Tuesday, January 30, 2007

John Wagner talks about Battle Picture Weekly

A rather neat little follow up to the Hook Jaw solicitation, this. David Bishop interviewed the mighty John Wager in 2003 about his part in the launch of Battle - which incorporated Action in 1977, and debuted Charley's War in 1979. This is the first part of his transcript.

David's history of 2000AD, Thrill Power Overload is due for release next month.

UPDATE: ohhh, part two.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Coming soon...

From Amazon:
From the pages of the million sales-per-month British weekly Action comic from the 70s comes the first collected edition of the man-eating great white shark, Hook Jaw! Eventually banned for its graphic violence after a media outcry, this forerunner of 2000 AD sees blood-n-guts and limbs-a-flying mix with environmental issues.

This collection comprises the two pre- ban storylines: "The Oil Rig" — where Hook Jaw unwittingly becomes an eco-terrorist, as he eats his way through the staff of a greed-obsessed oil magnet; "Paradise Island" — at first glance, an idyllic island for the wealthy but at what cost to the indigenous shark-worshippers?

The stories were written by Pat Mills (2000AD, Charley's War, Slaine, Marshall Law etc etc) and Ken Armstrong (Flesh, Dan Dare and other uncredited stories). The art is largely by the wonderful Ramon Sola (Action, 2000AD, Battle etc) and another unnamed artist. Hook Jaw was an attempt to cash-in on the success of Jaws, however, the horrific nature and young audience of Action weekly led to prohibition campaigns by the Evening Standard, the Sun and the BBC.

I remember reading this round at my nan's when I were a nipper. Nasty, gory stuff. Pat Mills in overdrive!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Life on Mars teaser

Found via Barbelith, a short viral teaser for the new season of our favourite time travelling cop show:

This is part of a campaign by Red Bee Media. More about the campaign here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Make your own Star Wars titles

Whisky Galore!

"It's okay, I guess, but no chest of dubloons."

In my dreams, somewhere on Branscombe beach, a ubiquitously bobble-hatted treasure hunter continues to comb the ground with a metal detector, oblivious to the sea’s most recent bounty of BMWs, wine barrels, laptops and nappies (oh wait, they were there already). Unperturbed by this latest strain of Clondyke fever he calmly ignores the looters and their tractors in his search for historically relevant old kettles. God bless you, noble sir, may these scavenging hyenas soon recall your most humble lesson - it's the search that enlightens, not the score.

Now, did anyone see any grog wash up?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mark Pilgrim vents Dave Sim levels of crazy at full screen text editors

I guess the part I don’t understand is the target audience. Who is so serious about writing that they need a full-screen editor, but so unserious that they don’t have a favorite editor already?


This is an amusing rant with some even more amusing comments, that I’m linking to because of my tip of the hat to Scrivener at the weekend. I love writing in full screen. I was envious of it in Ulysses, glad when it came to Copywrite, and it was the killer feature in MacJournal 3 that persuaded me to pay for the upgrade.

In fact, MacJournal’s implementation is my favourite of the bunch. So sparse, so old school, that big flashing cursor and bright green text just scream “write with us” at me. It’s perfect; I write more when I use it.

Here’s the basic problem: you’re writing a text editor. Stop doing that. It’s 2007. Saying to yourself “I’m gonna build my own text editor” is as silly as saying “I’m gonna build my own build system” or “I’m gonna build my own amusement park.”

Oh, I’ve read that about twenty times today. I can’t stop chuckling when I think about it.

Sending out your ideas

If you want to avoid getting pissed off and start getting results you need to have a strategy for approaching busy professionals.

Great guest post on Robin Kelly's blog from Adrian Mead, about how to get your script read, and what to have ready should anyone actually like it.

Why is Dix gay?

You can find out the answer to this, and so much more, in part two of Will Dixon's e-mail interview with Hart Hanson, Canadian emigre and Bones mastermind.

This is part one. And the crazy-baiting intermission is here.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Screenwriters' festival 2007

I got the email notification of this last night. The 2007 Screenwriters’ Festival will be taking place between the 3-6 July, once more in Cheltenham. The 5th and 6th of July will be Professional Days. Presumably the 3rd and 4th will be newbie days, in which case I hope they’ve listened to feedback. Last year’s New Writers’ Day came in for a lot of stick for being, as I understand it, condescending as fuck.

Anyhow, confirmed speakers so far include: Anthony Horowitz, Chris Smith, Michael Goldenberg, William Nicholson, and media whore/celebrity shrink Raj Persaud, among others.

Tickets go on sale at the end of Feb. A preliminary programme is available.

Return of coma boy

The BBC have updated their Life on Mars pages. No news yet of season two’s premiere date, but not long to wait now...

Scrivener: Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write.

Another Mac software post.

The market for writing applications on OSX has seen tremendous strides made in recent years - from Ulysses to Copywrite to Jer’s to Celtx to Avenir and Montage, and now Scrivener, writers turned programmers have done remarkable things. They have collaborated, set-up testing programs and been admirably open to user feedback, creating a plethora of environments to help us get work done tidily and quickly.

Scrivener is the most complete, useful, and just plain beautiful app of the lot. So far. And Version 1 has just been released today.

Although not a total screenwriting app, it does include basic screenplay formatting options, and will export as text allowing import into Final Draft or Montage. With a very cool full-screen mode, integrated outliner, corkboard and versioning, it really is an incredibly impressive entry into the market of native Mac writing tools.

With glowing testimonials from Michael Marshall (Spares, Straw Men):
I genuinely think this is the biggest software advance for writers since the word processor.

and Neil Cross (Spooks):
Scrivener is damn near perfect,

you’ve got nothing to lose by downloading the trial version and checking out the tutorial.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Quicksilver for Dummies

Three entries? In one day? Somebody must have slipped me something.

Quicksilver is the first thing I turn to on my Mac when I want to get something done. The sentiment among users that "a Mac doesn't feel like a Mac without it," may be a cliche, but it's so true. I'm constanly trying to invoke cmd-space even at work where it's never going to have an effect.

Whether I want to open an app or file, send an email, find a phone number, browse my music, upload to ftp, search the web or append text to an existing file, I can do it all within Quicksilver. It's so capable that it's more than just an app, it's an entire way of working, a powerful and enabling way of communicating with your computer.

It's awesome.

But it can be mystifying. The first time people look at it, they see an application launcher, and wonder why they would need Quicksilver if they've got Spotlight. Can Spotlight fire off an e-mail without opening Mail? Can Spotlight add text to a file without opening the file? It can take some time and a fair amount of experimentation to find out what Quicksilver is capable of because, alas, the documentation is shocking in its absence. Alcor, as Quicksilver’s developer is known on his forums, admits that over the years of caffine laden late nights he’s probably programmed many cool features into Quicksilver, which have never been documented and never discovered, and which he himself has completely forgotten about.

Over time, several tutorials have emerged espousing the Quicksilver philosophy. Probably the best up to now has been Dan Dickenson’s A Better OSX in Ten Minutes. Graduating from using Quicksilver as a launcher to using it for just about everything requires a conceptual leap that many people just don’t manage, and this article, with its successor, From A Better OS X To Even More are great guides to “getting it.”

So hats off to Howard Melman, who has done the world a huge favour by creating a Quicksilver User Guide, an 89 page PDF which covers just about everything – from selecting items, to choosing an interface, creating triggers, using the clipboard, and (holy of holies) explaining what many of the plug-ins do, and how to use them. A real labour of love and a true boon to the Quicksilver user.

Rob Thomas speaks

Rob Thomas and TWOP have quite the warm relationship. Two years ago he gave them this massive interview, and now he's back, with another monster, all about Veronica Mars' second and third seasons, what worked, what didn't, on the chances for a fourth, when criticism stings, and turning down Friday Night Lights.

Thanks to Maggie for the link. Apologies to Maggie for the shock recontextualisation of William Mayne's fiction.

Guests added to De Montford event

Leicester De Montford University have added three guest to the roster for their Getting it written; Getting it read; Getting ahead day.

They are:

Justin Sbresni, Co-writer, co-producer and co-director of ‘The Worst Week of My Life’ / ‘The Worst Christmas of My Life’ series (BBC) and ‘Barbara’ (ITV)

Micheal Jacob, Creative Head, Mainstream Comedy, BBC

Mervyn Watson, Executive Producer, Drama Series, BBC

The event also has its own page now.

This has come at precisely the wrong time for me. I'll be in Les Gets, where there is currently this much snow. Look at it:

I may be spending my days in the coffee shop with my exercise books, rather than running, out of control, into other groups of poor, unsuspecting skiers. Then again, plenty of time for a blizzard or two!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Not much happening

Anyone ever used one of those washer/dryer combo thingies? Ever get the cunts to dry anything? Fuckers just steam till they mould. I smell like a tramp.

I had my eyes tested today. I must have looked quite confused, because the optometrist was extremely solicitous about my well-being. “Just through the door there, Mr Thomson. Sit down in the big black chair, by the wall. Mind the footplate.” I’m not fucking blind yet, man. I got myself here, didn’t I? I haven’t walked into Dorothy Perkins by mistake, have I? I can see the damn chair. I felt quite smug in the end because my vision’s actually improved, so take that. That. No, that. Where are you, fellow? Who turned out the lights?

Coming out of the gym yesterday, I passed by the pool, where several of my night-time fantasies had inexplicably materialised. There was steam, and bikinis, and everything seemed to be in slow motion. I might have been having a stroke, I haven’t been to the gym in a while. Maybe the place has just improved in my absence. My crickey, I need to get a girlfriend before I get arrested. I’ve got a horn that could take on a rhino.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Trapped in amber

I feel like I’m being left behind; surfing through treacle on a wimpy 56k connection. I can sense time congeal around me, while I wait for pages to load. Is this what the internet used to be like? How do people still put up with it? It’s impossible! My online activities have been seriously curtailed. Thankfully, I have a luxuriously sized collection of unwatched DVDs to get through, and plenty more time to go to the gym. Nevertheless, I’m suffering from withdrawal, and unfamiliar pangs of loneliness. Pathetically, I can’t stand being cut-off from you lot, even though I know you’re not actual people, just a bunch of unreal web-fictions.

Merciless ISP, can you not see I’m suffering? How much longer, oh ye cruel telecom gods? Connect me! Connect! ME!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Read in 06

The sequel to last year’s literary round-up; maybe a couple of recommendations for you if you’re feeling stuck:

Coalescent - Stephen Baxter --- a family of women sheltering beneath the ruins of Rome evolve into a hive mind. Very slow burning start, but worth it.

Space - Stephen Baxter --- more big ideas; mindblowing stuff, but character takes second place to concept.

Spin - Robert Charles Wilson --- planet Earth gets trapped in time for 30 billion years. Proper sci-fi: questing, transcendant, expansive.

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman --- approached with trepidation, the twelve year old trauma of the TV series still fresh in my mind. 380 pages. Cover to cover in one day.

Knees Up, Mother Earth - Robert Rankin --- Brentford for the Cup! Most fun I’ve had with a Rankin novel in years.

Seeker - William Nicholson --- triumphant follow-up to Wind on Fire; thrilling and moving.

Jango - William Nicholson --- sequel to Seeker. Exciting, spiritual stuff, but a little too similar to Slaves of the Mastery?

Arthur: King of the Middle March - Kevin Crossley-Holland --- 12th century teen learns of duty and responsibility from legendary namesake. An evocative and mature childrens’ novel of growth and loss.

Blood Fever - Charlie Higson --- James Bond as a schoolboy. No smoking, boozing, sex or nihilism, but amazingly still recognisable.

The Stone Book Quartet - Alan Garner --- Garner’s family biography; a meditative, haunting and universal collection of novellas about initiation and place.

Decline and Fall - Evelyn Waugh --- The perils of a public school teacher. Mean, intolerant, prejudiced, and shamefully funny.

Thread of Grace - Mary Doria Russell --- Fascists shelter Jews in WWII Italy. A haunting, evocative tale of human struggling.

The Man in My Basement - Walter Mosley --- Cash poor wastrel agrees to hold guilt-ridden capitalist hostage. Tiny but devastating novel about power, responsibility, race and self-invention.

Little Scarlet - Walter Mosley --- Easy Rawlins patrols riot torn LA in search of a killer. Dag, Mosley’s good.

Two-Bear Mambo - Joe R Lansdale --- Pre-diluvian Klan antics in backwards Texas town. Later Hap and Leonard books are a lot better, but still a fun, grotesque read.

Captains Outrageous - Joe R Lansdale --- Hap and Leonard on gruesome Mexico romp.

Lucifer: Exodus - Michael Carey --- graphic novel, so very quick read.

Lucifer: The Wolf Beneath the Tree - Michael Carey --- ditto .

Lucifer: Crux - Michael Carey --- GET ON WITH IT!

Lucifer: Morningstar - Michael Carey --- reading this monthly must have been torture. Here we have the end of the universe; if the end of the universe involved a fight scene and a conversation with God.

Daredevil: The Murdoch Papers - Brian Michael Bendis --- Matt goes down! Inevitable conclusion to 5 year epic. Satisfying, but comix, so utterly impermanent.

Top Ten: The 49ers - Alan Moore --- Prequel to third best title of ABC line. He makes it look so easy that you don’t realise how good he is.

Gotham Central: Half a Life - Greg Rucka --- Renee’s another fine Ruckan leading lady; the dialogue sharp, but the plot a bit meh.

Fables: Legends in Exile - Bill Winningham --- WTF? People think this is great? It must get better.

Seven Soldiers: Volume One - Grant Morrison --- read this twice, as I just couldn't get behind Morrison's storytelling the first time.

Seven Soldiers: Volume Two - Grant Morrison --- Well I moved on to volume two, so it must have won me over. Plus, Manhatten Guardian number 4 is one of the best singles I’ve ever read.

Seven Soldiers: Volume Three - Grant Morrison --- bunch of new stories start. Liked Bulleteer and Frankenstein. Mister Miracle, not so much.

The Crafty Art of Playmaking - Alan Ayckbourn --- salty old seadog dishes out essential, though sometimes obvious advice, laced with anecdote and example.

Writing for Television - William Smethurst --- solid, practical advice from Brit TV producer. Shame the examples were so out of date.

Million Dollar Screenwriting - Chris Soth --- great help with my 14 day screenplay.

Crafty TV Writing - Alex Epstein --- okay, I cheated, and skipped chapters 6-9. Otherwise, great.

Successful Television Writing - Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin --- chatty and informative manual, with useful examples and interesting exercises.

Writing the TV Drama Series - Pamela Douglas --- more practical advice, plus some good analysis.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Two - J Michael Straczynski --- best episodes of season one.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Three - J Michael Straczynski --- and so farewell, my sapphic telepath. Great to read in conjuction with Patrick’s episode reviews.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Eight - J Michael Straczynski --- skipped a few volumes, to get to Season Four.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Nine - J Michael Staczynski --- B5’s best moments were always the silent, coming home to roost, hit in the face with consequences moments, not the oh-my-god-make-them-stop dialogues.

Lethal Weapon - Shane Black --- every early eighties action cliche you can imagine. A nonsense of a plot, but Murtaugh and Riggs one of the great pairings.

Rambo: First Blood Part Two - The Mission - James Cameron --- racist, macho gun-porn. You got a problem with that?

Bad Boys - Doug Richardson --- early draft with lame climax, but great dialogue throughout.

An American Werewolf in London - John Landis --- the decision to have the showstopping metamorphosis come about two thirds through when we’ve been expecting it from page one makes this script brilliantly tense and laden with doom.

Event Horizon - Philip Eisner --- spooky.

Copenhagen - Michael Frayn --- Bohr and Heisenberg attempt reconciliation in the afterlife. Frayn belabours his metaphor. Not as clever as it thinks it is.

Blink - Malcolm Gladwell --- proof, if more were needed, that we don’t really know why we do what we do.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thrilling true-life mystery

This morning, upon flat and sodden grass, under heavy grey skies, I found a man’s wallet lying in the cemetary. For some reason, I felt an urge to track down its owner, if only to discover if he still lived. There were a bunch of credit cards in there, but I didn’t recognise the owner’s name; within its goatskin folds also nestled £200 in cash and an MG Appreciation Society Membership Card.

I haven’t been in this game long, but I know a clue when I see one. Knowing that not far from where the booty lay is a motor shop, I paid a visit to the greasemonkeys there and leant on them until they admitted they had seen my quarry, and knew him well. I soon had an address out of them, and prepared to further erode my shoe-leather in continuation of the chase.

Alarmingly, I didn’t have far to go. As I left the garage, I passed a man in a fleece sporting an MG badge. When I asked him his name, and he told me, I happily pressed his wallet into a warm palm. Gratefully, he pressed sixty notes into mine: take your missus out to dinner. I explained to him I was single and gave twenty pounds back. The remainder I spent on red meat and whiskey.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Obedient drone

So here we go, I’m home from work and I’m visiting the internet using (feh) dial-up for the first time in three years. It’s a drag, I’m telling you.

Why am I doing it? It’s Stevenote day, of course!

Today is the day Apple gives us new products to buy or, in my case, plot to steal.

So far, although Steve Jobs has promised to talk only about the Mac, he’s rolled out AppleTV and the iPhone/widescreen iPod. Can’t wait to see what else is up his turtlenecked sleeves.

UPDATE - oh, okay, so that was it apparently. One product that won't be released for months and months, and another that's bugger all use outside the US. And they call it Macworld. What the dickens is going on with iLife/iWork and Leopard, eh?

Getting it written; Getting it read; Getting ahead; A way forward for writers

Here’s a little something that fell onto my mat the other morning; a television scriptwriting workshop being run at Leicester:

De Montford University is delighted to announce the above mentioned one day workshop designed for budding television scriptwriters of all levels. Whether you are just embarking on your script writing career, or if you already have some experience, this event is sure to help you take those next steps and offers invaluable networking opportunities with industry professionals.

Renowned course leaders from De Montford University’s unique MA in Television Scriptwriting will be joined by by special guests including Lizzie Mickery (Messiah and The State Within), Paul Ashton (Development Manager for BBC Writersroom) and agent Frances Arnold (Rochelle Stevens & Co).

The day will feature guest speakers with expertise in sitcom and television drama together with interactive question and answer panels allowing you to seek advice from and hear the experience of those already successful within the industry.

The event will take place at De Montford University’s city centre campus in Leicester on Saturday 17th February 2007. Places cost just £60 each including refreshments, lunch and car parking.

Blah blah and cetera.

If anyone wants more info, they can email Hayley Durham – pghums at dmu dot ac dot uk. I’d like to go to this, but my friends are forcing me to go skiing, the swines.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ouch. Achoo. Ow

I’m blogging from my secret hideaway, as I have no phone or ADSL at home yet. Of all the dates I could have picked to move, Saturday had to be the one where it rained, and rained, and poured all day. So as well as having a new house, I now also have cancer (some of my friends say it’s just a cold, but I know the truth).

I still managed to get myself to the leisure centre for our anniversary 5-a-side game, which ended in an honourable eleven-all draw. After lifting boxes all day Saturday, and running around for an hour on Sunday, I’m crippled. I can’t move my arms or legs, so I leave it to you to figure out how I’m typing this.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Last one out turn off the lights

Got hold of the keys to my new place today. It's a splendid pad, and definitely a trade up, so I hope I get to stay there longer than a year.

I'll be moving tomorrow, in defiance of the forecast heavy rain.

It's also closer to the gym. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha h - oh, I think I've wet meself.