Friday, December 22, 2006

Seasons Finales Greetings

Prefect Slog
Americans just don’t get irony, I’ve often heard it said. Alanis Morisette is part-Canadian, so what’s her excuse? But my wife is American and she tends to do okay with it. I’m sure she’d agree that it was pretty ironic that now that I’m taking time off work for the festive season, I find I have a lot less spare time on my hands. The upshot of which is I’m not going to have time for a lengthy Christmas message here, but you know, I figured a simple ‘Merry Christmas’ just wouldn’t cut the cranberry.
So by way of rounding off this year’s blogging, I thought I’d just add an update or two to some of those discourses on TV I’ve rattled off over the past few months.
Farscape, first of all, warrants a mention, not least because someone was kind enough to ask me to post my thoughts on the final season when I finally got there. Really, it merits a blog entry all its own, and it will get one in the New Year. For now, I’ll just say that, far from spiralling away up its own nostrils (seeing as how it’s Christmas, I think a more polite metaphorical orifice is in order) it was/is – with many of the same sort of caveats I gave before – superlative sci fi entertainment. Most creative, dynamic sf show ever. And, in the light of what I now know about that 4th Season, Peacekeeper Wars strikes a curious balance: being both a generally satisfying conclusion to the journey, and offering an insight of just how bloody fantastic it would have been if they’d been able to close the story with a full 5th Season. But more on this at a later date. It’s a compulsion, and I don’t see why indulgence should be limited to this time of year :)
Meanwhile, Award For Most Surprising Season Finale has to go to Ghost Whisper. Wow, I thought, when this show wakes up it really wakes up! Not only did we get two whole helpings of Jennifer Love Hewitt (overdoing good things, see, it’s entirely in keeping with the Christmas theme) but they cleverly diverted attention with big disaster-movie level drama, while pulling one of the best Sixth Sense-style twists I’ve seen since The Others. It would be difficult to see this falling back to formula after that, but what the heck do I care, I’m on board for another season.
But for Torchwood, I think not. That show upped its game too with the most recent episode – Out Of Time, I think it was called (really, the series doesn’t even inspire much effort to check my facts). Credit where it’s due, that was the best yet, but in the context of the series I suspect it’s too little too late. Overall, i gets my vote for Most Awful Series I’ve Watched All Year. It's Space:1999 Series 2 Awful. In the interests of open-mindedness, it may yet win me over, but as things stand, it’ll have to deliver something way, way above its current par for the end of season to keep me from saving myself thirteen lots of 45 minutes next year.
And who can blame me? As it is, I’m going to have to watch the Sarah Jane Adventures on New Year’s Day, and the advance publicity seems to suggest that someone thought K9 & Company was just too adult and had to be toned down for a younger audience. But it’s Lis Sladen, isn’t it, and hence another compulsion.
Never mind. On the plus side, it is starting the New Year with Sarah Jane Smith and really there was many a year in the past I’d have liked to have kicked off like that! So on that note, Merry Christmas to everyone here and here’s to heaps of positive things in 2007 for all of you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Craig Hinton (TM)

Prefect Slog
Craig Hinton passed away last weekend. I had to come to terms with a very personal loss this year, when my Mum died back in May and, truth to tell, I've probably not finished doing that yet. But it apparently hasn't toughened me up any and it hasn't remotely diluted the shock of first reading news of Craig in an email last Sunday night.
Craig was a friend, even though I can't claim to have known him that well. Mostly we knew each other through online contact, emails and mailing lists, or the likes of Outpost Gallifrey's Doctor Who forum. And that's one medium where you can gain impressions of people that could prove completely wrong - without all the 'extras' like facial expression and tone, you can communicate, but the chances of misunderstanding or misreading someone are pretty high. That said, it's true to say that Craig's emails and posts to mailing lists always conveyed a great deal of personality. A guy with that much character can't help having a colourful online presence.
And I'm glad to be able to say I did have the pleasure of meeting the man in person. Just the once, but it was in special circumstances and, quite beside that, it was pretty obvious from the start that this was a special sort of guy.
We were both due to attend the Gallifrey convention in LA and it turned out we were taking the same flight. So we chose our seats accordingly. I was nervous about flying, as well as - being a complete newbie to the whole convention experience - nervous about the adventure ahead. Craig was just concerned about getting through the umpteen-hour flight without a cigarette. I guess it's fair to say the both of us were expecting the flight to be hell.
We had such a laugh. Lengthy animated chats, fits of laughter and my first proper introduction (ah, I was so naive) to the soap-opera style behind the scenes world of Doctor Who. Craig was a consummate gossip, with a wickedly sparkling sense of humour and a brilliant line in bitchiness. Brilliant company all the way, and we both agreed it was a damn good flight that went pretty smoothly. Quite the opposite of what we expected.
The convention too was a dream, and I met a lot of great people there, had a lot of special times - not least of which was meeting my wife! And Craig was there throughout, shepherding me through the whole 'big n scary' convention experience. He was incredibly popular, that wit and charm firing on all cylinders, and always in demand with this group of fans or that group of authors, but he always had time for me and was always inclusive and making sure I was part of said groups and not an outsider, complete newbie though I was. It was like hanging around with a real celebrity, but one that happened to be your friend.
He also sought to shatter all my childhood illusions about the world of Doctor Who, armed with a host of horrifying tales that could traumatise a sensitive soul like me and change my perspective on a given celeb or element of the show forever. I'll never forget the saga of the Captain Yates/Queen Spider dioramas. The less said in public the better, I suppose, but it left an image emblazoned on my mind that still gives rise to fits of laughter.
And as if that wasn't enough, then there was the journey home. Another long flight ahead, but this time I was looking forward to it. As luck would have it, we ended up travelling with Nev Fountain - another witty charmer! - and the hours flew by with even more thoroughly entertaining chat. And more fits of laughter.
The whole experience was a blast and one I will never forget. And Craig was a constant presence, and a bright constant throughout. I remember it was shortly after his Sixth Doctor book, Synthespians(TM), had come out and it had met with a popular response and I know Craig was - rightly - chuffed about that. He was getting a lot of praise for it from admiring fans at the convention. Of course, it's not much of a spoiler by now to say that it featured the dreaded Autons, but one thing we discovered between us was that we had both submitted Auton proposals at around the same time. We traded synopses and had a read, and I was appropriately miffed that his had won out - it's only natural :) - but we had a good laugh about it and he was entirely gracious. And when it came to writing the novel, he went to the trouble of working in some background stuff for the character of Peri that I had explored in Shell Shock. And I know that he was, according to the T-shirt he wore with pride at the convention, the Fanwank God (resplendently styled after the Doctor Who TVM logo), but it was still flattering that he bothered with my little contribution to continuity.
It reminds me now, as I write this, that he was one of the first to welcome me when I first ventured tentatively onto the Outpost Gallifrey forum, and very soon after he was emailing me in private to say how much he had enjoyed Drift. He was also the one to invite me onto mailing lists where I was introduced to a community of authors and fans I'd never have otherwise met. As I say we stayed in touch via emails and those mailing lists. It was infrequent and irregular, and he'd go quiet for sometimes lengthy periods, but you'd just know he'd pop up sooner or later with an update on what he'd been up to, what had been happening in his life - unfortunately, too often they'd be difficulties and hard times life was happening to throw at him - but, as with the convention, he was a constant. Even if an irregular one. ;)
The last time he emailed me, he was sending words of support and encouragement through my own difficult times, and that despite going through some of his own. There was some of his wonderful bitchiness, and there were laughs too. A little bit, I guess, of everything that I knew characterised him. I never knew it was his last email to me of course, but I easily recognised it for what it was: a message from a friend. A friend who would always insist, when writing of Synthespians, on including the (TM). And a friend who definitely warrants the same honour. So here's to you, Craig Hinton (TM). One of a kind. Thanks, mate.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ghost Writer

Prefect Slog
This is, of course, one of those news items in which I can neither disclose any details nor tell you anything of any consequence. Still, the word 'commission' is such a nice one that it needs to be aired and shared, and since I've recently won a commission (there it is again!) to write the first volume in a series of books, about which I can say no more at this stage, here I am airing and sharing. It is a ghost-writing assignment, and so my name won't appear, but hopefully that won't prevent me from publicising it as and when my lips can be unsealed. So, woo and hoo, in equal measures!