simply destined for bookshelves, and a young filmmaker who thinks about things more than I’ve done in the last ten years, but still manages to be funny with it. I know musicians, poets, journalists who all blow me away – and when I say I know them, I mean I really know them, rather than Facebook-knowing them. Some of these people I’ve known most of my life. Some live around the world, some just down the road. At least one, rather confusingly, does both. All of them help make my life that little bit more colourful or musical or funny or dry.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of them in particular – a man named Stephen Amos.

I’ve known Steve since comprehensive school, though in the last twenty years we’ve actually seen each other fewer than a handful of times. Like a lot of us, Steve has a job and a family and knows when he’s well off, but he also has a creative side, and recently it’s been coming to the fore a bit more than usual. He’s started making videos on Youtube.

I said I’d share them with you because they’re short, delicious examples of storytelling through image and music, so for instance, try Mare Tranquillitatus for a meditation on the Moon (sigh – I’m going to be humming that tune all day tomorrow), or Faerie Tale for an exercise in mood and pacing. Go now, and do all the usual Youtubey things – comment, follow, I daresay there’ll be more coming soon.

Recently, Steve posted me a cryptic message on Facebook. ‘Sorry in advance,’ it said. I was curious – we’re old friends, and we disagree about a solidly respectable number of things when it comes to life, the universe and everything, so I wondered what he’d done.

Turned out what he’d done was a massive favour. He’d taken some of the Wonderful images from by PS Brooks that I’d posted on Facebook, and worked them up into a ‘book trailer’ for me. I was flattered and flabbergasted that he’d have done such a valuable thing without me begging him to, or without at least a healthy sackful of cash being deposited on his doorstep – I’d toyed with the idea of getting a book trailer done before, but hadn’t found anyone who I felt ‘got’ it, and I wasn’t sure even I could boil the book down to a short enough precis to work in book trailer form.

Steve managed, with a degree of skill that’s frankly infuriating, and without having read the book, without having lived it and breathed it and edited and re-edited the book over months of his life, to encapsulate it for me in just ten words. Elevator pitch, be damned, this is brevity as a science, but it works. Take a look at his impromptu Wonderful trailer and try telling me it doesn’t work. Did I mention – good and talented people?

I couldn’t help myself of course – I pointed out one typo, and the fact that he’d used images of a couple of different versions of Hammersmith in it (‘Oh yeah,’ said d, ‘I prefer the other version.’). So I’ve now given him access to all the real, finished images there are to date, and he’s said he’ll have a noodle with them as and when he can. So at some point, there’ll be an updated book trailer to take a look at. (I know, I know – at some point, there will be a book to take a look at too, I promise!)

But for now, ladies, gentlemen, freaks, geeks and fellow fiddlers about on the funny side of life, I give you Stephen Amos – go like him, follow him, go wild and crazy for him. The foolishly generous fellow deserves it.

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Kazran Sardick – Companion Piece

Michael Gambon as Kazran Sardick

Kazran Sardick – Ebenezer Scrooge a la Who.

What then, are we to make of Kazran Sardick, a man whose life is relatively mercilessly messed with, whose whole personality the Doctor intends to change by virtue of time travel, ultimately so that at the particular point when the Doctor needs him to be a nicer person than he is, he will be, opening up the clouds on the planet of flying sharks, to allow Rory and Amy’s ship to land safely, rather than crashing and killing them both. Is Kazran ‘just a person’ or is he a proper companion, like the Ponds?

Tony looked back at Kazran Sardick, the central figure in Matt Smith’s first Christmas Special, A Christmas Carol.

 

Read the piece here.

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Last Christmas – A Dream Too Far?

Peter Capaldi in a publicity shot for Last Christmas.

Should Last Christmas have BEEN Clara’s Last Christmas?

Given that Last Christmas had all the fundamental ingredients for a great Christmas Special then – plus Capaldi in full flight and Coleman doing solidly professional work as Clara – why is it that I’m left feeling like Christmas dinner was a big bowl of not much more than sprouts?

Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas Special was going well. And then…

Tony gave a gut reaction to Last Christmas.

Read the piece here.

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The End of Time – WarpedFactor

Bernard Cribbins, David Tennant and John Simm, from The End of Time

The End of an Era.

David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor arrived in the world properly in the first modern Christmas Special. He slept for most of the episode, woke up, chatted the face off a bunch of skull-hatted aliens, saved the world with a satsuma and brought down a government. As ya do.

Four years later, it was Christmas time again, but the ebullient Tiggerish Tenth Doctor seemed very much a thing of the past.

Days before Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas Special, there’s just time to reflect on David Tennant’s last – The End of Time itself.

 

Read the piece here

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Relative Dimensions

The cover of Relative Dimensions, an audio story by Big Finish

Relatives. Can’t stick ’em. Can’t stick ’em in the time vortex…

Whenever two or three Whovians are gathered together in the Doctor’s name, conversation inevitably turns to who they’d love to see back in the show, who they’d love to see paired up with which Doctor (see our very own Wil’s article on the subject recently – Frobisher forever!).

The joy of course about the New Who, both on screen and especially on audio through Big Finish is that to a large extent, the lunatics (Whonatics? Anyone? Ah, just me then…) have taken over the asylum.

If you’re dreading the annual get-together with distant relatives and cousins you can’t stand, you’ve still got it easy. Tony remembered when the Doctor brought his family home for Christmas Dinner, in the Big Finish story Relative Dimensions.

 

Read the piece here.

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Wilfred Mott

Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott

Wilfred Mott – one of the finest.

Wilfred Mott is an example of what can happen in Doctor Who when the personality of an actor and an unfortunate circumstance collide to create something unique and heartwarming.

Bernard Cribbins, who played Wilf from the beginning, is of course, a national treasure for more reasons than an article on Wilf allows – comic actor,  companion to Peter Cushing’s movie Doctor, lest we forget, immortal voice of the original and best TV Wombles, the list goes on.

As we steam towards the latest Christmas Special, Tony remembers the first time in recent history there was an older man travelling in the Tardis – fantastic companion, Wilfred Mott.

Read the piece here.

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Voyage of the Damned

Publicity shot from Voyage of the Damned, with David Tennant as The Doctor and Kylie Minogue as Astrid.

Voyage of the Damned.

Russell T Davies does good chutzpah. Really good chutzpah.

As we hit the ‘one-week-till-Christmas’ mark, Tony looks back to a Christmastime when David Tennant was the Doctor, Kylie Minogue wore a maids outfit and you really shouldn’t trust an angel.

So practically every Christmas in his mind, really. Voyage of the Damned is cued up and ready to play.

 

Read the piece here.

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A Christmas Carol

Promotional shot from A Christmas Carol.

The Smith Boy’s first Christmas Special. How would it go?

While some people took him immediately to their hearts, and while Smith himself did good work in stories like The Eleventh hour, Vampires in Venice and the Angels double, many people approached his first Christmas Special with a degree of trepidation.

Could the new boy really anchor Christmas? The Special had become such a particularly Tennant –flavoured part of Christmas that it would be difficult to break the mould.

As we gallop to the point of being halfway out of the dark, and to experiencing Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas Special, Tony looked back at the first Matt Smith Christmas extravaganza – A Christmas Carol.

 

Read the piece here.

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