Just wanted to quack about a few events I've infiltrated lately, in London and indeed Brighton...
1) BFI SCREENING!
I delightedly trundled along to this November 12 preview at the BFI's London South Bank venue, thanks to the remarkable BFI-ticket-hunting skills of Roland Moore, the TV-writing genius who created BBC One's Land Girls. An Adventure In Space And Time, as you may well know if you're a Doctor Who fan, is a feature-length BBC Two drama which documents the creation of Who as a TV programme. So we get to see how maverick Head Of Drama Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) had a crazy notion for a new series about a time-travelling maverick. He gave his former assistant Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine) the chance to produce it; Indian up-and-comer Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan) the chance to direct it; and film actor William Hartnell (David Bradley), then approaching the twilight of his career, the chance to star in it. Then he gave them all quite a hard time as Doctor Who became a reality, trying to achieve the impossible in cramped, hot White City studios.
What with Doctor Who writer and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss having written and executive-produced this, I expected great things. Even then, An Adventure In Space And Time surpassed my expectations. It is superb from start to finish, shot through with so much love, cleverness and talent in every department. Even if you dislike Doctor Who, I swear you'll get a whole lot out of it. It's a drama, first and foremost, and a surprisingly affecting one. David Bradley is particularly amazing and I'd advise you to avoid Twitter for a while after broadcast if you're planning to watch it on the timeshift.
After the screening, there was a well-deserved standing ovation, followed by a Q&A with (from left-to-right in my pic above) director Terry McDonough, Sacha Dhawan, David Bradley, Jessica Carney (William Hartnell's granddaughter!), Mark and host/broadcaster Matthew Sweet. It was a funny and touching discussion, during which Mark admitted he was often tempted to use his cast of actor lookalikes to recreate old Doctor Who stories missing from BBC Archives: "Many was the time I wanted to say, 'Oh let's just lock the doors and make Marco Polo all over again!" But don't take my word for it: you can watch it here on the BFI site.
An Adventure In Space And Time is on tomorrow night, Thursday November 21. Truly a glittering jewel amid Doctor Who's remarkable 50th Anniversary celebrations, along with this Saturday's bumper anniversary special The Day Of The Doctor. Which I know nothing about, thankfully. Can't wait.
It's become somewhat traditional for me to put my journalist hat back on in November and December and write Doctor Who Magazine's Review Of The Year. I'm doing that once again for 2013 and there's a hell of a lot to document in these very special 12 months. You can read the result in the next Doctor Who Magazine, out December 12.
2) FANTASY CONVENTION! AWARDS!
World Fantasy Convention 2013 to embed it in Brighton's Metropole Hilton hotel, a mere stroll along the seafront from my home. Naturally, I was straight along there, braving ludicrous gale-force winds to meet fantasy's great and good.
Over the weekend I met many fine editors, agents and writers I hadn't had the pleasure of bumping into before, as well as some great folk I'm already lucky enough to know, like Angry Robot Books' Lee Harris, Jonathan Green (see pic right, in which Jonathan Green helpfully wears green to avoid the necessity for a picture caption), Rebecca Levene and Scott K Andrews. Mr Andrews made me love him more than ever, by practically becoming my guardian angel during this con. On two occasions, he popped up, with immaculate timing, to recommend me and my work to editors and agents. What a generous gentleman he is: there aren't many writers around who are quite so keen to give others a helping hand. Especially ones with quite such a loud speaking voice as Scott's, which guarantees the nice things he says are heard by everyone within a 10-mile radius. I expect great things from the three-book deal he's signed with Hodder.
On Sunday November 3, The British Fantasy Awards joined forces with The World Fantasy Awards, for one afternoon only, in order to provide the weekend's grand climax. In the picture to the left, you can get a feel for the room. The gentleman in the far distance, onstage, is Neil Gaiman, who book-ended the whole affair with some hot intro/outro action. I was one of the British Fantasy Awards judges this year, presiding over the Non Fiction section, and it was a pleasure to give that particular gong to the thoroughly switched-on and passionate genre book site Pornokitsch (a tough choice, though, with the likes of Stephen Volk, Diana Wynne-Jones and Fantasy Faction also among the worthy contenders.) It was also a pleasure to sit next to Angry Robot's managing director and publisher Marc Gasgoigne, who I mercilessly quizzed about all manner of things, not least his former involvement with Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and Warlock magazine.
Lots of very deserving writers bagged awards, many of them genuinely touched by such warming peer recognition. You're reminded of how very solitary writing can be. It's amazing any of us can enter rooms containing so many people without keeling over in frothy-mouthed shock. Needless to say, there was considerable sadness when the late Ian Banks was unable to collect his special Karl Edward Wagner Award.
A great weekend. I'm already looking forward to FantasyCon 2014, which lands in York, September 5-7 2014.
3) BOOK LAUNCH!
Behind The Sofa: Celebrity Memories Of Doctor Who, a great book whose profits go to Alzheimer's Research UK. Unstoppable editor Steve Berry, whose late mother Janet suffered from the illness, cunningly roped in the likes of Charlie Brooker, Jonathan Ross, Al Murray, Charlie Higson, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Merchant and indeed me, to pick our favourite memory of Doctor Who and write about it. I chose the time I became an extra on the set of 2008's Doctor Who episode The Sontaran Strategem, playing an ATMOS factory worker held at gunpoint by UNIT. Any excuse to talk about that, frankly.
It was a lovely evening, with the book's buyers able to secure autographs from its contributors. A very nice bunch they were, too. And I got to see lovely Sarah Jane Adventures/Wizards Vs Aliens composer Sam Watts, writer/former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel and Doctor Who writer Richard Dinnick, briefly meet former Who companion Katie Manning and have a chat with Charlie Higson, Orbital's Paul Hartnoll and a slightly tipsy Rufus Hound. All of which was just spoiling me, to be honest.
4) TALKING ON THE TV!
Right, that's you all up to date with my movements. And rest assured, I have been writing like some crazed demon too. Oh yes. Don't you worry about that.
JMR Higgs. This 'double A-sided ebook' bundles my novella Beast In The Basement together with Higgs' great short novel The Brandy Of The Damned.
It's available at a mad price, compared to what you'd pay if you picked up the books separately. Check it out at Amazon UK, Amazon US or any of the Amazon sites worldwide.