Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Barron Knight

Phill Barron is on fire (metaphorically) at the moment, with a couple of fantastic blog posts. He's always on good form, and blisteringly honest, but these two are particularly fine.

The first, in which he is a hero to all of us writers, is an epic win which is still making me laugh.

The second, in which he gives tough love to new writers, is a harsh-but-fair set of answers to common "I can't break in" complaints. Go and read it now. If any of them upset you, or you think "yeah but that doesn't apply to me", then read it again, and again, and again, until it sinks in. Here's an example of the sort of no nonsense stuff you'll get from him:


No they didn’t. Your idea was shit, they just had the same shitty idea. You remember that newspaper article which set you off? Guess fucking what? You weren’t the only person in the world to read it. They just got there first. Tough shit, move on.

Go. Read. And read back through the archives. And hey, even if you disagree with everything, you have to admit - the man can fucking swear for England.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Message in a bottle

Every single person we meet alters the course of our lives in some way. Sometimes they send you on a big diversion, sometimes it's only a subtle course adjustment. You don't always realise at the time, and it's only later you find out they've taken up residence in your head.

September, 2006. I was on a plane with my mate Jay, on our way to the Fantastic Fest, a film festival that was showing Severance. We were a few hours away from landing in Dallas. My in-flight TV wasn't working, so we'd been merrily drinking Jack Daniels to pass the time. Towards the end of the flight, they ran out of JD. We were, understandably, heartbroken. But the guy in the seat next to me offered me his mini bottle, as he had only used a bit of it. I gratefully accepted, and we got chatting.

He was in the army. Must have been about 20, looked really young. He was on his way back from Afghanistan, going home on leave. His daughter had been born while he was away. He'd never seen her in person, never held her in his arms, so obviously he was really looking forward to meeting her. But once his leave was over, he was going back overseas - this time, to Iraq. He wasn't worried though, in fact he was looking forward to it. All of his unit mates were there, and he felt responsible to them. They were there, so he should be there too. He would miss his family, and newborn daughter, of course. But he'd signed up for this, and was going to do his duty. I can't imagine having that strength and courage in the face of such danger. But it was second nature to him. And at least he was getting to see his family now, before he went back over.

Soon after that, it was time to land. We said our goodbyes, and wished each other luck. We must have chatted for about 10, maybe 20 minutes. But I've wondered, pretty much every week since then, how he is, and if he's okay. Obviously there are many, many more who serve, and they always have my absolute support and admiration. But he was the only one I've actually met in person, so I can't stop wondering what happened to him.

He seemed like a really good guy. I hope he had a great time with his family. I hope he made it through his time in Iraq, and got home safely. I hope he's safe and well now.

And I hope that one day, I get to meet him again. I owe the man a drink.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here's the part where, hopefully, you enter the story. I would really, really love to find out who he is and if he's okay, so if you know him, or know of him, or *are* him, please get in touch (email address on the contact details page linked under my profile up on the right). The tricky thing is, I'm terrible at remembering names, so… I can't remember his name. I'm not even sure we exchanged names, it was a fairly short conversation. If I'd known he was going to stick in my head for so long, I'd have asked him. But here are the details I do know.

It was a flight to Dallas Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday, September 20th, 2006, from London Gatwick. American Airlines flight AA51, economy section, departing Gatwick at 10.25am, arriving in Dallas Fort Worth at 2.20pm. The takeoff was delayed about 45 minutes. The in-flight movies were X-Men 3, and Firewall (hey, anything that might jog a memory…) Me, Jay and our new army friend were in the middle column of seats, at the front of a section by the bulkhead, with the big projected Skymap in front of us. I'm fairly sure he was Texan, as far as I could tell he had a Texan accent. He was in civilian clothes, had blonde or very light brown cropped/shaved/military style hair. I'm not sure what branch of the army he was in, whether he was stationed in Texas, lived in Texas, or was getting a connecting flight to go somewhere else. Think he was about 5 foot 9 inches high, wiry to medium build.

That's all the info I have. I realise it's not much to go on. But hey, it's a big old internet out there, and somebody might know of somebody who knew somebody else who was getting home on leave around that time to see their newborn baby daughter. It's a slim chance, but you never know, stranger things have happened. So this is my message in a bottle. Hopefully it'll find its way to dry land.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Highlander season 2 audio

The Season 2 box set of Big Finish's Highlander audio series is now available to order on CD, or as a download, containing all 4 linked episodes featuring the Four Horsemen from the Highlander TV series. I wrote one, Scott Andrews wrote the other 3, and they're really good fun. Well, if your definition of fun includes swordfights, punchups, betrayal, murder, torture, insanity, love, hate, jokes, action, adventure, roaring rampages of revenge spanning thousands of years, and ice-cream - which mine does, of course.

From the website:

Methos. Kronos. Silas. Caspian. Four names that struck terror into the hearts of men, women and children for centuries when they rode the lands under the name The Four Horsemen.

The second series of Highlander audio adventures takes an in-depth look at these four people; their origins, their secrets, and what made them the bloodthirsty killers they became.

This link here has a lovely photo of Peter Wingfield, aka Methos, taken while he was actually recording his episode, so go and have a look, and marvel at his manly goatee. We've got all four actors who played the Horsemen, as well the fantastic Tracy-Ann Oberman, Toby Longworth, and John Banks. It's all moving along really well, and I can't wait to hear it when it's all finished. There are some more details on the June edition of the Big Finish podcast, from around 27 minutes 40 seconds in, until about 33 minutes.

But when can you own this fine entertainment?? Well, it'll be out on 31st January 2011. I know it's a while away, but hey, pretend you're an Immortal, and the time will pass by in a brief moment. Warning: you are not actually an Immortal. Do not do anything life threatening. Do not spurn potential partners by claiming you will have to watch the other person grow old and die while you remain eternally young. Do not engage anyone in swordfights, and definitely do not kill them.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Screening of "Dreams With Sharp Teeth", with Q&A

Do you like Harlan Ellison? Do you want to see the documentary about him, "Dreams With Sharp Teeth"? Do you want to see it on a big screen at the South Bank Centre? Introduced by the director, Erik Nelson? With (technology permitting) a speakerphone Q&A with Harlan after the screening, conducted by TV's James Moran (me)??

If you answered "yes" to some or all those questions, then you're in luck! The South Bank Centre are screening the fantastic documentary, on Friday 18th June, at 9pm, introduced by director Erik Nelson. Afterwards, assuming the technology works, we'll phone up Harlan at his home in LA, and I'll be conducting (well, sitting quietly while he talks at great length) a Q&A, asking a few questions of my own and hopefully plenty of yours too. Bear in mind that even a simple, short answer becomes an epic, 2 hour tale when Harlan speaks, so we might only get to ask one question. And if the speakerphone technology fails us, we'll probably be able to hear him anyway, because that mofo can PROJECT, folks. On foggy days, he is hired to stand on the coast and warn approaching ships about the rocks. NASA have him on standby to shatter dangerous asteroids by shouting at them.* If he raises his voice too much, it echoes backwards through time, making The Big Bang cover its ears and shriek "what the hell was THAT??"**

"But TV's James Moran," I hear you cry, "Times are hard! I can't afford the frivolous expense of going to see some documentary about a writer! Even one as handsome, clever and charming as Harlan Ellison!" Well fear not, because the tickets are free. Yes, FREE, gratis, for nothing. You still have to book tickets, but they won't cost you a penny. There's a transaction fee if you book online (£1.45) or by phone (£2.50), but you can always go to the box office in person and book them, and that way there'll be no fee at all.

So run, don't walk, to the nearest phone, computer, or South Bank Centre ticket office, and book now, before they run out of seats. It's filling up fast, don't be left out. More details, address and seating plans are all at the website. Good luck! Hope to see you there.

* I'm aware sound cannot travel in the vacuum of space. But seriously, that doesn't take into account how loud Harlan can shout.

** I'm also aware the The Big Bang was a cosmic event, and not some anthropomorphic figure that can cover its ears, not that it even has ears. But again, Harlan's yell makes the impossible possible.

*** There is no third footnote.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Highlander recording, Doctor Who game, Wales Comic Con

Most of my Highlander audio play has now been recorded, and I went to Big Finish to see the first half being done a few weeks ago - for various logistical reasons, they had to be recorded separately. I announced on The Twitter recently that the guest voice in mine is the delightful Tracy-Ann Oberman, but if you missed it or aren't on there, well, here you go. The plays are based around The Four Horsemen from the TV series, so you can probably guess who else will be in them. Not sure if I can say which one mine is yet, so I'll hold off for now. I'm really chuffed that Tracy-Ann was up for the part, and will continue to make it my mission to try and get her cast in everything, because she's brilliant.

It's a very relaxed, different kind of atmosphere to a TV or film set. There's the control booth, with nice sofas, and on the other side of the glass, a few small recording booths with microphones, chairs, and not much else, really:

There's no lighting to set up, not much preparation required, the actors can just walk in, get themselves sorted, and start acting, which I'm sure they appreciate. They don't have to glam up or anything, and can just turn up in casual clothes and bring their voices. Having said that, of course The Oberman looked *immaculate* as always, because some people are just fabulous 24 hours a day... Most of the sessions involve one or two takes after a quick run through, and they usually get it first time. Tracy-Ann was superb, and brought the character to life beautifully, she's an absolute gem. Acting opposite her, playing several parts, was the brilliant Big Finish regular John Banks - I couldn't see him from where I was sitting, so it was as if there were about 40 different actors in the other booth. They then did half of another audio, where Tracy-Ann played a completely different character with a different accent, and again, it was like someone else entirely had walked in. Actors, I am in awe of your talents.

Halfway through, I experienced the legendary Big Finish lunch. Every time I mentioned BF to people, they would always go misty-eyed, and say "ahhh, the lunches…" It got to the point where I thought they were taking the piss, and the lunch would be awful. But no, it was as amazing as they'd promised, and we all stuffed our face. I realise this is an incredibly boring paragraph to 95% of you, but to the 5% who have been wondering about the lunches, put your minds at rest. However, there were no cigars, martinis, old-fashioned BBC-style microphones, and I didn't seen even ONE smoking jacket. Dreams?? Shattered. But the plays are coming along really well, and are going to be great. Still not sure when they'll be released, I'll update when I know anything.

The first Doctor Who game is released now! For Windows, anyway, the Mac version will be out on the 15th, both are downloadable but you need internet access to play (it checks to make sure you're in the UK). If you live outside the UK, you'll be able to purchase it sometime in July. Yes, purchase. We UK folk get it "free" because we pay a TV licence fee. According to several people, the Windows version apparently works in Linux using WINE, but obviously that's not supported or guaranteed, don't complain to us if your computer shoots out black oil and bees, or explodes, or both. The first episode, City of the Daleks, is written by Phil Ford, and it's fantastic. No idea when the others are due out, you'll be the first to know once it's decided. Well, second to know, after The Twitter. Well, after everyone else who needs to know before that.

And finally, here's an event you might be interested in: The Wales Comic Con is on 19th September (link goes to Facebook event page), from 10am to 5pm. It's at Glyndwr University, Wrexham, and costs £5 for adults, and a mere £3 if you're under 14. Guests include Kai Owen off of that Torchwood show, Larry Kenney, the voice of Lion-O from the original Thundercats series, and Mike Edmonds, who has been in loads of things like Return of the Jedi (as Logray the Ewok, and also as Jabba the Hutt's tail), Time Bandits (as Og! I love Og!), Flash Gordon, the Dark Crystal, but even more excitingly, the Safety Dance video (warning: watching that video makes you go insane). Another guest you may have heard of is a devastatingly handsome, talented chap called - oh, how embarrassing! It's me! Yes, I'll be appearing - "appearing"? I mean, I'll be there, I won't *appear*, out of nowhere, I'll probably just walk through a door - at the event, so hopefully I'll see some of you there. Come and say hello, I don't bite. For less than £20.