Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012, we hardly knew ye

I've got a big blog post coming soon that covers the past few years, and my general thoughts about maintaining a writing career, but I'll save it for the new year. I don't want that to be the final post of the year, it feels a bit transitional, I'd rather cap 2012 off neatly. Nobody likes a messy blog. Apart from the people at welikemessyblogs.blogspot.com, but they're a bunch of weirdoes.

And 2012 has been quite a whirlwind. I've had two movies released in UK cinemas and attended the premieres, written and directed a brand new short film, directed two phone adverts for FrightFest, ran a filmmaking workshop with Girl Number 9 co-conspirator Dan Turner, had a short story printed in a shared world anthology, did my first live short story reading at a Den of Geek event, had several meetings in America for possible new projects, and written tons of new material. During all that, I've had the usual round of rejections, bad experiences, and betrayals that are just part and parcel of this crazy business. I like to think I'm better able to handle them now, and will fight my corner when I need to. As always, a couple of people (who mistook my politeness for weakness) got added to the "Never Again" list. But also as always, I've found some surprising allies, people who have stepped up at just the right moment to be a hero.

The thing I still need to work on most is NOT working. I hardly ever take time off. That constant worry that you'll get left behind is a killer for writers, we feel guilty when we're not writing - and because we love telling stories, it doesn't feel like work, so we exhaust ourselves. I really need to look after myself physically and mentally, and take time off regularly. I used to have a rule about not working weekends, but that would make me too anxious, so maybe I'll just start with Sundays. In the meantime, I've stopped work for the Christmas break, and am off the clock until January 4th.

Usually in these summary posts, I talk about what I've learned, what I'd do differently. Thing is, I wouldn't do anything differently - I learned what I learned because of the way things happened, for better or worse. It's been a year of highs and lows, but then, isn't every year? Isn't that just life? Unless you're some sort of powerful superbeing, there'll always be ups and downs. Even if you *are* a powerful superbeing, ooh, the burden of power, eh??

So this year, just like every year, the lessons are the same: enjoy the good stuff, learn from the bad stuff, work hard, and be nice. And always have a spare printer cartridge. Especially that last one.

Here's to 2013!

Tower Block on UK DVD & Blu-ray in 2013


Tower Block arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on February 18th, 2013, according to Amazon, and they are NEVER wrong about anything. You can pre-order now, if you so desire, using them there links in that there previous sentence.

Like CvsZ, due to financial considerations etc, there are no commentaries, but again, I'm going to record one of my own, and put it online for free. I haven't done the CvsZ one yet due to lack of time, but I might do a drunken one during Christmas. Both will be free, so you can download and listen while you watch.

Don't worry, other countries, both movies will still be coming your way - there'll be a theatrical release in the US, as reported here, CvsZ arrives in Japanese cinemas on January 12th, 2013, and other countries are in the pipeline. We'll get to most of you eventually!

Friday, December 21, 2012

CvsZ in SFX's top 25

The fine folk at SFX magazine have compiled a list of their 25 favourite SF and fantasy films of the year, and Cockneys Vs Zombies is in there, at a very respectable number 17. They've been really lovely about the movie for a while now, and I'm very happy to be included - it was made with a lot of heart, passion, and enthusiasm, which they've picked up on. Thank you, SFX people! You're all lovely!

The full list is here, if you want to start at the beginning. And why wouldn't you??

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cockneys Vs Zombies Vs Japan

Cockneys Vs Zombies is coming to Japanese cinemas, on January 12th, 2013. There's an official website here, with the trailer and a list of cinemas and so on. There's also a comment from me, but it's been translated into Japanese, so you'll have to be a local to understand it.

I really hope you enjoy it, if you see it in cinemas let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Companion - my story from Short Trips: Christmas Around The World

My first published short story appeared in Short Trips: Transmissions. I wrote another story for Short Trips: Christmas Around the World, which  also came out in 2008. Sadly, the Short Trips books are now out of print, and used copies are going for silly prices on Amazon and eBay. But I've got permission to post both of mine here, for free - treat them as fan fiction, not for profit, etc etc. Please don't repost, just link if you want to share them.

The first story, Breadcrumbs, is available here. The second one is below, in time for Christmas.

Thank you to Big Finish and the BBC for letting me put them on here. By the way, I've pasted the story from my final text copy, to save myself hours of formatting, so any grammatical errors are my fault and not the editor's.

Story notes: this sprang into my head almost fully formed when working on Primeval. The brilliant script editor, Katie Newman, mentioned her niece who loved animals but couldn't have a pet because they made her ill. It's not often a story just appears in your head, but I'm glad this one did. It made me cry when writing it, and still does now when I re-read it. It's a rare warm and fuzzy tale, with no serial killers or baby slaughter, and one of my favourite things I've done.

Doctor Who original series broadcast on BBC Television. Format copyright © BBC 1963. Story originally published by Big Finish 2008, reproduced with permission from BBC Worldwide.

---


Companion
An adventure of the Eighth Doctor

By James Moran


 My name is Yarah de Silva. Yarah means "water lady". My teacher told me that at school, but my dad always said that it means "Amazonian warrior". I think my dad was making that up. But it sounds cooler, so I've decided to believe him and not my teacher.

I live in a small town called Avelar, in Brazil. It is the year 2672. I am 11 years, 4 months and 2 days old. I am a girl. When I grow up, I am going to be a famous astronaut, and I will fly into space and meet aliens and make friends with them. When I was very small, a boy pushed me over at school and said that girls were too stupid to be astronauts. When my dad found out, he told me that girls were not stupid at all, and that the only people who were really stupid were the ones who went around pushing people over and making them feel bad. Then my dad went to the school, found the boy, and told him that if he ever hurt me again, he'd put him into a very small bottle. Like a ship in a bottle. And then he'd put that bottle in his shed, along with all the other bottles full of all the other naughty kids he'd done the same thing to. The boy never came near me again. He was too scared to even look at me. He was silly. My dad doesn't even have a shed.

I am allergic to animals. That means that if I go near any kind of animal, I get really sick. One time I saw a cat in the garden, so I went out and petted it. I felt okay for an hour, but then I couldn't breathe, and woke up in hospital. I can't touch animals, I can't go near them, and I definitely can't have a pet. Not even a goldfish. We tried one of those, but it made me just as sick as the cat. Some people are allergic to cats, but not fish. I'm allergic to all of them. The doctors don't know why. They say I'll be fine, I'll have a perfectly normal life, as long as I stay away from animals.

But I really, really, really want a little puppy dog.

Every Christmas I ask for a puppy. Every Christmas, my dad tells me that I can't have one, and he gets me another stuffed toy, and some other games and sweets and books. I love the presents he gets me. He always knows what I like. But he can never get me the thing that I want more than anything, because it'll make me sick.

Instead, I draw lots of pictures of puppies, which is as close as I can get to the real thing. Most of my drawings are the same. I'm trying to figure out what the perfect puppy would look like. I would call him Patch. He should be black and white, with a sort of pale patch on one side of his nose, and two white paws, like socks. He should have one wonky ear and one normal one.  He should be a bit messy, a bit clumsy, the sort of clumsy dog that sits in his own water bowl by accident, then can't figure out what happened, but he doesn't care cause he's having such a brilliant time just being here. And most importantly, he should love me. That would be the most perfect puppy in the world. I draw lots of pictures of him. Sometimes I take the pictures for a walk. People laugh at me, but I don't care.

My mother went away when I was 4. I don't remember her much. My dad says she is a superspy for the government, and had to go off on a really important, top secret mission, maybe for years and years. He says we should both be really proud of her. I can tell he is very proud, he always gets really quiet when he talks about her. I hope she finishes her secret mission one day, then she can come back home.

* * *

The news people keep saying there's going to be a war with Russia. Or maybe it's China. I'm not sure. Some big country, anyway. I get scared when they go on about it, but my dad says not to worry. He'll keep me safe. He should know, because he works for Positron Incorporated, and they make the robot soldiers that the army uses. He says our robot soldiers are better than theirs, so there's nothing to worry about. I trust him. He's the cleverest person in the whole wide world, and is the head of robotics at the company, so he must know what he's talking about. He's been very busy lately, because of all the talk about war, so they've been making more robot soldiers than usual. Bigger and better ones, and not just soldiers - robot guns and robot planes, and special thinking machines that can work out how to beat the other side properly. My dad explained how it worked one time, but I didn't really understand. Something about fuzzy pathways and organic chess. Or maybe it was organic pathways and fuzzy chess? I don't know. Something was fuzzy, anyway.

One time, he brought me to work to show me how they made everything, it was really good fun. We saw the machine that makes the robot soldiers, and they showed me the little brains before they went in their heads. Funny how something so small can have your whole mind inside. My dad said that it was the same for people - we have a small lump of grey stuff in our heads, and that does all the thinking. Only ours is called a brain, and the robot soldier brain is called... something else. It was five or six really, really long words. I just call them robot brains. He said they'd made a big breakthrough in how they think about thinking, and how robots think, and it meant they could make them even more clever. One day, he said, they'd be even cleverer than us. Not him, obviously. Nobody's as clever as my dad.

When he showed me around, there were some tourists there too, in a big group. I wasn't with them, I was getting the special tour from my dad. But they all looked at us when the tour guide pointed out my dad. He told them what his job was and they all went "ooooh", because my dad is very important at the factory. They all stared at him, except for one man in the group. He looked at me instead, and smiled and waved. I waved back. He seemed nice, and looked quite funny. He had long hair, and a waistcoat, and a really strange jacket. The tour guide started going on about the metals they use in the robots, and the funny man looked at me again and pretended to yawn. The tour guide was annoyed, because he was in the middle of his little speech. The funny man gave him an innocent look, and pointed at someone else, which made me giggle. When the tour guide turned around again, the funny man looked back at me, and winked. The group kept moving, and he went with them. Then my dad took me for ice cream, and we went home.

* * *

At Christmas, I asked for a puppy again, as usual. My dad said that he couldn't do that - but that he was planning a surprise for me. A really cool surprise. He had been working late at the factory every day for weeks, and I thought maybe it was something to do with the war and the soldiers. But it wasn't. On Christmas morning, I ran downstairs, and in the middle of the other presents, was a box. My dad looked at me and his voice became very serious.

'Now you have to promise me something,' he said. 'You have to promise not to tell anyone where it came from, or I might get in a lot of trouble. And you have to promise to be very careful with it, because it cost a lot of money.'

'I promise,' I said. I was excited and scared at the same time, and I ran over to the box and opened it.

Inside, was a puppy.

But not a normal puppy, not one that would make me sick. It was a little robot puppy. It was about half my size, like one those big dogs that look like horses. It was shiny and silver. And when I said hello, it made a robotic barking noise, like those joke doorbells you can get. It jumped out, ran over to me, and lifted up its front paw to shake hands. I couldn't believe it - it was the best present ever, and exactly what I wanted. I grabbed my dad and hugged him really tightly, nearly knocking him over. He laughed, and I realised that I hadn't seen him laugh like that for ages. He's such a serious man, sometimes. He watches the news every day, if you can believe that.

The robot puppy ran to the door, and barked again.

'What's it doing?' I asked.

'Well, I'm no dog expert,' said my dad. 'But I'd say it wants to go for a walk.'

So I took it for a walk around the garden. My dad followed us closely, making notes on a clipboard and keeping an eye on it.

'It's based on something new we've been working on,' he said. 'Robot scouts, that crawl over battlefields checking for mines.'

'Oh,' I said. 'What do they do when they find a mine?'

He thought for a minute. 'Well, they... they make the mine safe.'

'That's nice of them,' I said. 'How did you make it?'

'I adapted one of the scouts, made it more or less dog-shaped, then I installed some dog-programming. We scan human brain patterns so the robot soldiers can think more like us. This was a similar process. I scanned the brain patterns of a dog, and made the robot think like a real one. Mostly. Some things it can't do, obviously.'

'Like eat,' I said.

'That's right, it can't eat.'

'Or do a wee.'

'That's right.'

'Or fall in love with another puppy.'

'No, it can't do those things. But it can run around, it can fetch, and it can protect you. Just like a real dog. But it will never make you sick. It's got our latest AI chip, and is the cleverest robot we've made so far. It can learn what you like to do, and adapt its behaviour accordingly. I've programmed it to be loyal to you, so it will always be your friend.'

'But can it run faster than me?'

And I ran off, shouting at the robot puppy to come with me. My dad laughed as we ran around and around the gardens, but then suddenly I tripped over a rose bush and fell over. I cut my knee a little bit, and had to have a plaster. It didn't hurt that much. And the whole time, the robot puppy stayed with me, making sure I was safe, and walking in front of me in case there was anything else to trip over.

After I'd had a rest, I came downstairs and found my dad on the phone to the garden centre. The robot puppy had gone out and stamped on the rose bush that tripped me up. Then it dug it out of the ground, and stuffed it in the bin. It was just trying to protect me, I suppose. But my dad had to get a new rose bush delivered, so he was quite annoyed. It was funny though.

The next morning, we woke up and found that the robot puppy had dug up all of the flowers and plants in the whole garden, and put them out by the bin. Just in case they tripped me up.

So I decided to call him Digger.

* * *

Over the next few weeks, me and Digger went for lots of walks, and a lot of plants got dug up in the garden. My dad gave up trying to replant them. As long as I was happy, he didn't mind too much. Although he wasn't too pleased with the mess. He said it looked like their minefield testing ground. I asked why their minefield ground looked like that if the robot scouts made the mines all safe? He sort of coughed into his tea, and said he just meant it was a very messy place. Then he changed the subject. I hope he's not fibbing about the robot scouts. I hope they don't get exploded in the minefields. I would have Something To Say about that.

The week after that, my dad got people in to concrete all over the gardens, because he said it was an 'eyesore'. I don't blame him. It was a great big dirty mess. Me and Digger watched from the upstairs window as they laid the concrete, and flattened it out. Once it was ready, they fused it dry with their special electrical thingy, and it was ready to walk on right away.

Me and Digger ran out to go for another walk. Digger loved going for walks. We ended up chasing each other again, around and around until I got dizzy. Digger never got dizzy, he probably had some special robot  anti-dizzifying thing built in. Which I think is cheating, really. While we were running around, I slipped on the concrete, and fell over again, hurting my elbow. It wasn't too bad, just a scrape from the concrete. But Digger ran to the part of the garden where I'd fallen, and stamped on it, trying to dig it up. It was solid concrete though, so he couldn't do it. He seemed a bit upset about that, and was quiet for the rest of the day. He must have been sad that he couldn't make it safe for me. But then, you can't make the whole world safe for everyone, unless you wrapped all the dangerous bits in bubble wrap, and that would probably hurt your ears with the popping noises everywhere you went. Anyway, you wouldn't be able to bubble wrap over the sea. Unless you had a really, really, really big roll of bubble wrap.

* * *

That night, I woke up, and Digger was gone. I panicked, and worried that something might have happened to him, and went to tell my dad. His hair was sticking up all weird, and he wasn't really awake yet.

'Go back to sleep,' he said. 'He's probably just gone for a walk. I programmed him to be loyal to you, he would never leave you.'

'But what if he's hurt? He might be trapped somewhere.'

'He can't be hurt, he's made of reinforced Rigidium. Which I invented. Remember I told you how strong that was?'

'Yes.'

'Well, there you are then.'

And he would have gone back to sleep, if the siren hadn't gone off. That was the siren which meant something Very Bad was happening at work. He looked at me. I looked at him. And somehow we both knew that Digger was involved.

* * *

We got to the factory and heard all sorts of strange noises. I had made dad bring me along, because I was worried, and said it would be quicker just to bring me, rather than stand around wasting time trying to convince me not to come.

The main gate at the factory had a large hole in it, and people were scrambling around panicking. We went into the main factory assembly area, and one of the workers came running over to my dad.

'It's broken into the mobile weaponry section,' he said. 'What does it want?'

My dad sighed, and looked at me. 'It wants to dig up our garden.'

'It what?' asked the worker, but my dad didn't answer, and kept walking further inside. I followed him, scared but excited by all the noise and madness.

We stopped outside a large doorway marked "Advanced Weaponry Prototypes". There was another big hole in the door, and next to it was an abandoned JCB, one of those big yellow truck things with a metal bucket arm. Digger must have tried to get in the main factory gates, but wasn't strong enough. So Digger got himself a digger.

'I didn't know Digger could drive,' I said.

'He's not supposed to be able to,' said my dad, looking worried.

'Yes, but he's clever, isn't he? He can learn things. You told me that, silly.'

I was hoping he'd laugh, but he just frowned, and paced up and down for a bit. He made me wait outside the gate, while he went inside to see what was going on. I waited for a few minutes. But when I heard explosions and screaming, I ran inside. I didn't want anything bad to happen to my dad.

It took me a while to find him. He was sheltering behind a blast testing shield, while Digger threw things around. There was a row of robot soldiers stacked up like toys, and down one end was a special cage with a really big robot soldier inside. It was the size of a house, and looked a bit like a frog standing up. Only a really, really, really big frog. Made of metal. With guns and missiles on its arms. Digger was trying to break open the cage, using one of the robot soldier guns, and that's what was causing the explosions and sparks. My dad saw me come in.

'Yarah! I told you not to come in here, get out, it's not safe!'

'I wanted to make sure you were okay.'

'Oh sweetheart, that's very good of you, but it's too dangerous. Digger's trying to get to our new prototype, we have to figure out how to stop him before he does.'

'Why does he want to do that?'

'I don't know. At first, I thought he just wanted to dig up the concrete in the garden, to make it safe for you. But this is something else, he's gone mad.'

And that's when the funny man suddenly ran over to us. He was the man with the strange jacket that I'd seen in the tour group a while ago. He winked at me, and waved at my dad. We couldn't see where he had come from, he must have been there the whole time.

'Not mad, exactly,' said the funny man. 'He's still got that military programming, hasn't he?'

My dad looked at him. The funny man was so friendly looking, you couldn't help but just answer him. 'Yes,' said my dad. 'But only a very basic version. Self protection, loyalty, checking for safety, watching over its owners, and so on.'

'Ah, well, there's your problem. It's so obsessed with protecting its owner, it's making sure that it can protect you against anything and everything. It's those new AI brains you developed, they're where the trouble starts. I mean, brilliant design, they do exactly what you intended, learning faster than any other brain before - but it's too much for them.'

He unscrewed the control panel behind the blast shield, and pulled out about a million multicoloured wires. He peeled the plastic off some, and started crossing them all over, so quickly I could barely make out what he was doing. And he kept talking while he did it.

'That's the inherent flaw, you see. These brains, they learn so fast, they can't process the knowledge quickly enough, they can't see both sides of the story, and it all goes..."

I'm not sure quite what the next bit was, but it was very long and complicated. I borrowed the security tape from that night, so I could write down what he said properly, but it still sounded like gobbledegook. My dad explained it to me, which confused me even more, so I had to look it up. It means they just go a bit funny in the head. I don't know why they couldn't have just said that in the first place.

'Which is why,' continued the funny man, 'It wants to fuse itself to that heavily armed combat chassis. That way, it can eliminate any and all threats to young Yarah, here. Unfortunately, everything in the world except Yarah might be a threat to her, so it'll have to destroy it all. Everything in the world. Bit by bit.'

My dad looked at him, and only then seemed to realise how strange the whole situation was. 'Who are you?'

'Oh, I'm so sorry, I'm the Doctor. Always forgetting that part. I usually turn up when things are going a bit haywire. Hello!'

'So how do we stop it?'

The Doctor kept fiddling with the wires, and some of the circuits. 'I need to send out a shutdown signal, a complex looped instruction that will lock the brain into one single thought, sort of a paradox, a riddle, which it can't think its way out of. You know, which came first, the chicken or the egg, that sort of thing, but more complex obviously. Then it'll overload, and short itself out.'

'It'll kill him?' I said.

The Doctor looked sad. 'I'm afraid so,' he said. 'Otherwise it's going to kill everyone.'

'What about the other AI brains in the building?' said my dad.

'Sorry,' said the Doctor. 'They'll be taken out too. Has to be done, I'm afraid. Don't worry about the war - the same thing just happened to the other side, they must have been working along similar lines. Luckily I got to them before anything went wrong. Well, before anything went too badly wrong. I mean, that whole area of the city needed rebuilding anyway... There, that should do it!'

And suddenly, he jammed two more wires together. There was a really loud hum, and a blinding flash, and all the robots in the factory stopped what they were doing, including Digger. They staggered around for a bit, and then sat down, their brains whirring and grinding slowly down.

I ran over to Digger. He wasn't dangerous anymore, just a silly looking robot puppy who was about to die. I sat with him until the end. The Doctor told me he wouldn't feel any pain, that it was just like a machine being switched off.

But that just made it worse. I started crying then. I know Digger tore the factory apart - and killed several people - but he was just trying to be a good puppy and protect me. For a while, anyway, he was my friend.

* * *

After it was all over, I asked my dad if we could bury Digger in the back garden. We gave him a proper send off, and got a really nice little memorial statue to mark where he was. That way he could always watch over me.

A few weeks went by, and I was starting to get used to the idea that I could never, ever have a real pet. I was upset about it, but it could have been a lot worse. Like my granny always said, at least I had a home, and a family, and my health. Well, most of my health. Unless I went near an animal.

One day, the Doctor came back.

He talked to my dad for a long time, explaining something or other, but they seemed to come to some sort of agreement. Then the Doctor came out to talk to me. He had a small box with him.

'Hello Yarah,' he said. 'I've got a little present for you. I'm not really supposed to do this, but I reckon this is a special case. Now, you have to keep this a secret, okay? Can you do that for me?'

'Okay,' I said, shrugging.

He handed the box to me. I opened it, and inside was a glowing, pinkish ball of fluff, like cotton wool but moving around slowly. I took it out. It tickled, felt like sunlight and jam mixed together.

The Doctor crouched down to talk to me. 'Now Yarah. This is an alien shapeshifting pet, from a long way away. It's not from Earth, so there won't be any problem with your allergies. You wanted a real pet, didn't you?'

I looked at the glowing pink fluff. 'Yes, but what is it?'

'You tell me,' he said, his eyes twinkling. I must have looked confused, because then he smiled, and it was such a big, silly smile, it made me smile too. 'It takes the form of whatever animal you want, anything, no matter how exotic. All you need to do is close your eyes, and let it read your mind for a few moments. Then it will shape itself into whatever creature you want. Go on, give it a try.'

I closed my eyes. And felt the pink fluff washing over my mind, could see the pink glowing inside my head, very gently, reading my thoughts, sensing my mood, seeking out my heart's desire.

I opened my eyes.

The Doctor smiled again. 'Are you sure?' he said.

'Yes,' I said. 'That's exactly what I wanted. What I've always wanted.'

'Good,' he said. 'I'm very glad to hear it. Merry Christmas. Sorry it's a bit late. But better late than never, that's what I always say.'

With that, he walked away quickly, around the corner, and was gone. I never knew where he came from, or where he went. And I never saw him again. But I never forgot his big, silly smile.

* * *

My name is Yarah de Silva. My puppy's name is Patch. He is black and white, with a sort of pale patch on one side of his nose, and two white paws, like socks. He has one wonky ear and one normal one.  He is a bit messy, a bit clumsy, and keeps sitting in his own water bowl by accident, but he doesn't care cause he's having such a brilliant time just being here.

He loves me, and I love him. And he's the most perfect puppy in the whole, wide world.


The End

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cockneys Vs Zombies wins at Trieste

Cockneys Vs Zombies has picked up another award, this time it's the Méliès d'Argent at the Trieste Science+Fiction 2012 film festival, for the best European film in competition. It's the second highest award at the festival! And probably the sweariest film that year, but there's no award for that (apart from the one in my heart).

It's a really cool award, but also makes it eligible for another one next year: "The winner of this prize goes on to compete for the Méliès d'Or, in competition against winners of the Méliès d'Argent at the other festivals of the E.F.F.F.F – European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation."

Between them, CvsZ and Tower Block have been racking up some very nice awards. Here's the total so far:

Cockneys Vs Zombies:
Méliès d'Argent - Trieste Science+Fiction
Audience Choice Award - Toronto After Dark
Audience Award - San Sebastian Horror
Audience Choice Award - Razor Reel, Belgium

Tower Block:
Best Picture - Sitges (Panorama)

I'll update if we get any more. Glad to see that people around the world are enjoying them!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Breadcrumbs - my story from Short Trips: Transmissions

My first published short story appeared in Short Trips: Transmissions, edited by Richard Salter (who also edited the shared world anthology World's Collider, also with a story by me, which you can get here) back in 2008. I wrote another story for Short Trips: Christmas Around the World, which  also came out in 2008.

Sadly, the Short Trips books are now out of print, and used copies are going for silly prices on Amazon and eBay. But I've got permission to post both of mine here, for free - treat them as fan fiction, not for profit, etc etc. Please don't repost, just link if you want to share them. I'll post the first one now, and the Christmas one around Christmas time. Thank you to Big Finish and the BBC for letting me put them on here. By the way, I've pasted the story from my final text copy, so any grammatical errors are my fault and not the editor's - he fixed a few things in the printed version!

Story notes: When asked to write a Doctor Who story, there was only one choice of Doctor for me - the Fourth. I grew up watching him and Romana II, and had been dying to write for them. Which is why it features plenty of jaunty bickering, silliness, time twisting, and a slightly unco-operative TARDIS. It's heavily influenced by City of Death, the first episode I remember seeing - and one that snuck into The Fires of Pompeii in a few references for my own amusement.

Doctor Who original series broadcast on BBC Television. Format copyright © BBC 1963. Story originally published by Big Finish 2008, reproduced with permission from BBC Worldwide.

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Breadcrumbs
An adventure of the Fourth Doctor, with Romana

By James Moran

The Doctor looked around, sighing. The island was so small, he could actually see all the way across it. Three stubby, embarrassed looking trees skulked here and there, while bleached patches of grass stained the rest of it. No people, no shelter, no help. He sighed again, then once more for effect.

“Oh well,” he said, to nobody in particular. “Better get on with it, I suppose. At least I know it’ll work.”

* * *

Romana had been dropping some seriously heavy hints for quite a while. She wanted a holiday, some time off from the trouble they always seemed to get into. But if she just said it outright, the Doctor might not be keen. Better to let him think it was his idea all along. Which is why she had been wearing a succession of holiday outfits, “just seeing if they fit”, in the ever decreasing hope that he’d get the message.

The Doctor, on the other hand, had noticed the hints, but was trying to see how long he could pretend not to notice them before she caved in. If they hadn’t picked up the strange signal, the game might have dragged on for months.

“That’s odd,” said the Doctor, tapping a dial. “Seems to be coming from several different directions at the same time.”

“Does it,” said Romana, determinedly bouncing a beach ball off the console.

“Yes. Could be a sensor echo, the multiple signals are all the same.”

The ball bounced towards the Doctor, stopping by his feet. Romana coughed. Then again, louder.

“Could you throw the ball back over here?”

“Sorry?”

“The ball. The beach ball.”

“Oh, is that what it is?”

He idly kicked it back to her. She rolled her eyes, and went to the console, calling up information on the signal.

“It’s not a sensor echo,” she said. “And they’re not the same. It’s lots of very similar signals. There you go, mystery solved. Now, where should we go next? Maybe somewhere we can use this beach ball…”

The Doctor stared at the data displayed on the screen.

“You’re right. I mean, of course you’re right, why wouldn’t you be, but look at this. They’re not signals at all, they’re… fragments. Physical signal fragments, I’ve never seen anything like it. The TARDIS is picking them up, but they’re not transmitting, not in the usual sense. Can you feel them? Like a time disturbance, but more gentle, like little pinpricks in the arm. Can’t you feel them?”

“No.”

“Can’t be a time disturbance then, or we’d both feel it. Let’s collect a few of them, and see what happens.”

The beach ball bounced off his head, a little bit too hard. Romana strode out of the room, annoyed. The Doctor watched her go, amused, and called after her.

“You forgot your beach ball!”

* * *

Several hours later, ten of the signal fragments had been collected. They were strange things, little blurs of sound and light, contained in a large glass container that used to house some fish. The fish had met with an unfortunate accident one day when the Doctor was doing some chemistry experiments. He didn’t get any more. Timelords aren’t very good with pets.

He flicked some buttons, and turned a dial. The fragments in the glass box glowed slightly, then went back to the way they were. The Doctor’s face fell.

“Ah. Come on, don’t be like that.”

He turned the dial again, with the same result. Romana strolled in, wearing a different outfit.

“Problems?”

“It’s a three dimensional signal, broken up into these fragments. But the signal won’t decode, I don’t have all the pieces yet. And I don’t even have anything that could decode it.”

“Oh well, never mind. Look, this one still fits, too. Haven’t worn it for ages. When’s the last time I wore it, let me think… oh yes! It was in Paris, when we were on holiday. Over a year ago. That was a lovely holiday, that holiday in Paris we had, over a year ago. Paris is perfect for holidays, isn’t it? Just sitting around, in Paris, on holiday, enjoying the holiday in Paris, with--”

The Doctor clapped his hands together suddenly, and leaped up.

“Romana!”

“Yes?”

“Do you know what we need to do?”

“What?”

“Collect all the fragments, then rewire a Centauran Matter Disperser, run them through it backwards, and voila! A reconstituted signal! What do you think?”

“I think I’m going back to my room. To read. About Paris.”

She left, fed up.

The Doctor started calibrating the scanners, thrilled at the thought of a new puzzle to solve.

* * *

It was around the eighty seventh or eighty eighth fragment when Romana snapped. She walked into the console room, to find the Doctor racing around the console.

“Are you still looking for those fragments?”

“Oh yes! I’m going to collect every single one, and then find out what the message is. Won’t that be exciting? What’s that for?”

He had just noticed the small suitcase on the floor next to her.

“Clothes. You can drop me off on your way.”

“You’re not… you’re not leaving, are you?”

For a moment, a look of utter panic crossed his face, before he banished it quickly. But not quickly enough. Romana smiled.

“No, of course not. I’m just having a break, while you get this out of your system. I have no intention whatsoever of sitting around while you run around collecting bits and pieces of some old signal that could be who knows how old, or damaged, or anything.”

“Oh. Good.”

“Leaving, honestly… As if you’d be able to manage without me.”

“I’d manage perfectly well without you, thank you very much. How’d you think I managed before you arrived?”

“With great difficulty, I should imagine.”

“I’ve been around for a very long time, young lady.”

“I know. And if I’d been around, keeping an eye on you, maybe you wouldn’t have gone through so many regenerations.”

“That is completely untrue. All right, maybe you’d have helped out a bit when- now look! I do my own thing, I’m a maverick. A loner. I don’t need anyone to keep an eye on me.”

“Really? I’m going for two weeks, I’ve calculated that that should be enough time for you to collect the rest of the fragments. If I get back here and you haven’t been killed, or kidnapped, or broken the TARDIS, or got yourself into some kind of life-threatening trouble… well, I’ll be very surprised.”

“I’ll be fine! And when you get back here and see everything’s wonderful, you can take me to the restaurant on Surrifleq 9 to apologise. And you’re paying.”

“Done. And vice versa, if I’m right then you’re paying.”

“Done.”

“Done!”

“Right!”

“Okay then!”

There was a brief pause. The Doctor twiddled his thumbs.

“So where am I dropping you off?”

* * *

The Doctor nearly lost the bet within an hour, when he yanked a lever off in anger. For a moment, the TARDIS began heading directly into the path of a sun, with the doors about to open, before he managed to cram a fountain pen into the lever socket and stave off disaster.

“Must get that lever fixed,” he muttered. “Roma- oh, yes, of course.”

He looked around, embarrassed, but nobody was there to see his mistake.

“Well, then.”

The next few days were spent collecting more fragments. The silence was getting to him, but he refused to admit that he needed Romana around to keep him sane. He’d just got used to things being the way they were, that’s all. That’s all.

* * *

A week into the bet, the Doctor was alarmed to start hearing strange voices echoing around the TARDIS corridors. The internal scanners picked up nothing, but there must be an intruder on board, it was the only explanation. Maybe if he locked himself in one room, and evacuated all the air from the rest of the TARDIS, that would bring the intruder into the open? It was an excellent plan, with only two flaws: one, the intruder might not need to breathe, and two, he had no idea how to evacuate the air, or even if it could be done. But how to find him, or her, or it, or they? It was a conundrum.

Several hours later, the Doctor realised that the “voices” were his own voice. He’d been talking to himself, out loud, and didn’t realise he was doing it.

* * *

Later that same day, he did it again. Twice.

* * *

A week and half into the bet, he had got used to the fact that he was talking to himself, and decided that it was a sign of intelligence, his own mind insisting on talking things through in the absence of another sounding board.

All the while, he was collecting more and more fragments. Another day, and he’d have them all. Then all he needed to do was run them backwards through a rewired Centauran Matter Disperser.

The only slight stumbling block now was the fact that he didn’t have a Centauran Matter Disperser, rewired or otherwise.

But he knew a man who knew a man who did.

Unfortunately, the man (the one who did) was the notoriously violent and bad tempered G’rlanix who, it turned out, had murdered the other man (the one who knew him), who was called Sjad. The Doctor discovered this when he went to visit Sjad, and found a smoking crater in the ground where his house (and, indeed, his city) had been.

The Doctor had planned to ask Sjad to convince G’rlanix to lend him the Centauran Matter Disperser, as Sjad got on quite well with him (or at least he used to, before things clearly took a turn for the worse). The whole smoking crater thing put a severe crimp in that plan. And made things a lot more dangerous.

Now he was going to have to go and see G’rlanix, and ask if he could borrow the Disperser. Without ending up as a smoking crater himself.

It was all incredibly dangerous, and a bad idea from start to finish. Which is why the Doctor decided to just steal the Disperser instead.

* * *

The plan was, materialise inside G’rlanix’s museum right in front of the display case containing the Disperser, open the doors, reach out, grab it, shut the doors, and dematerialise before anyone knew what was happening. There was no way it could go wrong, no way that anyone could know who did it, or follow him. It was flawless. But, as most sensible people know, it’s the flawless plans that always go horribly wrong.

The TARDIS materialised inside the museum, as planned, in front of the display case, as planned. But the Disperser wasn’t there.

The Doctor dithered. Should he just go? He was only supposed to be here for a few seconds, and it had already been thirty seconds now. But he needed that Disperser. Gingerly, he stepped out.

The museum was empty, apart from the exhibits. Lots and lots of weapons, and a few stuffed animal heads. When the Doctor looked closer, he corrected himself: lots of weapon cases, and hardly any actual weapons. Most of them had been removed, some by force, some by unlocking the display cases.

This was not good. Lots of dangerous weapons in the wrong hands spelled trouble for an intruder. And when it came to the these sort of weapons, pretty much any hands were the wrong hands, because those hands were usually aiming the weapons at you.

The Doctor ventured further into the complex. He listened carefully for any sounds of weapons fire, but there was nothing. He continued walking into the eerie silence.

He turned a corner, and saw a dead body lying near a door. There were no visible signs of injury, but some of the most terrible weapons were ones that left no marks on the surface. He crept closer, and saw that the man was holding the Centauran Matter Disperser. The Doctor’s eyebrows shot up, and he started to walk forwards.

He stopped himself.

When something looks too good to be true, it usually is. The nearby door was slightly ajar, maybe half an inch, and some sort of flickering light was coming through the gap. Maybe a viewscreen on the blink? A broken light fitting? The Doctor didn’t know. But for now, there was no noise, so he tried not to worry about it.

He lifted the Disperser out of the hands of the dead man.

“Sorry old chap,” he whispered. He turned to go back the way he came, but his natural curiosity got the better of him. He had to know what was on the other side of that door.

He edged towards it, and nudged it open with his foot, slowly.

Inside the room, he noticed three things immediately.

The first thing he noticed was that a massive gunfight was taking place, in utter silence, between G’rlanix’s guards, and some thieves who had crashed their ship into the outer shell of the building. Muzzle flashes from the gunfire flickered wildly.

The second thing was the dark green light over the top of the door which indicated that the room had an electronic soundproofing system fitted.

The third thing was G’rlanix, mortally wounded, inputting the code into the self destruct panel on his computer wall. He hit the confirmation key, and a countdown started on the screen – 30 seconds. 29. 28.

G’rlanix saw the Doctor, and pointed at him angrily. With a weapon. He fired.

The blast missed the Doctor, but hit the soundproofing box over the door, smashing it. Suddenly the full sound and fury of the battle came blasting out, snapping the Doctor out of his stunned reverie. He turned and ran, pursued by G’rlanix.

“It’s all right,” shouted the Doctor over his shoulder. “Don’t mind me, just pretend I’m not here.”

Another blast exploded a bit too close for comfort.

“Really, I was just leaving anyway,” shouted the Doctor.

The Doctor raced back to the TARDIS, clutching the Disperser, dodging blasts fired by G’rlanix. Luckily, the injured man was weaving all over the place, had blurred vision in both eyes, and seemed unable to figure out which of the three Doctors to fire at.

All the while, the countdown timer was heading towards zero.

The Doctor leaped inside the open TARDIS doors, and started to close them. Just then, a lucky shot from G’rlanix slipped through the gap, and blasted a hole in the central console. The doors closed. The Doctor looked at G’rlanix on the viewscreen, and hesitated. He switched on the external speakers, and spoke to him.

“Can I give you a lift? No hard feelings, honestly.”

G’rlanix answered by unleashing a volley of gunfire at the TARDIS doors.

“Look, I have to go! You’re welcome to come along, I can drop you off anywhere you like.”

G’rlanix dropped his weapon, and picked up a much larger one. He aimed it at the TARDIS.

The Doctor’s eyes widened. He quickly started the engines, and the TARDIS dematerialised.

Back in his museum, G’rlanix roared in anger, just as the self destruct countdown reached zero.

* * *

The Doctor slumped down, frustrated and out of breath. He looked at the Disperser.

“You’d better be worth it,” he muttered. He waved away the smoke from the hole in the console, inspecting the damage.

“Not too bad, could be worse I suppose. Better fix it before Romana gets back, otherwise… I’m talking to myself again, aren’t I? Yes. Must stop doing that.”

He grabbed his toolbox, and set to work rewiring the Disperser.

* * *

The Doctor picked up Romana on the final day of the bet, making a big show of how he was still alive and the TARDIS was in one piece. Romana was quite surprised that he even turned up on time, never mind anything else. And she had been convinced that he’d be on his next regeneration, even in the short time she’d been away. He must have been extra careful.

The Doctor, for his part, was just glad that she didn’t notice the slight burn mark in the side of the console. He’d patched up the hole as best he could, and hoped that if she did spot it, it wouldn’t be for a while. At which point he would shrug, and insist that it had been there for years.

He spent the rest of the day making the last adjustments to the Disperser. At last, it was rewired, reconfigured, repurposed. Half of the work was incredibly complex and imaginative, half of it amounted to snapping bits off and sticking them elsewhere with chewing gum. But it worked. More or less.

All he needed now was the final fragment, and he could put the signal together.

* * *

The missing piece was on a dusty planetoid with a minimal atmosphere. Breathable, not very warm, but they wouldn’t be there for too long.

“Keep an eye out for those wormholes,” said Romana, before they left the TARDIS.

“What wormholes?”

“The seventeen small wormholes that are drifting around on the surface. You wouldn’t want to get into trouble with one, especially after you’ve been managing so well.”

“Ah yes, of course.”

The Doctor felt a pang of guilt. But what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. As far as she knew, he hadn’t got into any trouble at all. After all, he was alive, wasn’t he? And surely that’s what mattered, in the great scheme of things.

He set up the Disperser, placing it on a handy rock near to the glass box. The TARDIS collected the final fragment, sending it into the box. The Doctor switched on the rewired Disperser.

“Right, here we are then, let’s see what you’re made of.”

He manipulated the Disperser, which jerked into life. The fragments flew out of the box, and were sucked into the open end of the Disperser. When they had all gone in, the device shook, and a solid beam of light came out the other end.

It aimed itself a few feet away, but instead of forming into a message, it formed the shape of a man. The figure was still too bright to see properly.

Seconds later, the light faded, and revealed the man. Curly hair, long coat, scarf, enormous grin - it was the Doctor. Another Doctor, an exact duplicate.

The original Doctor, crouched over the Disperser, stared in amazement.

“There you are! Hello!” said the New Doctor, just before turning to Romana with an anxious look. “Listen, you haven’t looked at the sensor logs recently, have you?”

Romana looked at him, unable to speak temporarily. The original Doctor cleared his throat, trying to regain control of the situation.

“Now look here,” he began, before the New Doctor interrupted him.

“Sorry old bean,” he said. “No time for explanations, but you’ll figure it out. Good luck, by the way, you’ll be fine. Should be happening around… now.”

“What should?” asked the original Doctor, a second before a passing wormhole that had been hidden behind a nearby rock sucked him and the Disperser into its vortex.

* * *

The Doctor felt like he was falling, for a long time, but it must have been only a few seconds. He’d never been sucked through a mini wormhole before, and he couldn’t honestly say that it was an enjoyable experience.

He clung on to the Disperser, because it was the only other solid thing nearby, and felt reassuringly chunky and heavy.

A light approached. For a terrible nanosecond, the Doctor felt as if he was being stretched the entire diameter of the universe, until-

* * *

-he came flying out the other end of the wormhole, landing on a soft, sandy beach.

The Disperser landed next to him, just missing his head.

The Doctor let out a loud groan, before checking himself thoroughly to make sure that nothing was missing, and that his head was on the right way around. Everything seemed more or less intact. He groaned again.

Struggling to his feet, he looked around. He was on a tiny island in the middle of a vast ocean. He had no idea what planet, what sector, what galaxy, or even if he was in the same universe.

And he had no way of getting back. The wormhole was still there, but it had drastically reduced in size. He could probably just about get his head in, or maybe a leg, but that was no good to anyone. Besides, who knows where he’d end up? If it was a random destination, then he might be in the same position he was in now. At least here he had air to breathe, and land to stand on.  Assuming he ended up somewhere that wasn’t fatal, he had no way of contacting anyone to get a lift back to the TARDIS.

Maybe he could send some sort of signal with the Disperser. He could rewire it back to the way it was, feed some sand or rocks into it, and encode them with a unique signature. Fire them through the wormhole, and- but how would they find him from those signals? He didn’t even know where he was. Unless he was the signal himself…

Yes, that was it – if he fixed the Disperser, adjusted the settings, fiddled with it a bit, then it could break him down into thousands of tiny pieces, convert them into three dimensional signal fragments, and-

And there it was. The puzzle was solved. The fragments he had already been searching for were pieces of himself, sent through a wormhole and scattered across a whole region of the galaxy. The wormhole must have sent him backwards in time, too, because the fragments appeared several weeks ago, out of nowhere. That explained how he was able to sense them when they were nearby – because they were part of him.

He sat down, wondering how long it would take to fix the Disperser. He’d been pretty rough with it, and parts were already falling off. A quick search of his pockets revealed several interesting items, the most useful of which were half a jar of marmalade, a broken telescope and a packet of toothpicks. Tragically, he had completely run out of jelly babies.

The Doctor sat down and looked around, sighing. The island was so small, he could actually see all the way across it. Three stubby, embarrassed looking trees skulked here and there, while bleached patches of grass stained the rest of it. No people, no shelter, no help. He sighed again, then once more for effect.

“Oh well,” he said, to nobody in particular. “Better get on with it, I suppose. At least I know it’ll work.”

Before he started, a thought struck him. What if Romana had looked through the sensor logs? She’d find out all the near misses and accidents he’d had while she was away. He’d lose the bet. He made a mental note to double check with her as soon as he got back. Technically it was cheating, but he really didn’t want to lose the bet.

After all, the restaurant on Surrifleq 9 was very, very expensive.

* * *

Finally, it was ready. The Doctor got into position, and flicked on the Disperser. For a moment, nothing happened, until, with an agonising yank, he was converted into thousands of signal fragments and shot through the wormhole.

And suddenly, he was standing on the dusty planetoid, watching his old self and Romana gaping at him in amazement. It felt instantaneous, but he knew that he had been floating around the galaxy for weeks, in tiny pieces. He stretched, and beamed at his old self.

“There you are! Hello!” he said. Now, what was it he was supposed to remember? Oh yes – the logs… He turned to Romana, quickly. “Listen, you haven’t looked at the sensor logs recently, have you?”

Romana just stared at him. Probably not the best time to have a conversation about this. Another thought struck him. Should he tell his old self what to do, how to get out of the situation? Then again, he figured it out, so maybe he didn’t need to. Besides, there wasn’t really enough time to go into details.

“Now look here,” said his old self.

“Sorry old bean,” said the Doctor. “No time for explanations, but you’ll figure it out. Good luck, by the way, you’ll be fine. Should be happening around… now.”

“What should?”

The Doctor watched, wincing, as the passing wormhole whisked his old self away. He turned to Romana, clapping his hands together.

“Right! Shall we get on, then?”

“The signal was you, all along?”

“Yes. I got taken by the wormhole, and had to send myself as a signal, to myself, through the same wormhole. And here I am, safe and sound. Good job I collected all those signal fragments, eh?”

“Yes… but if you hadn’t collected them all, we would never have come here, and you wouldn’t have been taken by the wormhole.”

“Ah yes, but if I hadn’t been taken by the wormhole, then the fragments wouldn’t have existed in the first place. And because they did exist, if I hadn’t come here to create them, then… oh, who knows? That’s the trouble with time paradoxes and recursive loops, if you try to make sense of it all you just end up with a blinding headache.”

“So where did you go?”

“Long story. Well, actually, not really, but I’ll gladly embellish it for you and make it into one. Come on, I’ll tell you all about it over dinner at Surrifleq 9.”

He strode back towards the TARDIS, followed by Romana. She smiled.

“Fair enough. You’re paying, by the way,” she said.

The Doctor stopped just inside the door.

“You looked at the sensor logs?“

“I knew you couldn’t stay out of trouble for five minutes.”

“It was longer than five minutes!”

“Still. I won the bet, fair and square. Pay up, and stop being a bad loser.”

“I may be a bad loser, but you’re showing no grace in victory.”

“Would you?”

“Definitely not. What’s the point of winning if you can’t gloat about it?”

They walked inside, and the doors shut behind them. The Doctor began to operate the central console. He stopped, and turned to Romana.

“You didn’t even look at the logs, did you? You didn’t have time.”

“Didn’t need to.”

“That’s cheating!”

“So is sneakily wiping the sensor logs.”

“I wouldn’t have done that!”

Romana looked at him, one eyebrow raised. He threw his hands up in defeat, and pulled a lever.

The TARDIS began to dematerialise, until finally it was gone, leaving nothing but the sound of the engines fading away into the distance.

With a grinding noise, it reappeared, listing to one side. An embarrassed cough came from inside, before the Doctor spoke.

“Ah. Never did get that lever fixed…”

The End

Monday, November 19, 2012

For Julia

My brilliant, funny, beautiful, super-smart and incredibly brave sister Julia left us on Tuesday 13th November 2012, after an epic fight against cancer. She went peacefully, painlessly, held by our other two sisters and surrounded by love.

I'll miss her so much. She introduced me to Alien, The Young Ones, John Waters, trashy TV movies, The Blues Brothers, and so much more. All of my memories of her involve us laughing like lunatics, she was so funny. I'd give anything to have another few minutes with her. Life is so terribly, terribly short.

Kirkwood Hospice, where she spent her final days, were amazing to Julia and all of us, providing care way beyond the call of duty - so we're hoping to send some money their way, to help in their wonderful work. If you'd like to help out, please visit this link or pass it on.

Goodbye, Jools. I love you and miss you, always.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Regeneration in Toronto

Canadians! And people near to Canadia! Yes, that's the correct spelling, you're ALL doing it wrong. It's pronounced "can-AY-dee-ah". Anyway. I'm coming to a Doctor Who convention in Toronto, called Regeneration, on Saturday November 17th. That's just a week away! Are you going too? If not, why the hell not?

I've never been to Toronto, apart from briefly while changing flights a few years ago, but that was just a corridor in an airport, so I'm pretty sure it doesn't count. I'm looking forward to seeing your lovely city, meeting you lovely Canadians, and eating your lovely bacon. Come and say hello if you're in the vicinity.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Dead Roots issue 1 out now

Dead Roots, the zombie anthology comic that I have a story in, has released its first issue. It's set during the first few hours of a zombie outbreak, and has gore, mayhem, drama, humour, tragedy, and lots of biting. It's edited by Mike Garley, who I'm doing VS Comics with (more on that in another blog post).

Dead Roots will be released quarterly, and there's a bloody good lineup of creators involved. My story is in the next issue, and you can subscribe to the whole thing if you want it to just arrive when new issues come out - it's on Apple's Newsstand, with a Kindle version coming soon (you won't need a Kindle, you can use the free app to view it).

It's digital *only*, so you won't be able to pick these up in shops etc - if it's a huge success, then there might be a printed collection somewhere down the line, but that might be ages away. If you want it, grab it now, and save a tree, or part of a tree.

Check out some of the reviews it's been getting (click on the links to read the full reviews):

"Dead Roots is flawless from concept to concept" - Bleeding Cool

"Expect blood, violence, swearing, madness, love, hate and a LOT of zombies. Like a mad prequel to World War Z in spectacular comic form." - Gorepress

“This is some damn good zombie storytelling.” - Fanboy Comics

"The first issue of Dead Roots is out now and a joy to both look at and read." - The Reluctant Geek

"Overall, Dead Roots is a quality anthology, a fantastic read and even bigger promise." - Geek Native

It's available here on iTunes, for the bargain price of £2.99 (or $4.99 or €4.49 depending where you live) for a 38 page issue. Or you can subscribe to the whole thing and get each issue for a bit less. Yes, those different currency symbols mean you can buy it wherever you are, there's no silly region locking or anything. If you want it, it's just a click away. Well, probably a few clicks. But quick clicks. So go and get it!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cockneys Vs Zombies awards

Wow, this is a lovely double surprise - Cockneys Vs Zombies has won the top prize audience award for best feature film at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, AND at the San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival.

It also won three other awards at Toronto - best comedy, best ensemble cast, and film they'd most like to see a sequel to.

These ones mean a *lot* to me, because they're voted for by the audience, who are the most important people when it comes to a movie. We make these things to be seen and enjoyed, and I'm really chuffed that people are enjoying CvsZ so much. Loads of you even watched it as your Halloween night movie! That's pretty damn cool right there. So thank you, for all the support and lovely messages. You rock.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

CvsZ and Tower Block in the US

Yes! You read the subject line correctly, because you're intelligent, attractive, and have excellent taste. Cockneys Vs Zombies and Tower Block are heading your way, American people! And Canadian people too, but only for CvsZ, TB's deal is just for the US. No I don't know why. But the US is closer than the UK! You Canadianish can pop over the border for some TB fun! Or just order a DVD, I guess.

The full press release is here, but basically both movies will be out on VOD and DVD in 2013, and will have a small "platform theatrical release", which I think means a limited cinema release (like Severance had over there as far as I can tell). The release for both movies is being handled by the fantastically named Shout! Factory. I like a company that has an exclamation mark in the middle of their name. It has a certain confidence and swagger.

I'm very glad that the news is now out, I've been biting my tongue about it for a while. Soon you lovely Americanish and Canada-kind will be able to see both movies. Enjoy!

By the way, you may scour the Hollywood Reporter article all you want, but there's no mention that I wrote both the movies. I'm sure there just wasn't enough space to mention my name on their page, among all the adverts and links to articles like "Why do I have so much body hair?" Just for fun, here's a snapshot of the whole page, with the actual article highlighted in red so you can see how little space it takes up:


Pretty crammed, eh? I'm just glad they had room to mention the movies! Phew!

Update! The lovely people at Dread Central have another report on it, but have mentioned my name, and called me "notable cult film and TV scribe James Moran", which is a new one. I like that. Does that mean I'm like "noted" photographer Nigel Barker from America's Next Top Model??

Another update! Screen Daily covers the story too, and mentions me in the subhead! This isn't me being vain, by the way (although of course I am), I just think it's important for writers to be as visible as the other film makers, in all articles like this.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween! Happy Halloween! Do me a favour, please, just for today. Watch a scary movie. Or a silly splattery movie. Or a tense, freaky movie. Or a fun monster movie. Anything you'd find in the Horror section. Watch it alone, or with friends. But watch with the electric lights off. Light a few candles. Maybe watch a creepy short film to get you in the mood, like this, or this, or this, or all three of them in a row. And celebrate the long, glorious history of the horror genre, a genre that will never die, just like a successful franchise monster.

The photos below are the work of Mr Martin Clark - it's a carving of the bus poster from CvsZ! He was one of our brilliant zombies from the movie, and you can go tell him how clever he is at his Twitter profile here.

Before adding the candle:


And after:


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CvsZ & Tower Block swear count update

Warning! Contains bad language! Lots of it!

Cockneys Vs Zombies is now out on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes, and all sorts, and the publicity folks have put together a really fun infographic covering all the deaths, kills, bites, swears, litres of blood used in the movie, and many more besides.

I helped to contribute to the data, including the "how to survive" bit, but spare a thought for Emma in the office, who had to sit down with a DVD and count all the fucks, kills, limb loppings, etc. We haven't heard from her since. Apparently she went feral, and is now living in a forest.

A while back I posted a competition to guess how many swears were in Cockneys and Tower Block - go read the post, so you know what I'm on about. Go on, I'll wait.

Are you finished yet? No? Oh, okay. I'll wait longer.

You're back! Good. Now it's time to reveal the answers. These are just the ones in the script, the final movies have different amounts, and other smaller swears, but you'll have to count them yourself to find out. Based on the final shooting drafts of each movie, the swear counts are as follows:

Cockneys Vs Zombies
129 fucks
44 shits
5 cocks
1 wank

Tower Block
84 fucks
23 shits
4 cocks
0 wanks

The one mystery swear word not listed was "cunt", which is in Tower Block once (and I think twice in the finished movie).

I'm surprised that the final movie fuck count is so close to the script - 130 as opposed to 129 - several more were improvised on set, and several were trimmed here and there, so it's interesting that it ended up being about the same. I'd love to know how many of the other ones made it in, but someone else will have to count those, sitting with a DVD and a notepad. But this competition was about the shooting drafts of the scripts.

So who had the best guess? From the comments section, only Chuck correctly guessed the mystery word, and which movie it was in, but was way off with the other ones. Only Dave Scullion guessed that Tower Block would have zero wanks, and that CvsZ would have 5 cocks, but none of his other guesses were right. Jane had the closest Tower Block fuck count with 89, but didn't make any other guesses. Good work all of you, you get a respectful nod and a cheeky wink.

But ShaunaJ was closest the most often - guessing 130 fucks for CvsZ (scarily accurate) and 5 cocks, and 16 shits (as opposed to 23) for Tower Block. So I think I'll have to declare ShaunaJ the winner. Well done, ShaunaJ! As promised, your prize is fame and fortune, in the form of a mention on this blog. But if you get in touch (email details at the Contact link above) I'll see if there's anything small I can send you. It'll be small and cheap, as I am but a starving artiste who dines on DREAMS and WHIMSY.

Hope you all enjoyed the sweary revelations, and please spread the infographic around, I think it's very cool. Cheers!

***Update!*** Emma has been in touch again, with what we think is the full, definitive CvsZ swear count from the finished movie:

130 fucks
20 shits
0 cocks
1 wank (in the form of wanker)
13 pisses
3 tits
1 git
1 twat
4 bollocks
3 pricks
4 bitches
1 dickbag
3 bloody hells
7 bastards

So now we know...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cockneys Vs Zombies on DVD & Blu-ray now!

Cockneys Vs Zombies is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK and Ireland from today!

Amazon seem to have the best offers, on DVD and Blu-ray. It's also available on iTunes to buy or rent, in standard and high definition. You can even buy it in actual shops. The soundtrack is also available online now, or as a CD on the 5th November here.

There's a making-of documentary, a zombie school featurette, and the trailer - but unfortunately no commentaries. BUT - I'm going to record a commentary myself, and put it online for free, so you can sync it up and watch. For you! Because you're lovely!

Other countries: we will have news for you VERY soon, watch this space. You will be able to see it, legally, safely, without needing to wear a condom on your head. I mean, you can if you want, but it will muffle the sound, distort your vision, and look weird.

Speaking of which: please don't download it illegally, it's a low budget UK movie, and if it doesn't make money, then it makes it more difficult for the next thing to get made. If you do download it and you like it, please consider buying it. We all worked really hard on it, it was a labour of love - Matthias the director even paid for the opening credits animation himself - so you won't be sticking it to some faceless corporation, you'll be hurting us directly and our jobs. However you see it, as long as you end up buying it, then I'm happy.

Thank you to everyone who has watched, enjoyed, said lovely things, purchased, spread the word, etc etc. And if you've bought it, sight unseen, thank you even more - I hope you like it! If you don't, then maybe wrap it up and pass it on to someone you hate as a Christmas present. Everyone's a winner. Except that person you hate. Unless they like it. Okay, this is too complicated now. Enjoy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cockneys Vs Zombies deleted scene

CvsZ is out on DVD and blu-ray in the UK this Monday 22nd October, but to keep you going in the meantime, here's a deleted scene on the movie's official Facebook page. It's probably my favourite deleted scene, and features more of Alan Ford punching and swearing.

You can pre-order right now from Amazon. It keeps hovering around the top 3 in the Comedy Horror chart, which is nice - here's a pic from when it was at 1 and 2:


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cockneys Vs Zombies on DVD & Blu-ray

Cockneys Vs Zombies is released in the UK and Ireland on shiny, shiny disc format on October 22nd! You can pre-order it right now, and at the moment Amazon seem to have the best offer - £9 for the DVD and £11 for the Blu-ray. Look at the lovely covers!


There'll be a making-of documentary and interviews with cast and crew, but unfortunately no commentaries. I know, we all really wanted some. But in these days of difficult economic thingies, recording a proper commentary can be quite expensive for DVD companies - hiring a screening room, getting food and drinks, travel there and back, sound engineer, etc etc. We don't get paid for doing them, of course, but most film-makers are happy to do them to help make the disc nicer. Don't blame the DVD folk though, they're good people, it's just a tricky time for everyone.

BUT - I'm going to record a commentary myself, on my laptop, and put it online for free. I'll work out a way to sync it up properly (perhaps with the first company logo or something), and you can at least have my commentary to go with it. I think Matthias wants to do one too, if so then I'll link to them both on here. We do this because we love you - you've supported us all the way since it was announced, you spread the word, went to see it, said lovely things, and have generally been brilliant. Look, it's already at number 5 and 6 in the Comedy Horror chart at Amazon! That's all thanks to YOU, preordering it!

I'm really glad that everyone in the UK will be able to see it, we couldn't get it into every cinema, it's a crowded movie world out there lately. But now you can have it sent directly to your home. Also, it's the first of my movies to be released on Blu-ray, as Severance never quite made it to that format (except in Germany and Australia, for some reason), so I'm really chuffed about that. Hope you all enjoy it!

By the way, we will have news about the release in other countries *very* soon, hang in there! And the Tower Block DVD should be out roughly around the end of the year, though we don't have a set date yet.

Also by the way, the fantastic Jody Jenkins soundtrack of CvsZ is available as a download right now, and will be released on CD next month.

Also also by the way, we had a fantastic screening at Grimmfest in Manchester, for a very appreciative audience, followed by a quite spectacularly late evening of partying. It's a great festival, and hopefully next year I can attend the full weekend. Click this link for a fun interview with me and Alan Ford before the free drinks started, from the Zombie Hamster website, which is where this pic came from:


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CvsZ screening in Manchester

Manchester folk! Want to see Cockneys Vs Zombies on the big screen?? In a murderous rage because it didn't make it to your cinemas?? Want to KILL SOMEONE?? Well put those homicidal feelings to one side, because we're bringing the movie to you!

Yes, for one night only, CvsZ will have a lovely cinema screening in Manchester, on Thursday 4th October, at 9pm. It's part of the marvellously named Grimmfest horror festival, in the opening gala, and tickets are on sale right now, so hurry - all the details can be found here. If you want to see CvsZ, you'll need a day pass for Thursday or a full weekend pass.

I'll be there as a guest, along with the mighty trio of Alan Ford, Jack Doolan, and Ashley Thomas, and the dynamic producing duo of James Harris and Mark Lane. We're doing a Q&A after the screening, which should be a lot of fun. There WILL be swearing.

There are lots of other great movies to see, so why not grab a full weekend pass and check them out? Sinister, American Mary, Grabbers, the Cabal Cut of Nightbreed, and loads more, many with their own special guests. Hopefully I'll see some of you there on Thursday 4th.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

VS Comics page

I announced a while ago that I was working on a creator-owned comic with Mr Mike Garley, and now the Facebook page is live, and open, and visible, and all that sort of stuff - there are some logos and story details, and plenty more will appear as we get closer to the launch.

You'll be able to see the logo and blurb for my first ongoing story, Day and Night, something I'm very excited about. So go! Click the Like button, and shiny rewards will shower down upon you from HEAVEN ITSELF!*

There'll be some sneaky images from works in progress uploaded soon, so keep an eye on the page. We'll also be launching the actual website when it's ready, but the FB page is the best place to hear about that right now, so off you pop and get internet-married to us both.**

Why are you still reading this?? Go there!


---
*Note: you will not get shiny rewards, from Heaven or anywhere else. But I will love you extra hard.
**Also note: internet-marriage is legal and binding, and your contract will arrive within 28 days.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tower Block. UK cinemas. 21st September.


Update: Tower Block is NOW in UK cinemas. The first weekend is VERY important for films like this, because *11* other films came out on the same day, and more will be out next week. Cinemas can't show everything, so they have to prioritise, and anything that is losing them money gets dumped, understandably. So if you can, please see it in this first weekend, it'll make a big difference. If you like this sort of thing, support it, and then more will get made!


The subject line says it all really. But I'll say more anyway, because it's my blog and my movie and I will TAKE MY TOYS HOME IF YOU DON'T LET ME--

Ahem. Sorry, got a bit overexcited there. Let's go to a new paragraph, just to take the stain of shame away.

Woo! All new, shame-free paragraph! Okay, Tower Block is released in UK & Ireland cinemas on Friday 21st September. That's this week. Yes, I know. Other countries, details will come later when we have them. This is the (extra wide) poster:


This is the poster at a tube station in London, with a scary man standing nearby:


And this is the trailer - now, it's not *hugely* spoilery, unlike most trailers, but it does give some stuff away. Obviously I'd rather you didn't know ANYTHING before going into the movie, as it'll be more surprising that way. But if you're cool with it, then here it is. It's a bloody great trailer, too:



Again, like CvsZ, it's a low budget, UK movie, and we can't always compete with the marketing might of things like the Dark Knight. But we've got posters out there on tubes, a cool trailer, lots of brilliant reviews, and a movie we're all really proud of.

It's not a remake, a sequel, reboot, rethink, reimagining, prequel, threequel, squeakquel, or based on a TV show. It's not a miserable kitchen-sink drama or frilly romcom, it's a dark, horror-action-thriller with a few laughs too, so please come out and support us if you like it. If you go and see the movies that you like, then they'll do well and we'll get to make more of them. It's win-win!

Please don't pirate it, because it really will affect us, and means the people with the money won't want to fund things like this again. If you do pirate it, and like it, then please buy it afterwards. I'm not going to call you a criminal or so on, I don't think that helps anyone. But nobody's going to become a millionaire from this, you're not taking money from some faceless corporation, you would be directly hurting us, the creative folk who want to make more movies to entertain you. I know it's frustrating if it's not on near you yet, but trust me, it's just as frustrating for us, we want everyone to see the movie. So please go and see it at the cinema, or buy it when it comes out on DVD. We'd like to continue to get paid for our work, so we can pay the bills and keep doing our job. But if you do pirate it, and don't pay, please don't tell me. I'll cry, all over you, and nobody wants that.

So please go and see it! It's a bigger release this time, you should be able to find it easily enough - sorry if it's not on near you, but it's still on plenty of screens. UPDATE: You can use this link to find all the cinemas showing it.

Enjoy!

My FrightFest phone idents

Both CvsZ and Tower Block premiered at FrightFest this year - you can read my long, rambly blog post on that here - but I also had two other surprise shorts playing.

Before the festival, Ian Rattray, one of the FrightFest organisers, asked several filmmakers, including me, to provide 30 second idents to be shown before the main movies, asking the audience to turn off their phones. It's become his catchphrase at the fest now, as he yells at us "turn off your bloody phones!"

I was asked to do one of my own, but also to do the opening one starring Ian himself - it's his catchphrase, so it was only right that he kicked things off with a slightly longer ident. I wrote and directed both of them, and spent a couple of days with James and Russ from the brilliant Ne'er Do Well Films who organised the whole affair. We had the services of DoP extraordinaire Laurie Rose (Kill List) who made it all look fantastic (thanks to kickass producer Jen Handorf for snagging Laurie for us, Jen is also producing my short Crazy For You, more news on that later).

The one with Ian in played before the opening movie, and the one with me in played before Tower Block - I deliberately hadn't told the producers or directors about it, so they were quite surprised (and I think a bit scared) to see me suddenly popping up after the intro and slaughtering people.

They're online now, so I thought I'd give them their own blog post. They're not safe for work, and feature violence, gore and swearing. Here's the one with Ian in:



And here's my one, starring... well, me. I couldn't find anyone famous: