You are viewing jblum

jblum's Journal
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends]

Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in jblum's LiveJournal:

    [ << Previous 20 ]
    Friday, April 10th, 2015
    3:15 am
    Mediasphere update
    50,200 words. By wordcount, we should be into the fourth and final part; instead we're still finishing off part three! We're now aiming for 65,000 words rather than 60,000, which means the first draft should be done in... three weeks? And then we have to go back and make sure the first parts adequately set up where the characters need to be for the end... the plot action to get them there basically works, but we need to make sure the emotional impact is enough to make what happens later seem justified.

    Today we sat down and finally hashed out a scene-by-scene beat-by-beat breakdown of the last of the four parts of the book. This is the point where we need to nail down the gaps between what we hoped to do so far, and what we've actually managed.

    This is also the point where we start simplifying out various bits that are just cluttering the storyline. I'd like to say a few words over the fallen body of Tarrant's subplot, which is just not going to to fit into the climax the way I'd hoped! On the plus side, losing his involvement from the stuff that goes down towards the end of the book will allow us to keep the focus more on Dayna -- which is part of the brief.

    Another plus side of the tightening is that it's guiding us to concentrate on, and strengthen, one of the elements which is supposed to be the throughline of the book -- Dayna's relationship with the artists formerly known as Blake's 7. We had the key events relating to that in the book, but hadn't really established what they meant to her -- that'll be part of the rewriting Rethinking the climax puts her more at the center -- and ought to be a lot of fun too.

    Last but not least? In pretty much every one of our books there's one or two set-piece chapters which I'm just proud of in their own right -- the flashbacks in Tigers, "Numberless" in Prisoner's Dilemma, the TARDIS interlude in Unnatural History, Sam's reunion with the Doctor in Seeing I. A little piece which is just a moment unto itself -- and usually a joy to write, because everything just comes out in-focus.

    Chapter 7 (well, it's Chapter 7 now, the number will probably go up as we rewrite) is one of those moments. It's a little Vila-centered set-piece which I've been dying to write for ages. And given the annoyingly bitty, constantly-interrupted-by-day-job-work way we've been working on this novel, to have a whole chapter just come out right is both a relief and a joy!
    Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
    7:00 pm
    Mediasphere update
    43,000 words and counting! This should be nearly the three-quarters mark of the book; in plot terms it's a bit past halfway. Our 60,000 word target is looking more like 65,000, which probably means an extra week on the first draft.

    Story-wise... The epic-length Chapter 4 still isn't finished; I've got two bits of dialogue which seriously need another round of stitching-together, but it's almost there. Chapter 5 is up to what Kate calls "draft zero" standards; there's still a few chunks in square brackets Kate wants to flesh out, and one short scene I need to write from scratch. I've already written my 1800 words of Chapter 6, and given Kate my notes for the rest; once I tidy up my bits from 4 and 5, I'll be leaping ahead to Chapter 7 (which is almost all me) while Kate focuses on the rest of 6. Plus I've done a scene-by-scene breakdown for the entire rest of the book.

    This is, in some ways, the weirdest, bittiest writing process I've ever had. This is the first time I've tried to write a novel -- even half a novel -- while working full-time the whole time; Fallen Gods and Prisoner's Dilemma were both mostly done while working four days a week. But this time, not only am I working full-time, but it's really full-time -- there's been a big crunch on at work, a major your-bonus-is-riding-on-this deadline, which we got through but which ate up any hint of spare time for weeks. Not just for me, but for Kate! (She also works for Orex Research alongside me, and this was a real all-hands-on-deck situation.)

    So after all that... it's been hard to keep the whole of the book in my head. Key parts of it feel out of focus for me, because I've tended to concentrate on writing specific subplots... and that means that other parts are just a muddle for me right now. I can tell you exactly where Vila (for example) is up to, physically and emotionally, because I've been focused on his side of the action for a couple of chapters; but Dayna's character throughline in that stretch feels vague and unfocused. Which is a bit alarming, given that this is supposed to be a Dayna-centric book!

    Still, that's what we keep those extra few weeks for, for revision. And now that the day-job work's eased back to a more normal level of panic, I can start getting a grip on it again! By the time the editor sees it, we'll have knocked this stuff back into focus...
    Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
    10:08 am
    Writing CV
    Okay, so for various reasons, here's a summary of my writing experience:


    Doctor Who: Return of the Living Dad (with Kate Orman, selected scenes only), Virgin Books, 1996
    Doctor Who: The Room With No Doors (with Kate Orman, selected scenes only), Virgin Books, 1997
    Doctor Who: Vampire Science (with Kate Orman), BBC Books, 1997
    Doctor Who: Seeing I (with Kate Orman), BBC Books, 1998
    Doctor Who: Unnatural History (with Kate Orman), BBC Books, 1999
    -- nominated, Aurealis Award, Best Australian SF Novel
    Doctor Who: The Year of Intelligent Tigers (with Kate Orman, outline and selected scenes only), BBC Books, 2001
    -- nominated, Ditmar Award, Best Australian SF Novel
    Doctor Who: Blue Box (with Kate Orman, selected scenes only), BBC Books, 2003
    -- nominated, Aurealis Award, Best Australian SF Novel
    The Prisoner: The Prisoner's Dilemma) (with Rupert Booth), Powys Media, 2005
    Blake's 7: Mediasphere (with Kate Orman), Big Finish Press, 2015 (forthcoming)

    Doctor Who: Fallen Gods (with Kate Orman), Telos Publications, 2003
    -- winner, Aurealis Award, Best Australian SF Novel
    Nobody's Children: The Loyal Left Hand, Big Finish Press, 2007

    Doctor Who: The Fearmonger, Big Finish Audio, 2000
    The I Job (podcast SF adventure), Helical Scan Productions / 2RRR Radio, forthcoming

    Short stories:
    "Model Train Set", Short Trips, BBC Books, 1997
    "Eternity", Steel Skies, Big Finish Press, 2003
    "Drinking With The Enemy", Life During Wartime, Big Finish Press, 2003
    "The Evil Little Mother and the Tragic Old Bat", Wildthyme On Top, Big Finish Press, 2005
    "Home Fires", The History of Christmas, Big Finish Press, 2005
    "Key", Collected Works, Big Finish Press, 2006
    "The End Times", Present Danger, Big Finish Press, 2010
    "One Kiss 99 Times", Truth or Dare, Slash Books, 2012
    "Meme Mosquitoes", A 21st Century Bestiary, Stoneskin Press, 2015
    "The Greater Spotted Capital", A 21st Century Bestiary, Stoneskin Press, 2015

    Film / Webseries (writing credits only):
    "Time Rift" (feature-length fan film), 1996
    "The Bridge" (short film), 1998
    "Timeless" (short film), 2001
    "Reach Out And Touch Someone" (short film), 2001
    "The Pub With No Doors" (short film, with Matt Wolff & Sean Corcoran), 2003
    "Zygon" (direct-to-video feature), 2004
    "Intervention" (short film), 2005
    "Danger 5: Audition For Murder!" (short film), 2013
    "It's Only Magic" (short film with Kyla Ward), 2013
    Protoverse (webseries), Helical Scan Productions, in production:
    -- episodes "Equinox's First Kill", "Advent and the Protosphere" (with Rupert Booth), "Hegemony's Day After" (with Rupert Booth), "Cruft"
    Protoverse (feature film, with Rupert Booth and Barry Williams), Helical Scan Productions, optioned

    (note: this list does not include scripts which never made it, e.g. the HeroLand pilot. But one day...!)

    ...Yeah, not too bad a life there!
    Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
    11:44 am
    Mediasphere update
    We're past the 20,000 word mark, so a third of the way through the draft... and maybe a quarter of the way through the plot. We're going to have to do some serious compressing of events to try to move things along.

    This is still one of the oddest books we've ever done, in terms of feel. We've been writing lots of nice little character moments and set-pieces, but so far the skeleton we're hanging them on feels more like an excuse than a plot. The main spine of the action will kick in more thoroughly in the later chapters, once we're out of the setup phase... but I think we're still going to need a bit of rethinking to fix the forward motion in this bit.

    In terms of that plot, we've got chapters 1-3 mostly written (or at least nailed down to individual beats), chapters 4-6 outlined down to the scene-by-scene beat-by-beat level, and the last half broken down into a list of bullet points for each chapter. We also have, in our notes files, lots of moments that will drop into individual scenes in the second half; there's plenty of material to work with, it's just a matter of minimizing the material between the good bits. Still, this is rather less structure than we're used to at this point in the prose. Probably later today we're going to sit down, grab the outline, and give it a good shake to see what falls out.

    Anyway. Just for people to think about, here's a few of the influences which have gone into Mediasphere:

    * 1984, which Kate has just re-read.
    * The Stunt Man -- a brilliant film starring Peter O'Toole and Steve Railsback, which in fact was made at about the same time as B7. A fugitive flees onto the set of a movie, and gets work as a stunt man -- for a grandiose director who may or may not be trying to kill him to get the perfect shot.
    * A big swathe of TV coming out of TV Centre at the same time as Blake's 7, from The Goodies to Top of the Pops.
    * The Australian government's attitude towards news about refugees coming out of Manus Island (i.e, it shouldn't).
    * A severely mutated Robert McKee.

    Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
    10:15 pm
    Mediasphere update
    Mediasphere progress report: 7050 words and counting on the first draft, out of a target of 60,000. Of course, as with most things on the Mediasphere, that word count is a lie. You couldn't read that much in order -- my share (a bit less than half) is a few complete scenes, some as much as 1000 words long, and a whole bunch of fragments which haven't been stitched together yet. There are three major flashback scenes meant to appear later in the book, which we've written already.

    I've never written a book which started hitting the page in such a chaotic way -- usually once I move from the outline stage I can put down way more material in complete scenes, plus a scattering of not-yet-zipped-together little moments. But this week... all I've contributed is one complete 900-word scene, and another 1650 words or so of scene fragments. Plus loads of non-prose notes fleshing out the scene breakdown, I keep telling myself.

    See, while Kate's been reasonably clear-headed (or as she points out, at least clear-decked), and has got some nice big slabs of prose put together... I've been having a bastard of a week with the day-job, putting in a ridiculous amount of hours and only really having the weekend free to write. So my focus is fairly wobbly. I'm remembering why it was that I've never tried to write a novel while working fulltime -- the closest I got was The Prisoner's Dilemma, which I started while working four days a week and finished at five. And now that I'm working from home pretty much constantly, I don't even have the defined structure of a commute on which to sit there and write -- and it's really easy for the day-job work to stretch on into the wee hours, meaning I get nothing written at all.

    Thank heaven for Vila Restal, though. While Kate worked on the bulk of Chapter 1, I skipped ahead to do some scenes with Vila and Dayna for Ch 2 -- and his dialogue just rolled onto the page. I swear, he wouldn't shut up!
    Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
    11:02 am
    Blakety Blake #2
    ...After all those words I just wrote yesterday about how I was going to leave chapter one mainly to Kate?

    Yesterday on the way back from the shops, I had the click moment I'd been missing. For me, all our books don't really snap into focus until I've got an opening line which points the way towards the rest of the book. Whether it's one which sets up recurring images and themes (The girl was headed for a fall. -- Vampire Science; --Close your eyes, murmurs her teacher. -- Fallen Gods), or something which encapsulates the initial conflict and hints at where it's going ("Who the hell are you?" asked Sam Jones. -- Unnatural History; First step: find someplace to sleep. -- Seeing I). But I've been struggling a bit with finding such a moment for this book -- and also with trying to find the narrative voice, the tone and style for the prose. I want to find something that will express the nature of the action on the Mediasphere -- the ways in which stories are fed to you, the razzle-dazzle of immediacy, the misdirection and propaganda tricks -- and build that into the opening action.

    And there, on the sidewalk, I suddenly got the book's voice. When I got home, I wrote nearly five hundred words of the kickoff scene of chapter one -- a scene in the outline which I'd assumed I'd leave for Kate, but she has no complaints about me doing her half. :-)

    And as a New Year's present, here's that opening line for Mediasphere:

    Look over there.
    Tuesday, December 30th, 2014
    5:55 pm
    Blakety Blake
    In which I give people a bit of a ramble about our progress on Mediasphere...

    Kate and I have had to do a bit of digging to remember how we wrote books together! It has, after all, been rather a long time. Barring our linked novellas in the Benny Summerfield book Nobody's Children, this is the first time we've done the actual "sit down and co-write chunks of the same manuscript" thing in about a decade, since Fallen Gods. And Fallen Gods wasn't a 50/50 collaboration -- it was mostly me, with me handling all the outline stuff and most of the prose and just giving Kate some defined scenes to write. (I think the final book was about 75/25 me). For a straight-up from-the-outline-up collaboration, you have to go all the way back to The Year Of Intelligent Tigers -- and for that plus a 50/50 prose split, which is our aim, you're back to Unnatural History.

    So how do we do it? Basically, it's all in the outline document -- we've broken the book into twelve chapters, in some cases very rough ones, and made all sorts of notes about what needs to be going into them. We've hashed out all sorts of things back and forth, over lunch in the club -- plenty of "nah that's boring", "that doesn't make sense", random giggling, et cetera. Now at the moment I'm going through and pulling that outline into a more-or-less scene-by-scene breakdown with the appropriate notes in each chapter -- I've just finished chapter three -- while Kate has made a start on a couple of chunks of prose.

    Now, the outline isn't set in stone -- a case in point is Tigers, where chapters Nine Ten Eleven Twelve were outlined in a linear fashion, then intertwangled so that we followed each individual character in succession through the same events, from different points of view, just because it was more interesting and thematically better. But it's our roadmap through the whole shebang.

    The plan at this point is that this coming Monday, we start on the prose in earnest. We generally split things up on a scene-by-scene or plot-thread-by-plot-thread level -- though this can include cases where one of us writes the bits we've come up with for the scene, and hands it over to the other to zip them together if we get stuck. I think Kate will be doing the lion's share of chapter one, while I do a few bits and move on chapter two -- the idea is that, since she writes faster than I do, I'll have a head start over her! And she can assume that anything I haven't written in the earlier stuff is fair game, if I get sidetracked on day-job work. Also, one of the key story elements in chapter one is more in her field of specialist knowledge than mine...
    Sunday, December 28th, 2014
    2:14 am
    Danger 5: Audition For Murder!
    At long last, one of my short films is ready to see the light of day!

    Many of you have seen me going on about Danger 5 -- the single most batshit insane TV series to come out of Australia in more than twenty years. I had a chance to interview the creators (Dario Russo and David Ashby) for an article which never came out, and we really seemed to hit it off. And when I heard the show had been renewed for a second run, I wrote and shot this short as a sort of glorified audition tape to send to them, to try to get a few of my actor mates (all D5 fans) a gig on the show!

    So: Here's "Danger 5: Audition For Murder!", starring Craig Walker, Gemma Laurelle, Christopher Price, and Beatrice Alba. Since the actual show was a Sixties action spoof about a team of secret agents assigned to kill Hitler, we decided we'd create the team of secret agents assigned to kill them...!

    We sent this to the producers in the middle of last year. And they loved it! But we'd just missed their first round of casting, and because of their tight budget they had a severe limit on how many actors they could bring in from outside of Adelaide. Still, they gave us permission to post it online, and use a scrap of their model footage!

    Which I was about to do late last year. But... I tried to clear the bit of music I'd used for the original edit. And it turned out this obscure Sixties instrumental I'd found on a compilation CD ("At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymbal") had in fact been rather famous Up Over, and indeed had been used as the theme to Pick of the Pops for a couple of decades. The publishers wanted $1000 for a one-year internet-only license. Ulp. Back to the drawing board... or indeed to GarageBand, where I composed a completely new soundtrack of my own.

    Anyway, once I got a chance to sort out the music -- after spending much of the intervening year directing Equinox's First Kill for Protoverse and my episode for The Truth, plus the little matter of my day job -- I brought in the redoubtable Danny Carr to do a few VFX and touch up the grading. And now it's finished. I'M FINALLY GETTING SOMETHING DONE! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    We're putting this up now as part of the lead-up to Danger 5's second-series premiere (January 4th on SBS-2) -- this run does to '80s action shows what the first series did to '60s ones. Merry Christmas, Colonel!

    Sunday, December 21st, 2014
    2:25 pm
    So What's Jon Been Up To?
    One of the annoying things about being a working writer is that a fair chunk of what you're working on either never sees the light of day, or takes fricking ages to make it out the door.  And so something like finally getting the Blakes' 7 novel announced looks like some kind of a return to the field... when in fact you've been working flat-out nonstop for ages!

    So:  What else has Jon been up to these last couple of years?

    A) The big one: the Protoverse webseries! The brainchild of my old mates Rupert Booth and Barry Williams, this series about a bunch of refugees from a whacked-out parallel reality trying to get by in our own is now on the agenda for late 2015. It's six episodes, each one a short film in its own right -- I wrote and directed one 20-minute one ("Equinox's First Kill") and co-wrote three others, plus a couple of other shorts/audios/odds-and-ends. This one's been closest to my heart at the moment -- adventure, comedy, surrealism, drama, and everything else mashed into one.

    Status: Two episodes wending their way through post, a third has started shooting, production kicks in again early next year!

    B) I also directed an episode of Craig Walker and Cass Williams' webseries "The Truth Was Supposed To Be Out Here" -- an X-Filesy spoof of just about everything. Craig earmarked the time-travel one for me. That was a big chunk out of the middle of 2014 for me!

    Status: In post, on schedule for the series premiere in August 2015. Adrian Bruce, I'll be getting back to you about the music shortly!

    C)  "Danger 5:  Audition For Murder" -- a short-film tribute to the most batshit-insane TV series to come out of Australia since Chances.  

    Status:  Watch this space...

    D) "The I Job" -- a podcast / radio-broadcast version of a script I once wrote featuring the I from Seeing I -- completely recorded in association with 2RRR Radio in Sydney.  Starring Craig Walker, Rupert Booth, Gemma Laurelle, Kyla Ward, and Alistair Rigg.  This too is almost complete, but it turned out we still need a pickup recording with one of the actors for technical reasons.

    Status: Still going to come out, but After The Novel! Though if a crackerjack audio engineer wants to move things along in the meantime...

    E)  "It's Only Magic" -- a short film co-written with Kyla Ward, which I ran sound on and also edited the roughcut, before handing it over to the director back in May.

    Status:  Erm, the director has just washed his hands of it, and so it looks like I'm going to be taking over post-production.  So -- After The Novel!

    F) My album of demos! I've been recording a bunch of songs, as demos of various tracks I'd written over the years, plus a couple of covers.  I did this as a fortieth birthday present for myself...  given that I'm now well into being 42, this shows how long this has been sitting around!

    Status:  The rough mixes are here!  After The Novel, I'm planning to give these songs a final mix, finish one more song that's been sitting around half-recorded, and then do some sort of Spotify-style release.

    G) Oh yeah, and I have an entry or two in Gods, Memes, and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary coming soon from Stone Skin Press!

    Status: They're at the proof stage, so it should be out early in 2015.

    Plus! I've been working full time at the day-job, and we've done a bucketload of website content for BBC Worldwide, and we moved house back in January, and everything just went on hold while my parents came down to visit and took us on holiday to the South Island of NZ. So yeah, it's been a bit flat-out this year. Not bad for what looks like a year off...!

    Current Mood: frickin' exhausted
    1:59 pm
    Blake's 7: Mediasphere
    Well it's been nearly a year since I last posted... time for me to reactivate this thing! *blows dust off*

    Let's start with what Kate and I are going to be up to for the next few months...

    With this book, I have now collected the whole set of my adolescent heroes. If you told seventh-grade Jon with his notebook of scribbled stories that one day I'd have written Doctor Who books *and* a Prisoner book *and* a Blake's 7 book... well, he'd be wondering what else he'd ever need to accomplish in life, besides falling in love and living happily ever after. Oh snap!

    "Mediasphere" is set early in series C, it strongly features Dayna, and I'm looking at it as my big chance to pay tribute to the huge influence Chris Boucher and Robert Holmes were on my writing. So, one part "Gambit", one part "Death-Watch", two parts witty back-and-forth and one part TV Centre circa 1979 gone horribly wrong. And there's one story element which has just become very weirdly relevant. It's the first chance Kate and I have had to do a proper 50/50 co-write in nearly fifteen years, and I'm loving sinking my teeth into it.

    (I'd also like to offer a huge thank-you to Rupert Booth -- without him shouldering the production burden on the Protoverse webseries for a few months, I wouldn't have been able to take this opportunity on!)

    Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to figure out what on earth happens in chapter five...
    Monday, February 24th, 2014
    2:10 am
    Tonight I was one of the estimated fifteen thousand people across Australia holding a silent candlelight vigil for Reza Barati, the refugee killed in the Manus Island camp.

    Two thoughts kept grabbing hold of my mind.

    The first was Christopher Isherwood in Berlin, in the days before drawing comparisons to the Nazis was seen as an instant excuse for people to dismiss your point. In two caustic sentences he describes witnessing a book-burning: "Christopher, who was present in the crowd, said 'shame'; but not loudly."

    This kept jumping out at me when I felt self-conscious about raising my voice.

    The second was just a moment of clarity. My grandparents, on the Blum side, fled religious and political persecution. It was only a quirk of history which meant they fled at the time of open immigration and Ellis Island -- when people actually believed in "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" -- which meant that I got the life I have enjoyed. If not, if the anti-immigrant xenophobia of 1924 had been a touch stronger a touch earlier... their only way in would likely have been as refugees. A couple of decades later, they could have been the refugees who weren't let into America while fleeing Hitler.

    This is my family.

    Australia's mistreatment of asylum seekers is wrong. Given that significantly over 90% of the people who get locked up for months or years in camps like Manus Island are found to be legitimately fleeing persecution, putting them through months or years of security-theater on a guilty-until-proven-innocent basis is wrong. The lack of transparency in the process is wrong. The deliberate stoking of public outrage against "boat people" and "queue jumpers" is wrong. Using the Navy to make it impossible even for people on boats to beg for asylum (which is *ABSOLUTELY LEGAL*) on Australian shores is wrong.

    So why have I done so little about it? For so many years, under so many governments?

    Oh, I've nodded along with Kate's refugee-action postings. I've made pointed comments on Facebook. I wrote an acerbic authors' note on the subject, at the back of a novel which sold some hundreds of copies, mostly outside Australia. I've said 'shame'. But not loudly.

    And it knots my guts that, because of all my other commitments at the moment, I *won't* be able to devote the energy to this issue which I want to right now. Not at this moment. But I want to do *something* before it fades into the background again.

    At the vigil, the wax from my candle kept spattering on my hand. The pain faded quickly, but I want to remember it. I want to hold on to the intensity of this feeling long enough to at least write a few letters to people that might matter a bit more.

    And as they suggested at the end, I'm saving the candle for the next vigil.

    Friday, February 21st, 2014
    10:39 am
    More Protoverse
    For those of you who just scrolled past my previous fundraising pitch for Barry Williams and Rupert Booth's new Protoverse short... here's the original rave review I wrote for their mid-'90s Protoverse episode "The Five Totally Unrelated Persons", their take on an old Doctor Who classic (and another old classic as well).

    Does this sound like juicy goodness to you? Want to see more of Ventricle, the hapless burglar with a taste for heroism? Then pop on over and chip in a fiver!


    The single greatest fan video ever made, bar none, has to be "The Five Totally Unrelated Persons... Of Oz".

    It's not a straight Who video by any means -- there's a good chunk of Who content, but filtered through all sorts of weird new perspectives. But what makes it so good is that it manages to be both well-plotted and fall-down-laughing funny. Fan video comedies that work are really rare; ones that mix comedy and storytelling successfully are even rarer.

    As for the story... you can *tell* it's the product of one of those brilliant late-night fannish bull-sessions. I can almost see the Helical Scan gang waving their arms around excitedly (and a bit groggily), making their points to each other. "Nah, I'm sherioush. Wizhard of Oz, Five Doctorsh. Same shtory. Our heroes go on a quest to the magic castle just so they can get put back where they came from in the firsht place. It'sh archetypic... Archetypal. Even a big floating head at the end... Dickie, thish ish truly *evil* beer."

    But it's the fact that they manage to turn this kind of demented inventiveness into a _story_, that actually stands up, which is where Rupert Booth and Barry Williams really shine.

    It helps that the Helical Scan folks bring a lot of their own ideas to the table. This could have just been a fanwank crossover, depending entirely on elements other people thought up -- but it's not. It is, at its heart, a Protoverse adventure... a story which refers to elements from other fictional universes, but turns them into something entirely its own.

    I'd never heard of the Protoverse before, but this story alone made me an immediate fan. It's a prototype universe, which was never quite ready to be open for business... Rupert, Barry, and Malcolm "Fish" Herron have been producing entirely original surrealist-fantasy TV series set in this universe for about seven years now.

    A quick bit of background: the Protoverse is divided into different realities -- each one based around a concept, like Surrealism, Horror, Gameshows, Paranoia, or (apparently) Little Stringy Things. The first Protey series, "The Great Siberian Explosion", followed the adventures of Advent (Malcolm Herron) and Equinox (Rupert Booth) -- two, erm, people from Surrealism who had bizarre adventures while trying to avoid the bureaucratic Beings who wanted them put away. The second series, "No! It Can't Be Done!", is the tale of a rather hapless fellow called Ventricle who got stranded in the reality of Heroism, and is stuck being a hero while trying to find a way out.

    And now... Strange forces are at work in the Protoverse. Who is using a strangely familiar piece of temporal manipulation equipment ((C) Terrance Dicks) to kidnap Advent, Equinox, and Ventricle from their timestreams? Why have they dared the ultimate crime -- to reach into Reality, our universe, and abduct a Cyberman straight from "Tomb"? What is this strange reality in which our, um, heroes have found themselves? And why does everyone keep calling Ventricle "Dorothy"?

    Stick around. You'll love it. Sure, some of the bits of Protey backstory pass you by on a first viewing, but I loved it nonetheless.

    The credit for this has to go to Rupe, Fish, and most especially Barry Williams, who really bring their characters to life. These guys can *act*. They've got comic timing. Their script sparkles, and they give their main characters such a sense of _personality_ that I immediately wanted to see more of their adventures.

    And Dickie Knapper as the Cyberman is a *scream*.

    Fans of these guys' Timebase Who productions will recognize a bunch of familiar faces. We all know Rupert, and it's great to get to see him in a part which is a lot less *nice* than his Doctor. Fish has had two roles so far, as Harry (the first victim of Tribus) in "Regenesis" and Daniel the Evil Cultist (the one who *can* act) in "Long Shadows". Deborah Reilley (Amaryllis) turns up as a devastatingly slinky Wicked Witch of the Nowth, and Ian Patterson (the wonderfully scene-stealing Shakespeare in "Long Shadows", and the man with the unfortunate hair problems in "Phase Four) plays Dipthong. And don't blink, or you'll miss Selina Lock (Judith from "Long Shadows").

    And what really makes "Five Totally Unrelated Persons" shine, in the end, is that it's a fan video *about fandom*. It looks at our urge to produce more stories with our favorite characters (regardless of the limitations of our talent), and skewers it mercilessly. And manages to celebrate it at the same time. This is a story which *knows* us, knows all those embarrassing things we fans do, and loves every minute of them.

    Don't miss this story. It's witty and cynical and thoroughly clever, part celebration and part pure evil -- the kind of balance Rupe and Barry strike so well throughout their Protoverse series. I showed it to three dozen people in a packed hotel room last Visions, and we all ended up singing along with the end credits music. They're showing it again at this Visions, and I wish to God I could be there again. It's that kind of video.
    Thursday, February 20th, 2014
    12:17 pm
    Prisoners: a Protoverse short film
    Some of you may be too young to remember the mid-'90s...

    But back in those pre-Youtube days, before everyone and their brother figured they could make a short film... Rupert Booth and Barry Williams and their team made about forty of them. From then through 2003, they basically had their own TV series -- surrealist comedy adventures, witty and dark and *packed* with ideas, distributed on the VHS tape-copying network to a passionate cult of fans. (Including me, Kate, Paul Cornell, and a bunch of other Doctor Who bods.)

    And now, they're doing it again!

    Prisoners (a Protoverse short film)

    This series of six short films -- and, with a bit of luck, an eventual feature -- are a relaunch of their Protoverse series, which was such a huge influence on Kate's and my work (our Who novels around that time are peppered with little references). Only now with an extra decade's worth of experience and technical polish. And budget. Which is where this Indiegogo link comes in!

    Let me urge every one of you to pop on over and chip in, even if just five pounds or so. These guys have been *huge* influences on me and Kate. Some of you (like Alryssa) may remember us watching one of the Protoverse videos at Visions ("The Five Totally Unrelated Persons...") and ending up singing along to "Daydream Believer" on the end credits. The Protoverse project, like Rupert's pioneering Doctor Who fan films, was inspiring stuff for me -- it's because of this that I ended up writing that Prisoner novel with Rupert and a TV pilot with Baz. I'd love to see this take flight again.

    Not least because I'm writing and directing the second one of the new batch! (And yes, mine's already funded -- at least enough to get it in the can.) More on that soon...
    Thursday, December 19th, 2013
    8:16 pm
    Farewell, House Of Sticks
    Well, we've put down the rental deposit, we're signing the lease after New Year's. Farewell House of Sticks, we're moving to the House of Bricks!

    For those who haven't been following the long-running saga -- for years the owner of our tiny little house has been planning to knock it down and build something bigger and square-er than our hobbyist home. Thanks to council delays and so forth, we've had a couple of years of grace, while knowing that the notice could come at any time. The word finally came through while we were in the US... and they said we had until early March to move out, which was more time than we feared.

    Just as we were settling in for a long haul of searching for a decent place that allows cats, within walking distance of shopping and transport, etc etc... our real estate agent contacted us about this place.

    My first impression was that it was spacious (about twice the size of our little place), but dingy; we were inspecting it before it was cleaned. But today we went back with Kate's dad to kick the tires, and he thought the place was wonderful!

    Lots of little caveats and things to sort out, but basically... we're going to time the move for mid-January, right after the latest Big Push at work finishes, and before I do a whole bunch of film-related things before my short film shoots in the latter half of March. (And I have to try to get two *other* film projects, plus "The I Job", out of the way in between... whee!)
    Thursday, December 5th, 2013
    5:37 pm
    Coming home from one of those exhausting "vacations". This one included closing out my grandmother's estate, cleaning out the last of my stuff from our basement on orders from my dad, throwing out and replacing familiar pieces of my parents' electronics which had given up the ghost, meeting an old girlfriend for the first time in years and laying some ghosts to rest, and touching base with far too few folks and fans who we haven't seen in years.

    And on our way home, we've finally got notice that the owner of the House of Sticks is going to knock it down. We've got to be out by early March.

    I'm really not sure whether shedding so much at once is a good thing or a bad one...

    On the flipside: Rupert Booth has just started shooting on our new film project (about which more soon). There's a future ahead; it's just that the next few months will be very, very full ones.
    Sunday, October 13th, 2013
    10:42 am
    Evelyn Fisher Rosenberg Kaitz, 1917-2013.
    Below is the eulogy for my beloved grandmother (Bubby), Evelyn Kaitz, as written and delivered by Rabbi Mindy Portnoy (with a lovely bit interpolated from my cousin Gerri). It is a wonderful summation of a life thoroughly lived.

    And here's Bubby, in the foreground, in characteristic pose. Amidst words, and ideas, and her community.

    Read more...Collapse )

    But that's not all... on the plane over, in the wee small hours of jetlag, I wrote a little something, which they generously let me read out as well. How could I follow Mindy's awesome portrait of Bubby? Only by adding just a few personal details.

    Read more...Collapse )

    And there's a little bit more that comes to mind. The speed with which Jewish funerals have to happen means that normally it might not have been possible for me to finish everything I had to do in Australia and make it back to the US in time. But Bubby's aneurysm timed itself, as Mindy said, for right before Simchat Torah... and since funerals couldn't be conducted on the holiday, or on Shabbat, that gave me and Kate just enough time to make it up over. (We flew in Saturday at 11PM, with the funeral Sunday morning.)

    And once we were up there, trying to look after my folks through the shiva week... we found out that Brian Wilson was playing a concert in town the day after the shiva week ended. Which we invited my parents to -- and it turned out to be a wonderful, cathartic, healing experience for all of us (especially my mom).

    I couldn't help but get the feeling that even there, somehow Bubby was looking after us.

    Hugs and kisses, Bubby. You keep warm.
    Friday, October 11th, 2013
    10:02 am
    Doctor Who Missing Episodes Found, Part 2
    ...and here's the "after" picture.

     photo MissingEpisodesAfter_zpscb0b7074.jpg

    Nine new episodes, released today to iTunes: "The Enemy of the World" and all but one episode of "The Web of Fear". Plus reconstructed trailers! And there are still rumors of more yet to be returned to the BBC...

    A sentence which will be really hard for most of us old-school fans to get our heads around:

    Most of season five exists now.

    "Woohoo" barely begins to cover it!
    Thursday, October 10th, 2013
    12:08 pm
    Doctor Who Missing Episodes Found
    Okay, for those of you who don't know the background to the whole finding-missing-episodes-of-Doctor-Who thing (and I'm surprised how many of my friends haven't just absorbed this through osmosis over the years!)... here's the story, and a nice little picture.

     photo MissingEpisodesBefore_zps15ab383d.jpg

    This represents which episodes of 1960s Doctor Who are known to exist, as of today.

    Why are there so many missing? Because back in the old days, there wasn't a market for archive TV -- especially with the move from black-and-white to color. Once they figured they'd sold all the copies to overseas stations that they were going to sell, the BBC wiped the master tapes.

    Pretty much all the B&W episodes which survive come from those film prints made for overseas stations -- carefully tracked down and returned to the Beeb in the eighties. Because seasons 1 and 2 sold to a lot more countries, we got back most of them; season 6 was also fairly lucky. But the later Hartnell and early Troughton runs were ravaged.

    In this graphic, the green episodes are the ones which have long been known to survive; aside from the odd stray ones, these were included in the mid-'80s release of Hartnell and Troughton stories to PBS. The blue ones are the occasional episodes which have trickled back since then, over the past twenty-five years or so. The yellow ones have been literally re-animated -- the soundtracks survive (thanks to gonzo fans with tape recorders even back in the day), and the Beeb has used animation to re-create them. The white ones are the holes in history.

    This is the "before" picture.

    Tune in in a day or two for the "after" one.
    Sunday, September 15th, 2013
    11:58 pm
    ...So, I just directed my first short film in the better part of a decade!

    This is a comedy short, about which I hope to talk about a little bit more soon. But in the meantime, some photos behind the cut...
    Read more...Collapse )
    Monday, August 19th, 2013
    2:02 am
    Kate's back from her writing retreat, which comprised about most of our four-day holiday. Basically, instead of going away somewhere, we got a nice hotel room in the city, I stayed over a couple of nights (and went home to feed the cats on others), and then she just holed up in the room from Sunday to Thursday and beat the middle chunk of her book into shape.

    So that way I got the weekend-getaway I'd been promised for my birthday (thanks, Mom and Dad!), Kate got a hell of a lot of good writing done, and I spent the other couple of days getting a hell of a lot of *other* projects done!

    Kate's list of realizations from her wonderful head-clearing experience:

    1. I am not a writer; I write.
    2. A "writer" can be compared in status to another writer - someone else with more accomplishments and recognition, themselves past and (imagined) future, and so forth.
    3. However, since I write, I only have to sit here typing, rather than worrying about my unfinished projects (by definition, there will always be at least one), whether I am a has-been, envying others' success, etc.
    4. Since I am not a writer, I am free to have a life outside writing.
    5. Scenes are for moving the plot forward and demonstrating character, not for exposition. Not even in science fiction.
    6. Uh, that's it, I think. I'll add anything else if I think of it. Let's see how long I can keep 1-4 in mind.

    My list, on the other hand, is just the sheer number of creative things that have happened in the past couple of weeks. Since the beginning of August, I have:

    * Run sound on a short film which I co-wrote (It's Only Magic, with Kyla Ward), which entailed staying out at a bus station past Parramatta till ridiculous o'clock at night.
    * Attended the red-carpet premiere of Isobel and the Patissier, which Kate, my parents and I were extras on (and Gemma Laurelle was the 2nd AD). Three of us got great featured shots, while poor Kate ended up as a tuft of hair...
    * Wrote and sent off a short-film script for shooting early next year, which would involve Rupert Booth, Craig Walker, Gemma Laurelle, Kyla Ward, and other familiar faces from The I Job crew (plus I'm hoping to poach Pete the DOP from "It's Only Magic" to do our lighting, and Tania the sound recordist from "Isobel")
    * Did a hell of a lot of work on editing and mixing The I Job -- now largely apparently-complete, but it'll need a lot of fine-tuning and foley work, plus I'm going to need a pickup session to fix some distorted dialogue! And I'm going to bring in some help on mixing a couple of complicated scenes...
    * Did a day's work as an extra on an indie feature, Zoe Misplaced -- a quirky indie lesbian rom-dram of a sort that makes me positively nostalgic for my college days -- along with Kyla again (and Tania doing the sound)
    * Attended a red-carpet showing of The Navigator, a micro-budget indie feature with Gemma in a co-starring role (great cast, cleverer story than it looks, needs a bit of a tighter edit)
    * Discovered that Danger 5 has been renewed for a second series -- one which will apparently do to '80s action shows what the first series did to '60s ones! Looks like I'm gonna be schlepping down to Adelaide for a set report...
    * Suddenly got *another* brainwave for a short film, and wrote another whole five-page script, with an aim towards it being a showreel piece for Craig, Kyla, and Gemma, probably to be shot quickly in the next few weeks
    * ...and oh yeah, there's a day-job in there too!

    Sensing a bit of a theme here? I suddenly realized, I've got a regular group of collaborators now, and we're all egging each other on on our projects... this is the sort of alchemy I haven't had since the days of the Half A Dozen Lemmings! God, how I've missed that. I've spent all these years in a creative marriage with Kate; this is more like creative polyamory, which has a whole other set of satisfactions. :-)

    So, in a nutshell: incredibly busy, but deeply satisfied!
[ << Previous 20 ]