I first encountered Star Trek on the afternoon of Saturday, 12 July 1969, just four days before Apollo 11 set off on its quarter-million-mile journey to the Moon. The BBC, unlike NBC in the United States, chose to run the series in the intended order, which meant its UK premiere was ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’. We’re only a couple of months away from the fiftieth anniversary of both that broadcast and Neil Armstrong’s tentative first step upon the lunar surface, and I will confide it was the former which had a greater effect upon my life.
Incidentally, another early fan via those BBC screenings was Janet Quarton, later to run the Star Trek Action Group (which I joined soon as I heard about it circa 1977) and later still to be honoured by Gene Roddenberry himself through the naming of the Next Generation character “Q”.
Since this is primarily intended as a professional blog, with occasional more general commentary, I use Twitter for more personal updates — and one particular account, Dog Daze, is set aside for arguably the most enjoyable aspect of “social” media, photographs of dogs. In this case, Oscar the Yorkie (three years old last November) and Tikki the Westie (who celebrates her second birthday next month).
I was less than five months old when NBC aired the first episode of Thriller on 13 September 1960, fronted by the legendary Boris Karloff, and I’m fairly certain the show never made it across to these shores before the 1990s, when it became available for import on VHS and laserdisc. To be honest, if anyone had asked me about Thriller even then, I’d probably have thought they were talking about the 1970s anthology series devised by Brian Clemens whilst working on the screenplay for Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter.
Anyhow, I’ve spent the past month watching at least two episodes an evening, and the majority are rather splendid. Our host, Boris Karloff, brings his customary cocktail of menace, mirth and malarkey, even stepping centre-stage for a number of episodes. How irritating to learn that Alfred Hitchcock pushed for this show’s cancellation when NBC picked up The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, proving yet again what an insecure and petty little twat he could be when opportunity presented itself.
Back in the early 1990s, when my friend Martin Tudor and I were publishing the journal Critical Wave, we had an editorial philosophy of helping raise the profile of writers, artists and other creative souls we felt deserving of a wider audience. It has been pointed out on many occasions since that we probably did so to the detriment of our own professional careers, and that we could have used those same contacts to get ourselves a news-stand distribution deal, but I guess our focus was elsewhere. By the time SFX hit the racks in 1995, Martin and I were just a year away from giving our enterprise up as an interesting but expensive experiment (paying Critical Wave‘s debts off only took another five years).
The creative landscape has transformed utterly over the two decades since, and by no stretch of the imagination for the better. Even a shallow trawl of social media reveals vast numbers of would-be novelists, illustrators et al, clamouring for attention and getting drowned out by everyone else. There is an astonishing amount of self-delusion, of course, especially from people who seem to believe adding “author” to their username magically makes them one. I’ve recently been exploring setting up a new magazine, with more formal distribution, but finding a fresh angle is dispiritingly difficult, and the likelihood of financial viability worryingly slim.
Meanwhile, Chrissie Harper and I came up with this cartoon last year, which pretty much summarises our joint misgivings about the current state of affairs…
I interviewed the author and editor David Sutton at the October 2016 meeting of the Birmingham Horror Group, the text version of which subsequently appeared in the magazine Fear. We first met at the third Fantasycon, held at a nearby hotel in February 1977, so we were well familiar with each other’s work (I’m holding a copy of the journal I co-edited, Critical Wave, which carried a feature on Fantasy Tales, the award-winning digest he co-edited).
Photo by Chrissie Harper
Back in July 2016, I was asked to be a guest on Carl Jones’ weekly movie show The Big Picture, which aired on the regional channel Big Centre TV. We had a lot of fun, as you can see here, and that appearance led to my colleague Chrissie Harper and I producing a series of news reports for Carl. Sadly, neither The Big Picture nor Big Centre TV survived the year.
Photo by Chrissie Harper
One bonus of interviewing Dagmar Lassander was presenting her with one of the Society of Fantastic Films’ special awards for services to the genre. The statuette is loosely modelled upon the Maria robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
Ann Robinson has the distinction of having appeared in three separate iterations of Wells’ The War of the Worlds: the classic 1953 movie, the 1980s tv spin-off (recreating her role as Sylvia Van Buren) and the 2005 remake (in an unrelated cameo alongside her 1953 co-star, Gene Barry). We met at the 1995 Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, which I was covering for The Dark Side.
Victoria Price (daughter of Vincent) was to have been a surprise guest at the first Birmingham FearFest, organised by the Birmingham Horror Group, but ticket sales were sadly insufficient to justify going ahead with the convention. However, Victoria joined Birmingham cake designer Annabel de Vetten for a special event at the city’s historic Electric Cinema, where I interviewed them both for local television.
Photo by Chrissie Harper
It’s been a while since I had any fiction in print, but my (very) short story ‘Home Cooking’ is in the April edition of the American horror quarterly Blood Reign. More details here.