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Friday, 5 May 2017

Richard Dalby, 1949-2017

A supreme scholar, a gentle soul, and a great loss to the field and all who knew him.

We met in the '90s when Richard invited me over to Scarborough to talk about my Stoker-inspired project (then called Victorian Gothic, it would later become The Kingdom of Bones and the first of the Sebastian Becker books).

Richard had produced the definitive Stoker bibliography and also had a wonderful selection of early editions and other material. These included a Dracula first, found in a West Country book shop for £8, and Stoker's personal annotated copy of The Man. Richard had discovered that one in the back of a dusty bookstore and when he took it to the desk to pay, the shop's owner thumbed through it and then knocked a couple of quid off the price "because it's been written in".

Richard had two houses, one to live in and one for his books; the book house was entirely that, as far as I saw, shelved like a library in every room. He kindly photocopied Stoker's then-unobtainable Snowbound story collection for me, and later as editor picked up some of my own stuff for his anthologies.

I don't claim we were close, and in later years we pretty much fell out of touch, but I count our meeting as one of the significant waypoints in my life.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Less than a week from now...

Wednesday, 15th March 2017:. NOVOCASTRIA MACABRE presents an evening with Stephen Gallagher in conversation with horror author Stephen Laws. Northern Mining Institute, Neville Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 1SE. 7pm, tickets £3


"An evening with Award Winning Screenwriter and Novelist Stephen Gallagher (DOCTOR WHO, CHIMERA, OKTOBER, BUGS, MURDER ROOMS, SILENT WITNESS, ELEVENTH HOUR, CRUSOE, STAN LEE'S LUCKY MAN, and more...) in conversation with horror author Stephen Laws. A superb writer, a great raconteur. Want to know what it's REALLY like to work in TV in the UK and US? What the differences are? Who holds the power? Which country better respects the writer? How to really make the most of your ideas? Whether you're a fan of his work of an aspiring novelist or screenwriter, this is an event for you."



What a fantastic venue. Immediately following the talk, I'll be offering to saw the leg off any willing volunteer.

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Future Boys

I've been following this series of plays since The Future Boys' 2012 debut in Dead Static at Camden's Etcetera Theatre, the classic 'playspace over a pub' where new talent and old hands get equal exposure. With Pilgrim Shadow and last year's King Chaos the company moved to the Tristan Bates Theatre in London's West End, expanding the cast, increasing their audience, and ramping up the absurdity.

Writer/director Stephen Jordan is a child of 90's SF culture, and these are character comedies bounced off science fiction tropes. Absurd, yes, but not spoofs. They employ sitcom structure with a classic pairing at its heart, an Odd Couple who both need and annoy each other in equal measure.

New material, new medium; the next outing for the company will be in the form of two new and original audio dramas recorded BBC-style before a live audience, supported by a Kickstarter campaign that's running until March 4th.

The most basic pledge will get you the downloads, while other levels bring in the usual swag options. These include tickets to the recording at the Leicester Square Theatre on Thursday March 30th at 7.15pm.

Bad Bat's previous productions include The Probleming, Global Mega Incorporated, and The Ghost Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More, an Amicus-style portmaneau show in which I had a playlet.

Update: the Kickstarter editorial team have selected The Future Boys as one of their curated "projects we love". 

Update to the update: the campaign reached its target.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

March Event, Newcastle



What a fantastic venue. Immediately following the talk, I'll be offering to saw the leg off any willing volunteer.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Snakebite Writing

Unused concept rough, New English Library
I've been catching up on a couple of home-grown TV dramas that have been lurking for far too long on the PVR - no, I won't name them - and they've reminded me of something I once heard David Puttnam say in an interview. He was contrasting British and American screenwriting practice using two exaggerated versions of the same story.

British version: a man wakes up in the morning. He goes down to breakfast. We see his house, his children are already at the breakfast table, we meet his wife. They talk about what he's going to do that day. He says he's going to the woods because of that thing they talked about last week, then he shaves, dresses, and drives the kids to school. Maybe there's something on the car radio about snakes in the woods, but the children are arguing in the back so he turns it off. He calls his boss, says he'll be late for work because of having to stop by the woods on the way. His boss chews him out about some big order they have to get fulfilled. He arrives at the woods, gets out of his car. We see him walking through the woods and then we see him carry out whatever mundane task he came here to perform. Now we see him walking back. Ouch! What was that? He catches sight of a snake slithering away. Later on...

(I've padded it more than Puttnam did, but you get the idea)

American version: A man's out walking in the woods and a snake bites him in the ass.

There's a certain breed of script editor whose notes seem to be concerned mainly with the so-called 'shoeleather' of a narrative. Why is this character in this location? How did they get there from where we saw them last? What do they do every day? Can we dig into their lives a bit more? Can we do more to explore this relationship? It's dull stuff but they always want it in. So you get literally dozens of scenes where nothing of any actual consequence happens, doggedly paving the way for an eventual story point.

I don't necessarily buy the whole English/American thing, but I do think that Puttnam's storytelling point is spot-on.

It's hard for a writer to hit the ground running. On the other hand it's not engaging for the audience to have to watch you getting up to speed as you write your way into the characters and their world.

There's a harsh but effective craft solution - write what you need to write, but then cut what the audience doesn't need to see.