Iconic British science fiction magazine SXFX celebrated its 23rd anniversary later this year, so here’s a quick look back at some of the articles from the rarely seen and much sought after first issue.
Tankbuster (pages 18–27)
Since 1988, Tank Girl and Jet Girl have been tearing up British comics with their full frontal assault on good taste, decorum, and anything else that stands in their way of a good time. On the set of the hotly anticipated film adaptation in Australia, Esmerelda Brautigan meets up with the film’s co-stars Naomi Watts and Lori Petty, who prove to be every bit as irrepressible as the characters they’re portraying onscreen.
Since its first appearance as a throwaway page filler in Deadline in 1988, Tank Girl has been an unexpected phenomenon, going from underground indie comic hit to sudden mainstream sensation within little over a year, and then barrelling forward with an ever-increasing sense of momentum ever since. And now Tank Girl mania has perhaps reached its culmination with the imminent release of the big-budgeted, long-awaited, Hollywood film adaptation. On its release last month in America it broke several box office records, and all the early indications are that it’s going to do the same when it releases here in the UK this month.
When I meet with the film’s two standout stars, Lori Petty (Tank Girl) and Naomi Watts (Jet Girl), it’s the very last day of scheduled re-shoots for the film, but even then the sense that this was going to be something big was nigh-on unshakeable. It’s a blisteringly hot day outside in this deserted part of New Mexico, and we’re all huddled up in a trailer, trying, desperately, to keep ourselves cool with bottles of beer from the fridge.
“We’re not even supposed to be here,” Lori moans. “This was supposed to be finished months ago.”
“Someone forgot to film the climax, or something,” Naomi explains. “Like, they literally forgot to turn on the camera.”
“There was talk they could fill in the gap with a cartoon,” Lori sneers. “Imagine that — a fucking cartoon instead of the end of the film.”
“But luckily the artist hurt his wrist.” Naomi mimes a rude gesture.
“And so here we are. Back in the tank.”
The plot of the movie revolves around a quest for justice in the arid wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia, an odyssey that leads ultimately onto a showdown with the nefarious warlord Kessel, played by Terrance Stamp (who has, for reasons best known to himself, refused to do any publicity for this movie). But the plot, truth be told, is fairly irrelevant, and what we get instead is a fast-paced series of often disconnected set-pieces, vignettes, interludes, and Saturday morning cartoon-style segments, and this energetic melange creates an atmosphere of free-wheeling anarchism that perfectly captures the essence of the characters. A flat, standard A to B plot just wouldn’t have cut it.
A point with which Tank Girl herself agrees.
“One of the things that I loved about the script was that it just went straight in there — BANG — and got going and never let up,” blasts Lori. “There’s no backstory explaining exactly how and why the world’s all fucked up, no tedious explanation about how she got her tank-”
“It’s just — BLAM — the world is fucked up!” Naomi cuts in excitedly. “BOOM — ‘yeah, this tank? We stole it’. That’s all you need. None of this…”
She waves her hands around until eventually Lori Petty finishes her thought for her.
“…this fucking drip-drip-drip of story. Just fucking getting into it — a couple of girls in the desert with their heavy artillery and their ‘fuck you’ attitude.”
“Not even ‘fuck you’! ‘Fuck EVERYONE!’”
“And we do!” shouts Lori, and the whole room collapses into dirty giggles.
Booga: “Where in the hell did you get a tank?”
Tank Girl: “Stole it!”
Booga: “And… a plane!?”
Jet Girl: “Built it!”
Booga: “I’m not even going to ask where that sub came from.”
Sub Girl: “Good.”
The look of the film, and especially the costumes, is one of the most striking aspects of the movie, and one of the things Lori and Naomi are both especially pleased with.
“The thing is, if a guy made this — and I’ve nothing against guys, obviously, I’ve met some nice ones, you know? — but if a guy made this, they’d get the look of it wrong. It’d just be them playing dress-up, getting us to put all these outfits on for their fucking pleasure. Whereas this — there’s like a hundred odd costume changes the pair of us go through in the film — ”
“150, if you count Sub Girl.”
“Yeah but she got cut, didn’t she? Cut. The fuck. OUT!” They both laugh at this for a while, before Lori gets back to the point she was making. “There’s a million costumes and outfits but they’re our fucking costumes, you know. Our fucking outfits. We look great but we look great for us. We could care less whether all these fucking men in the wasteland — in the audience — find us sexy.”
She pauses for breath and then continues. “Rachel [Talalay, the director] did a great job. She could easily have made us look like all these tired old male fantasies you’re used to seeing on screen, toys for our boys… Actually, can you imagine the merchandise for this. Tiny little figurines with interchangeable rocket bras. An accessory pack full of dildos!”
“Some sort of Punk barbie nightmare,” agrees Naomi.
“My Little Anarchist!”
Me and Naomi both laugh at this one but Lori remains quizzically silent.
“Who the fuck is Sindy?” she demands
“She’s like Barbie. But better obviously,” Naomi explains. “Maybe you had to grow up in Wales…”
“I thought you were fucking Australian?!” They both glare at each other for a second, and then burst out laughing once more. “Anyway, I don’t think Mattel wanted to produce any Tank Girl toys, the useless fucking fucks.”
There’s a scene in this movie where Tank Girl and Jet Girl infiltrate a 1920s art-deco style brothel in the wastelands that culminates in a great Broadway-style singalong, and which for many exemplifies the strengths of the film.
“We wanted to undercut that whole macho fucking culture of old rock, even of punk. All that shitty stuff, you know, getting groped at gigs, groupies, all that fucking shit. Iggy Pop was desperate to be in this film, and everyone was like, ‘Yeah, well there’s this part you’d be perfect for’ and it’s as a paedophile!”
“Iggy was well up for it.”
“Well of course he was. I don’t think he understood the joke,” Lori says seriously. “He wanted to be on the soundtrack too, but Courtney said ‘Nah! No cocks on the soundtrack.’”
“I don’t think he got that joke either,” says Naomi. “If it even was a joke.”
Indeed, the Tank Girl film has an incredible soundtrack [see box-out overleaf] put together by Grunge superstar Courtney Love, and for Lori Petty, getting to meet one of her heroes was a highlight of the entire production.
“Hanging out with Courtney was so much fucking fun! It was back in pre-production, in London, that we met her. She took us to Glastonbury [Editor’s Note — it was actually Reading] and it was so exciting. She beat up this one guy for wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Not sleeping around.’ It was hi-lar-i-ous. ‘Why aren’t you sleeping around? Why? Why?’ She was shaking him around and he looked so scared. Me and Naomi couldn’t stop laughing for hours about it.”
“I thought it was a bit much, actually,” Naomi Watts says, looking a little bit sheepish.
“Hey, you were the one that kicked him in the balls!”
“She ended up running off with Tracy [Marrow, who plays the mutated kangaroo Booga in the film] and we didn’t see her again.”
“Someone said they’re going to make an album together,” Naomi reveals.
“Yeah, he’s a fucking rock star now. None of this acting shit anymore.” Lori takes a swig from her bottle of beer. “Maybe we put him right the fuck off.”
“We?” pleads Naomi. “Don’t try and rope me into this. This is all your doing!”
Explosive hits that will blow you away!
12 amazing songs from the Tank Girl soundtrack.
Bjurk — Army Of Me
Portishead — It’s A Fire
Throwing Muses — Counting Backwards
Hole — You Know You’re Right
L7 — Shitlist
Angel ‘Corpus’ Christi — Me And My Beretta
Ruby — Paraffin
Merrill Nisker — Stressed Out
Polly Harvey — Rub It Until It Bleeds
Ethyl Meatplow — Queenie
Whale — Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Bitch
Hope Sandoval And The ’Mazing Stars — Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)
Even here, three months out from release, the intensity of the hype and desire for this film is incredible. Everywhere you go there’s people talking about it. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing it being discussed, dissected, vilified and vaunted in equal measure.
So one last question, did you know what you were getting yourselves into when you signed up for this?
“We did,” says Tank Girl. “We definitely fucking did.”
“And we love it,” agrees Jet Girl. “It’s fucking brilliant.”
One of their assistants pops their head round the door and tells the two of them they’re needed back on set for the last few hours of filming.
“Let’s go blow something up!”
And they do. Or will. With Tank Girl they’re going to leave the entire world aflame in their wake.
Doctor Who And The Reconfiguration Of An Icon (pages 34–41)
It’s been six long years since Doctor Who last leapt through the dimensions of space, time and mind. But now he’s back, and everything you think you know about him is set to change. We meet Shaun Bean on the set of the Doctor’s most spectacular adventure yet. Words: David N. Golder. Imagery: Ken Russell
There’s been rumours of a TV adaptation of Doctor Who for almost as long as the character’s been in existence. As far back as the early 1960s there was talks between C. Staples Lewis and the BBC about a possible show, but his untimely death and the sale of the rights to Tandem (who wanted to concentrate on the written word) put paid to that.
In the years since there’s been many more almost-adaptations, most famously the failed Peter Cushing movie in the 1980s which, despite being finished, never made its way to the screen. But now, here, finally, it’s all definitely coming together.
We’re on a closed set in Cardiff, located somewhere deep inside the vast complex of hangars and corridors that make up the impressive and iconic Harlech Television Centre. Around us trundle terrifying robots, harassed production assistants, and what resemble gigantic animatronic crabs.
This might be Shaun Bean’s first big television role (he’s most famous here in the UK for his appearances in the Jim Henson Storyteller series, but he also had a recurring role as the Lighthouse keeper in the Irish version of Fraggle Rock), yet he almost got his big break two years ago.
“I was cast as Richard Sharpe in the BBC series [of the same name], but had to drop out after two days because I broke my bloody ankle playing football with some of the lads from the production team,” Shaun wistfully recalls. “I know it’s hard to imagine anyone but Paul [McGann] in the role now, but I’d have been bloody great. I really believe that.”
But the Napoleonic War’s loss is space’s gain. They’ve only filmed a handful of episodes so far, but already it is apparent from the performances I’ve witnessed on set that Shaun has brought an incredible presence to the role. A brash but charming rogue one moment, a coldly calculating and deeply alien presence the next, and all dressed up in garb that’s half Victorian gent, half gameskeeper. It’s a brilliant creation, although I’m finding it hard to pin down exactly which configuration of the Doctor this incarnation is supposed to be.
“Ever since I’ve been cast people have been asking me, ‘So, which Doctor will you be?’ or ‘Oh, which companion are you going to have?’ And I keep having to tell them this isn’t that sort of adaptation. This is the start of something new.”
So this isn’t going to be a straight adaptation of the novels, but something more?
“That’s right. We didn’t want this to just be a great bloody re-hash of all the stories everyone already knows. ‘Oh look, it’s the Makra!’ Or Aslan and all those bloody Narns again.” Shaun laughs deeply. “We can travel through the whole of the galaxy. It’d be a bit of a waste if every week we just kept on meeting the same few foes over and over again. Although we do actually have an episode with the Makra in.”
It is to this end that the writers of the series have brought in a number of respected science fiction writers including Terry Nation, Terrance Dicks and Terald Vaak, and between them they’ve devised a number of new foes that everyone involved in the show are deeply enthused about. These include the Daleks, relentlessly evil metallic monsters with a radiation-twisted mutant at their heart; the Automotons, a race of robots constructed from living plastic; and the Siborgs, half-human-half-robot terrors that are heavily reminiscent of the classic Star Trek enemy the Cybermen.
The producers are quick to rebuff any suggestion of similarities, however. “They are completely different,” explains Terry Nation. “Star Trek’s Cybermen are a completely alien race, whereas our Siborgs are actually humans. They’re us! It’s a comment on technology and individuality. There’s lots of emotional pull there that you just couldn’t do if they were a relentless evil from beyond the stars.”
I ask director Ken Russell about the episode they’re currently filming. “The Doctor’s being attacked by snakes today. It’s pretty great. At the end they discover the snakes are allergic to bagpipes, and everyone has a good old toot.”
Shaun, shifting nervously in his chair, tries to explain. “It’s not the best synopsis, I know. Ken’s just trying to unsettle you. And well, it’s not the best episode, either, I admit. But it has its charms.”
The latest script Shaun’s received is much more to his liking.
“The TARDIS emerges in a nunnery in the 17th century, and, being the Doctor, he can’t stop showing them the limitations of their beliefs. It’s pretty moving. The priesthood accuse him of heresy and send him to the torture chamber to repent, but of course he won’t.” Shaun shakes his head. “I haven’t got to the end yet but I can’t wait to see how he gets out of there.”
Shaun is also eager to talk about his co-star, Joely Richardson, who plays the Doctor’s new companion, coyly referred to merely as “the lady” in the promotional material issued to the press thus far.
“We first worked together on The Storyteller,” Shaun tells me. “I think we’ve got a great chemistry up there on the screen. I think it’s going to prove a shock for many of our viewers. But hopefully an enjoyable one.”
Is Shaun hinting here at an on-screen romance for the Doctor? Before he can answer a flustered PR manager hurries in and tells him it’s time to go. I have time for just one more question.
So, Shaun, if you really could go anywhere in all the dimensions of time, space and mind, where would it be you’d go? He doesn’t even have to think about it.
“Hillsborough, definitely,” he says. “Every Saturday afternoon, cheering the Owls on. There’s some earthly pleasures that even the heavens can’t provide.”
Doctor Who will be appearing on ITV this time next year.
The Many Convolutions Of Space, Time And Mind: A Brief History Of Doctor Who
1 April, 1938: The Silent Planet, a science fiction novel by C. Staples Lewis, is published, but is not a great success. This novel (and its three sequels) differ greatly in many ways from the subsequent stylings and lore the series would take on — the TARDIS is a rocket ship that mechanically travels through space, there is no mention of time travel at all, and, although it is never clearly stated, the Doctor appears to simply be a regular human being.
16th October, 1950: Doctor Who And The Narns is published, and immediately becomes a bestseller. A re-fashioning of themes and characters taken from his earlier Space Quartet and aimed at younger readers, the book is an unexpected success. It is in Doctor Who And The Narns that many of the most well-known elements in the series are introduced — the TARDIS can change its appearance at will and allows for instantaneous travel through time and space; the Doctor is accompanied by a number of travelling companions, including his granddaughter Susan Pevensie; the Doctor dies at the hands of Jadis and is “reborn”, revealing his Time Lord identity — and many consider this the true beginning of the series.
4th September, 1956: Doctor Who And The Last Best Religion, the seventh and final book in the Narn Chronicles, is published. It goes on to win the Carnegie Medal for the best Children’s Book by a Subject Of Her Majesty’s Empires, as well as the 1957 Hugo Awards for Best Novel, Best Short Story (for the Reader’s Digest version) and Best Artist (for illustrator Pauline Baynes). It was nominated for, but did not win, the 1957 James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the Biography category.
16th June, 1962: C. Staples Lewis agrees to sell the rights to his Doctor Who series to Tandem Books, a publishing company based in London. This not only allows them to publish the existing books, but also grants them the right to produce derivative material of their own under their Target imprint. The first product released under the deal is a toy wardrobe that, due to the clever use of mirrors and a hollow plinth, appears to be much deeper inside than the outside would suggest.
22nd November, 1963: C. Staples Lewis dies after many years of ill-health. He was 64.
23rd November, 1963: Doctor Who And The Drowning World by James Ballard is rush-released to a grieving public. This is a landmark moment in the history of Doctor Who for a number of reasons — not only is it the first Doctor Who novel not written by C. Staples Lewis, it is the beginning of Tandem’s aggressive expansion of its newly licenced property which will lead to an explosion of novels by a vast array of writers over the coming years.
In addition, this novel is our first introduction to what will eventually become many of the most recognisable recurrent characters in the Doctor Who mythos: namely, UNIT (and its members the Brigadier, Beatrice Dahl, Sergeant Benton, etc) and the Strangman, the Doctor’s Time Lord rival and nemesis. Many say this was the beginning of the Silver Age of Doctor Who.
October 1969: Doctor Who And The Final Programme by MJ Moorcock is released to much acclaim. First appearance of longtime companion Una Persson, and also the first use of the term “reconfiguration” to describe the Doctor’s death and rebirth cycle.
[MJ Moorcock went on to write three more Doctor Who novels, the last of which was Doctor Who And The Music Hall Condition (1977), which went on to win the Guardian Fiction Prize later that year. Less successfully, Moorcock temporarily joined the Space Psych group Hawkmoon, and together they released the rock opera Doctor Who On The Edge Of Time in 1975. Lemmy Kilmister, who left the band later that year and found greater fame as guitarist for Girlschool, famously described the record as “a lot of fucking rubbish.”]
October 1972: Doctor Who And The Infernal Machines Of Desire by Angela Carter is released, to widespread dismay and confusion. In a significant departure for the series, Doctor Who is the antagonist rather than the protagonist and barely appears. Carter said her intention with this novel was to “cut like a steel blade at the base of [the Doctor’s] penis.” Reviled at the time, it is now considered to be one of the classics of the series.
26th February, 1977: The Una Persson Adventures, a spinoff series of comics featuring the Doctor’s iconic companion, begins in the newly-launched weekly British dystopian comic, The Beano.
8th March, 1978: Doctor Who leaps the dimensions from written words to spoken words as he makes his debut on BBC Radio 4. Broadcast thrice-weekly in five minute episodes, the show, penned by Douglas Adams, runs for 11 years.
October 1983: Doctor Who And The Garden Of The Grani, the first ever Doctor Who videogame, is released on the BBC Micro and the Dragon 32. The game, in which the Doctor must attempt to rescue several of his companions while avoiding a terrifying witch, proves to be so frightening that it leads to the oft-quoted myth that children were only able to play it while “hiding under their desks”.
1985: An Adventure In Time, a big-budget Hollywood adaptation of the franchise, begins production. Despite a high profile cast, including Lord Peter Cushing as the Doctor and William Hootkins as Biggles, and a promising appearance at Cannes, the picture will never be released.
6th December, 1989: The 1,764th and last episode of Doctor Who is broadcast on Radio 4. The show ends with the famous opening dialogue from the very first episode — “Look, I don’t know where you got your strange ideas about time from, but it wasn’t from me!” The BBC subsequently begin a re-broadcast of the entire run of the show, and it continues in its regular slot to this very day.
May, 1996: After nearly seven years of inaction (assuming things all go to plan) Doctor Who will return. His long-awaited TV debut is set for broadcast in the Saturday teatime slot on ITV sometime next spring (exact times and dates will vary by region).
First Fit: Doctor Who And The Convolutions Of Time (a transcript of the original broadcast on Radio 4 on the 8th March, 1978)
The Doctor Who theme tune plays
Narrator: Doctor Who And The Convolutions Of Time. Written by Douglas Adams, and starring Geoffrey McGivern as Doctor Who, and Simon Jones as Arthur.
The theme tune fades out as Doctor Who begins to speak.
Doctor Who: Look, I don’t know where you got your strange ideas about time from, but it wasn’t from me. It just wouldn’t make sense to meet yourself. Time would have to be crystalline in structure, everything fixed like some sort of rigid multidimensional molecule. How tedious!
Arthur: I don’t really see why that would follow.
Doctor Who: Of course it follows! If you met yourself than either you or your other self, depending on which way round it was, would have to do everything exactly right from that point on to ensure that that thing happened. It’s absurd. The chances of all that happening by chance are so vanishingly remote as to be irrelevant. I’m telling you, it’d have to mean that the universe is one big time crystal.
Arthur: Well, maybe it is?
Doctor Who: Don’t you want free will?
Arthur: I’m not sure it matters at all what I want.
Doctor Who: Very good. And anyway, that’s not all. Say you did meet yourself, what then? What if you gave yourself something from the future, which you then kept with you into the future, until you went back into the past to give it to yourself?
Arthur: Like what?
Doctor Who: Oh, I don’t know. Like this 50p someone’s left on the worktop. Here!
We hear the 50p being flicked into the air, and Arthur catching it.
Doctor Who: Now then, how old is that 50p?
Arthur: It says it was made in 1974. So… wait, what year are we in now?
Doctor Who: No, no! I mean in our example. I’ve given it to you, now you go back one week, and give it to me. How old is it by the time I give it back to you.
Arthur: Two weeks?
Doctor Who: Yes, very good. But then, you go back in time, give it to yourself, who then gives it to me, who then gives it to you, and so on and so on and so on, until…?
Arthur: It becomes… infinitely old.
Doctor Who: Yes, see, like I told you, absurd. There’s no way round the infinite age paradox. If cyclical time travel like that was possible we’d have infinitely old atoms everywhere and then where would we be? Or when! We’d never know.
Arthur: So you’re telling me that you’ve never gone back and met earlier versions of yourself.
Doctor Who: Of course not. The universe is in a constant state of flux. Everything affecting everything else in cascades of absurd complexity. It’s beautiful and wonderful. Every time you step outside the TARDIS it’s into a whole new adventure. Never the same creatures, never the same planets. Always something wonderfully bafflingly beautifully new!
Arthur: But what about those photos you were showing me of all of you together that time?
Doctor Who: Anomalies.
Arthur: Anomalies? You can’t expect me to believe that.
Doctor Who: I could expect you to believe anything.
Arthur: Doctor, please, I’m English.
Doctor Who: I bet you’ve never even built yourself a toy time machine.
Arthur: Well, no, but…
Doctor Who: But…?
Arthur: Look, it’s just… It doesn’t sound right. If everything’s always changing, what’s the point of doing anything? What’s the point of trying to change things?
Doctor Who: What’s the point of not?
An old fashioned mechanical alarm clock starts ringing.
Doctor Who: Right, we’re here! Hurry up, Arthur.
The doors of the TARDIS creak open.
Arthur: Doctor, where are we?
Doctor Who: Victorian London, of course.
Arthur: Victorian London? That sounds quite nice.
Doctor Who: Nice? What if it’s a Victorian London populated entirely by clockwork vampires?
Arthur: Oh, I don’t know… Also, Doctor, about that chaotic universe stuff… Does that mean now we’re in Victorian London I can never go home again because everything in the future will have changed? Hey! Hey, Doctor? Where are you going? You’re not going out there are you?
Doctor Who: Listen!
A bell tolls again and again in the distance.
Arthur: They’re just church bells, Doctor.
Doctor Who: Exactly. Now why would there be church bells in a city of vampires?
Arthur: Doctor, are there really clockwork vampires? Doctor?
We hear a high-pitched scream.
The Doctor Who theme tune begins to play especially loudly
Announcer: Next week on Doctor Who.
Doctor Who: This is fascinating. Look at that monitor. Arthur! What are you doing? Look, will you put that 50p down and come over here.
A 50p piece can be heard being slammed down onto a worktop.
Arthur: Doctor, I can’t see a thing on this screen.
Doctor Who: No, not that one. How could it be that one? It’s covered in vampire oil, for god’s sake. That one!
Arthur: Doctor, that can’t be right. It says we’re in an older version of the TARDIS.
Doctor Who: Yes! Well, a slightly newer version, technically. A TARDIS from a whole week ago!
Arthur: It’s impossible. Surely if we were here then, we’d have noticed us?
Doctor Who: Quiet! Someone’s coming. We better hide. It might be the Daleks!
Arthur: Who the hell are the Daleks?
The theme tune plays fairly loudly.
Narrator: Tune in next week to discover what happens in… Doctor Who And The Unexpected Turn.
Iain F. Banks: A very Scottish science fiction writer with vast ambitions (pages 44–51)
Taking six years to write, Iain F. Banks’s Culture’s Dawn Trilogy will be nearly 3,000 pages long (more if you count the book of short stories) and it’s about nothing less than the end of life as we know it. Mary Branscombe interrupted the author at his labours to find out where he gets his sense of scale.
Iain F. Banks is fond of combining disaster with science fiction. He bought his first computer in 1984 — “as a 30th birthday present to myself” — and over the next two years accumulated “a huge pile of rejected novels — stories nobody in their right mind wanted to read, stories about maggot-ridden skulls and castrated school-children and the like.”
Then he produced Complicity (Abacus, 1986). The book started his career, as well as that of his iconic character Cameron Colley, an ex-journalist turned private detective with a telepathic implant in a tropical Scotland rescued by global warming.
Before he sold Complicity to Abacus, Banks was repeatedly told that the book was too close to home and that there wasn’t much of a market for ‘Fife Fiction’ but as a Fife man “born and bred!” he couldn’t see the problem. “I sent Complicity to one agent and it came back ‘this is unpublishable, it’s too parochial’. People have been very curious — why set it in Fife? Well, why not! I’m sure that if I’d set Complicity and the same problems in somewhere like Los Angeles or even London people wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow but they don’t seem to associate countryside Scotland with the future. It’s very strange! I can’t quite work out why — it’s almost as if they don’t expect us to have a future, don’t expect us to be any different than we are today. It’s nice to visit London but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
The other disadvantage was Cameron Colley’s politics. As Banks puts it, Colley was “on the side of the right-wing at the time” and he starts the book tracking down the corrupt socialists who have brought the country to its knees. Having been vilified on occasion for sharing Colley’s views, Banks is keen to point out that such comments are rather wide of the mark. “It’s certainly not any kind of polemic — it’s basically a detective thriller series, I wasn’t trying to make any great political points at all.
“The thing with the Colley book was, obviously, once you’ve got the background you have to stick to it. Complicity was conceived in the late 80s, the days of the Kinnock government and Thatcher’s opposition, and whatever you might think about her failings as a party leader, her failure to compromise, her failure to win elections — she was principled in her opposition, she was genuine in her conservatism. Whereas today we’ve got Blair at the podium shouting across the house at Portillo and really who can tell them apart? Quite why they haven’t both defected to the Liberal Democrats, I don’t know…”
After Complicity and the runaway success of its (still ongoing) BBC adaptation, Banks felt that another Colley story would leave him “very much stuck in a rut”. And so he moved on.
Larger and larger
In 1987, Iain F. Banks turned to a larger stage — and much larger books. Consider Phlebas is an epic space opera dealing with alien civilisations, convicts, colonists and smugglers plus a nightmare taking over the galaxy — and it runs to 950 pages. He has just produced the second book, the 996-page Use Of Weapons and promises the third volume of the Culture’s Dawn trilogy, Excession, before the end of next year. Quite a way from those rejected novels.
The hefty tomes of Culture’s Dawn are set further into the future and far from sticking to Fife, they roam right across the galaxy; by the end of book two, we haven’t actually got to Earth yet. Space battles, fantastic weapons and galactic empires — there’s more than a touch of space opera here. But don’t go expecting a light-hearted romp where the heroes can’t lose, though.
“If you have a society as big and as powerful as this Culture, it really does have to be something quite out of the ordinary to threaten such a society. They have tremendous industrial and military resources available to them, yet they’re caught on the hop by this menace [Al Capone].”
And larger even yet
The latest rumours are that there is “some interest” in doing a film of the whole Culture’s Dawn trilogy, which could take quite a while. Banks is dubious as to whether they could manage it. “Well, there’s interest, but we’re pretty much at the ‘wait and see’ stage. I can’t quite see them filming the whole series — I mean we’ve all seen Dune, and even across three films they struggled to fit everything in, and they only had a single book to adapt. Whereas Culture’s Dawn… it’ll be three times as long by the time it’s finished. I can’t see anyone making nine films in one series!
“There are probably sections you could take out of it and film but I think filming the actual entire story is pretty much a no-no — unfortunately. You’d need several hours — several tens of hours — and an awful lot of special effects. I think filming the entire trilogy is out but you can pick sections out, which is presumably what they’ll eventually do, I suppose. Squeeze it into a single overstuffed film.”
In fact he doesn’t sound too pleased at the idea. “It would have to be mutilated. And given how much I’ve put into it all and then seeing bits pulled out… I suppose seeing bits of it would be better than none at all. But, unlike Dune, I can’t help but think it’d end up being incoherent crap.”
However, with his usual ingenuity, Iain F. Banks has the perfect answer — technology to the rescue. “I think in ten years time when you can just feed a book straight into a computer and have it turn it into a virtual reality by simple processing power — maybe that’s the thing to wait for.”
A Bold Voyage Into The Unknown (pages 56–59)
With Star Trek: Next Generation reaching its conclusion last year after nine glorious seasons, television has seemed a little duller in the interim. But now Star Trek is back with a new series, a new ship, a new crew, and even a new Riker. David N. Guy investigates.
It’s been a long year and a half since Star Trek: Next Generation finished. Something as successful as Star Trek was never going to be gone from our screens for long, but even so, television has seemed a little duller in the interim. Every Wednesday evening for the last 18 months has seen me pining by the TV, desperately longing for its return. But there’s also been a touch of fear in there, too — what if, when it returns, it’s all a bit of a disappointment? And with early word from the States that Star Trek: Voyager is unlike anything seen in the Trek universe before, my apprehension had been building for a while.
But all those worries were swept away when I was shown the first few episodes of Voyager at a special press event in London recently, and my fears were further assuaged in my subsequent conversations with returning Next Generation star Jonathan Frakes and the new series’ head writer, Christopher Priest.
When I explain to them how nervous I had been about the new series, Jonathan Frakes, especially, is sympathetic to my initial unease.
“We know we’ve got a lot to live up to with this. And although we knew we could just come back with the same old stuff — a new ship and a new crew but the same sort of adventures — we wanted to give everyone something different. So we spent quite a long time searching for something entirely different, something that would give us a whole new way at looking at Star Trek, while retaining the core experience that our fans all know and love. So we needed something not just with great characters and great enemies, but something that also went deeper than that.”
The backroom staff at the show had been working on ideas for a Next Generation spin-off series for some time, as far back as 1991 if some reports are to be believed. But no real progress was ever made and tension was said to be running high at Paramount that they would be without a successor when Picard et al finally hung up their uniforms in 1994 after an incredible 221 episodes. Just in time, however, the premise of the new series was brought to them by veteran British science fiction writer Christopher Priest.
“We were so excited when Chris showed up with these ideas. Everyone was a huge fan of his work, especially Short Circuit [winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novelisation in 1987]. That book was such a huge influence on Next Generation, not only on Data, obviously, but also on the slow expansion over the years of Majel [Barrett]’s role as the Enterprise,” says Frakes. “So it was a huge honour to discover Riker was central to his plans, as I thought my days on the show had come to an end [with the conclusion of Next Generation].”
“I’d always been fascinated with the transporters in Star Trek,” Christopher Priest announces. “How did they work? What happened to you when you stepped into the beam? Was that really you when you rematerialised on the other side? Or was it someone else? It seemed like every time you stepped onto that transporter pad you’d be crippled by some existential crisis, but no-one ever batted an eyelid and that seemed incredibly strange to me.”
But that all changed when he watched the sixth season episode Our Two Rikers, where it is discovered that a duplicate of Jonathan Frake’s iconic First Officer had been created in a transporter accident ten years before.
“That episode showed to me that my ideas about the transporter had been right all along. Yet still, in the episode, they both quickly come to terms with this scenario [of a duplicate Riker], and so does everyone else. The second Riker leaves for his new job aboard the Voyager and the next week everything’s back to normal and they all go back to being obliterated and reborn in that transporter beam without a second thought. There’s no thought to what they’re doing to themselves, and similarly, no thought to the actual potential of this incredible duplication device they have.” He shakes his head in astonished wonder. “But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
And so to Star Trek: Voyager. The set-up is this: while engaged in a battle with (long-running NG antagonists) the Cardassians in a disputed area of space, both ships tumble through a wormhole and find themselves stranded in an unexplored and hostile region of space thousands of years away from home. With supplies low, limited crew and the Cardassian ship beyond repair, the two long-time enemies decide to team up and work together on the Voyager for their long journey home.
“So you’ve got this great set-up,” enthuses Frakes. “The ordered, friendly, cosy world of the Enterprise is gone, and here you’ve got this messy reality of isolation, distrust, and a genuine fear that all is lost. It definitely sets it apart from any Star Trek that’s gone before. They have to question everything about the rules of the Federation, about what you need to give up and what you need to change to survive when you’re on your own. And also what you need to hold on to — what are the essential things that make the Federation the Federation, that make you you.”
Into this comes W. Thomas Riker. Still haunted by his ten years of solitude in Our Two Rikers, and faced with a small crew and the utter hostility of the territory around them, Thomas comes up with a terrible, essential plan.
“He takes advantage of the new situation on the ship to get himself in the position of having total control over the transporters,” Christopher Priest outlines. “And, using the knowledge he’sgained analysing his transporter accident all those years ago, every time a crew member transports off the ship, he creates a duplicate of them, which he keeps in stasis until the original — well I say original, but as we show they are both duplicates, there is no original — but he keeps one in stasis on the ship, and lets the other go down to wherever it is they’re going to that week. If the other returns safely, he can transport the stasis-held one out into space. But if there’s an accident on the planet, he can transport the perfectly preserved stasis body to the infirmary. Of course, eventually, this leads to a whole new world of problems, for both Riker and the rest crew.”
“Everything Riker does here is motivated by his desire to keep the crew safe,” Frakes explains. “But he knows that this plan of his is somewhat unethical, and so he does what he can to keep it a secret from everyone. It doesn’t happen straight away, but things eventually come to a head.”
In America the show is already into its mid-season hiatus, and from what we’ve heard so far this is quite an understatement. And although we don’t want to give away too many of the shows secrets, it’s certainly, shall we say, notable how many of the principle cast (Linda Hamilton, Jeremy London, Clare Buckfield, Kim Deal) just happen to be identical twins in real life.
As you can see from that list, Star Trek: Voyager also re-unites Jonathan Frakes with his long-time Beauty and the Beast co-star Linda Hamilton, a move that has certainly got fans talking.
“Its great to be working with her again,” Jonathan says. “We had such a good time on that show. Those.. was it four years? [Editor’s note: It was 2 years] They were incredible years for both of us, really.”
So, is there going to be any romance between your characters?
“That’s what everyone wants to know, isn’t it?” he chuckles. “But no, Riker, he might be a different man now, but he’s still the same Riker at heart. He respects the chain of command too much to try and romance a superior officer.”
Instead, W. Thomas Riker has his sights set on the returning Seska, in a continuation of the burgeoning on-screen romance between the characters towards the tail end of Next Generation’s run.
“Actually, it’s not a continuation of that at all. That was William Riker. Thomas Riker has never met Seska before. He was either trapped in that cave all the time, or on a different ship. So for him it’s entirely new. As for Seska, who knows what her true motives are!”
So with two characters from Next Generation in there so far, is there any scope for others to return?
“I’m not sure,” Riker admits. “It’d be great, but I’m not sure if any of them would have the time. They’re all quite busy these days, from what I hear. If you’ve won an Oscar [like NG’s Marina Sirtis did early this year for her lead role in Running Down That Hill: The Kate Bush Story] you’re probably not going to have much interest in going back to the grind of a weekly television series.”
There’s just time for one last question. Considering William T. Riker spent nine years as First Officer on the Enterprise, and now W. Thomas Riker is set for another long stint as Transporter Chief on the Voyager, is he ever going to get to sit in the Captain’s chair?
“I don’t know,” he sighs. “I really don’t. I’d like him to.” He pauses for a second and then smiles that wonderful Riker smile. “Maybe he can rig the transporters to duplicate the entire ship. Create ourselves an entire fleet out there in the Gamma Quadrant. An infinity of Rikers. Wouldn’t that be something!”
Star Trek: Voyager begins on BSB One in August, every Wednesday at 6pm.
Meet the new crew…
Captain Elizabeth Janeway (Linda Hamilton) — An all-action Captain in the mold of Kirk, Janeway’s fierce demeanour and incredible fighting prowess make her a match for almost anyone.
Transporter Chief W. Thomas Riker (Jonathan Frakes) — Not the Riker we know, but still a Riker to love. But just what will the crew say when they find out what it is he’s up to with those transporters…
Lieutenant Chakotay (Michael Horse) — A tough but likeable senior officer, he is always the first to support Captain Janeway in whatever decisions she makes.
Science Officer Tuvok (Mae Jemison) — Another Vulcan science officer aboard a Federation starship, but this one’s played by an actual real-life astronaut.
Navigator Tim Paris (Jeremy London) — An ace pilot with a bad attitude, Paris is sure to be a new fan favourite.
Chief Engineer Belony Torres (Kim Deal) — A Klingon warrior who believes there is no greater honour in battle than that of repairing the warp coils while being showered in sparks.
Ensign Harrold ‘Harry’ Kim (Benedict Wong) — An inexperienced recent recruit who initially struggles with the responsibilities thrust upon him due to the heavy casualties aboard the Voyager. Distrustful of the new Cardassian doctor, he is currently working on a Medical robot of his own to replace him.
Gul Macet (Marc Alaimo) — Captain of the Cardassian vessel, he agrees to call a truce and to work with Janeway as her new First Officer.
Chief Medical Officer Garak (Andrew Robinson) — A jocular Cardassian medical professional who seems to know a worrying amount about human anatomy.
Glinn Seska (Michelle Forbes) — Seska originally appeared in several Next Generation episodes as Ensign Ro Laren, a seemingly Bajoran crew member who is in reality a genetically altered Cardassian spy. Here we finally see her in her true Cardassian form in her new role as head of security aboard the Voyager.
Lamia (Clare Buckfield) — The last survivor of an alien race (the Espers) native to the Gamma Quadrant, Lamia possesses great, almost mystical, power in her tiny frame. Rescued in the pilot episode from her tyrannical slave master, Neelix (one of the series’ ongoing recurring villains, who wishes to use her powers for evil), Lamia’s extensive local knowledge helps provide the crew with important information on a weekly basis.
Reviews and Previews (pages 91–96)
TV Review by Rich Pelley – The X-Files (Episodes 1–6)
This neat twist on the mismatched buddy-cop genre sees the sombre and sceptical FBI Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) paired with the unhinged monomaniac Agent Jeffries (David Bowie) as they travel the country investigating so-called “X” files, unfathomable crimes that have flummoxed traditional law enforcement agencies. These early episodes see them dispatched to the small mining town of Twin Peaks in order to investigate the brutal murder of a popular schoolgirl, an investigation which only leads them on to more bizarre and disturbing discoveries by the week. Amidst their dealings with unhelpful locals, incompetent police officers, mysterious apparitions in the woods, and an infestation of owls, they also finding themselves battling against the sinister manipulations of shadowy government figures such as The Man From Another Place.
It has been 6 years since director David Lynch finished work on his triumphant Dune series, and considering their critical and commercial success it is strange indeed that the project he has chosen for his return is what at first appears to be little more than a traditional detective series. And yet within the constraints of the format he has, in these first few episodes of the series, managed to produce a small miracle, showing not only the disquieting horror that lurks frequently beneath the quirky surface of quintessential rural American (and Canadan) towns, but also the endemic corruption and sociopathic nihilism to be found within the American government itself.
A timely show, and a terrifying one.
TV Preview by Staff N. Agencies – Red Dwarf Series 7
Red Dwarf is back for a seventh series this month, so here’s a sneak preview of every episode of the upcoming series.
“Men of Letters” — following a disturbing and rude game of Scrabble, Rimmer and Lister argue over who will write an article for Holly’s centenary edition of the Red Dwarf magazine, in front of the Cat.
“A Star Is Born” — Rimmer joins a the ship’s defunct amateur dramatic society, in which he will perform every role of their final play, Guilt: The Hologram’s Burden.
“Oh, What a Beautiful Mourning” — a supply probe delivers news that Arnold’s eldest brother, John, has died, and although the thought of another Rimmer funeral depresses Lister, by the end of all the aggro both Rimmer and Lister agree that the funeral was worth going to.
“Live Now, P.A.Y.E. Later” — Lister discovers that Rimmer has “forgotten” to inform the tax department that he has died. They need to get their story straight before the taxman visits.
“Loathe Story” — Rimmer tries to murder Lister in his sleep, and is forced to visit a holographic psychiatrist to get to the root of his antagonism towards his roommate. Joanna Lumley guest stars.
“Divided We Stand” — after Rimmer argues with Lister over the correct way to decorate their room, he builds a wall through the ship to separate himself from Lister, but even across the divide they end up falling out with each other.
“The Desperate Hours” — Lister and Rimmer struggle to keep warm in their freezing stranded ship, until they get some unexpected visitors. Guest starring J.G. Devlin and Leonard Rossiter.
Red Dwarf is on every Thursday at 9pm on BBC 2
Film Reviews by Peter Bradshaw
Country: US, Runtime: 95 minutes, Director: Danny Cannon, Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Rob Schneider, Ewan Bremner, Keith Allen.
This big-budget Hollywood blockbuster based on the titular iconicly-chinned British comics’ legend has long been touted as being the biggest film of the year, so imagine our astonishment when it not only lives up to the hype but surpasses it in every possible way.
For those unfamiliar with the comic strip, Desperate Dan (Stallone) is a former criminal turned law enforcer in a dystopian hellscape, roaming around an apocalyptic wasteland attempting to dispense justice and bring order to an increasingly chaotic world.
The dense world and idiosyncratic humour of Desperate Dan, developed over so many years in the strip’s almost 60 year long run in The Dandy, has mostly survived its American transition intact, although there does appear to have been an unfortunate confusion somewhere along the line concerning Dan’s predilection for eating cow pies that renders several scenes quite difficult to watch.
Country: UK, Runtime: 95 minutes, Director: Danny Boyle, Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Ewan Bremner, Keith Allen
This low-budget British shocker concerning the fascist antics of a morally uncompromising judge has long been a cause for outrage and consternation in the mainstream press in the build up to its release, so there is no small amount of pleasure in the discovery that this film is every bit as outrageous as they had long feared.
After a long and distinguished career in the ineffective “soft-touch” judiciary system of a ‘near-future’ Britain, Judge Dread (Stallone) finds himself (along with all his colleagues) out of work when it is decided that the sentencing of criminals can be carried out by a computer programmed with a full list of laws, term limits, and other legalistic minutiae. Yet, inevitably, things go wrong when the incompetent Minister of Justice sets the Electric Judge to its most lenient settings in an attempt to save millions from the budget by reducing prison costs.
And so only one man can save the nation. A terrifying figure of implacable moral firmness, the Judge — his face, except for his mouth, entirely obscured by his ceremonial wig of office — walks the streets of Mega-City Four as not only Judge but Jury, Executioner and Coroner, striking out at those that flout the law of the land with the crushing uncaring force of an entire state. Murderers, rapists, children playing football beneath a NO BALL GAMES sign — no-one is safe from the Judge’s commitment to the law, nor from the demented fury of his ‘Lawbringer’, a gavel of incredible strength and power that only he can wield.
The final scene, in which the triumphant Judge Dread sits in his chambers and — safe in the knowledge that he has finally restored order to the lawful but lifeless country outside — removes his wig, revealing there is no face beneath the mask just more and more chin in every direction, manages to be one of the most disquieting scenes of the year, while also leaving the door open for a welcome exploration of his origins in the inevitable sequel.
New Media Reviews by Paul ‘Chewton’ Rose
The Nintendo Play Station has been out since Christmas in Japan, so it’s possible many of you have sampled the delights of its launch line up already. For the rest of us mere mortals, here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights in the run-up to its much anticipated UK launch in late August.
Super Mario Station (Format: NPS, Developer: Nintendo READ, Publisher: Nintendo)
The most eagerly awaited of the launch games, and undoubtedly the best, Super Mario Station, in which the traditional 2D platform gameplay of the original Mario games is translated seamlessly into a more expansive 3D environment, isn’t just a great launch game but a genuine landmark in video game.
The move to a fully 3D world hasn’t hampered Mario’s jumpin’ skills in the slightest, and here the tubby mechanic traverses a rich re-creation of various ‘station’-based locales — a Tokyo bus station, a New York train station, a far future space station, and even, in one of the games subtlest jokes, a stationery store (although one wonders how this pun worked in Japanese).
The subtlety of movement offered up fully justifies Nintendo’s controversial new controller and the analogue control stick technology licensed from Dragon Data allows Mario to vary his speed and direction at will with remarkable precision.
The story, such as it is, attempts to tie the various levels together by providing the merest figleaf of narrative — it’s the Duchess’s birthday and Mario must travel from his home to her castle in time for her party. But unfortunately his nemesis, the giant turtle Kerog, has stolen Mario’s map and so he embarks on a convoluted route across the world in an attempt to find his own way there.
But you can forget about all that, just as the game frequently does, and concentrate on what Mario does best — jumping, eating, hollering and whooping his way through a merrily technicoloured world with a gleeful all-Italian joy.
Ridge Racer (Format: NPS, Developer: Namco, Publisher: Namco)
Whenever I stop at the services when driving home along the M4, it always seems strange to me how many people seem to be playing the driving games in the amusements section there. You’d think they’d be sick of driving by then, but no, there’s always a queue of people lined up hoping for the chance to sit in a pretend plastic car and tootle around yet more roads for 50p a go, presumably seduced by the no-doubt cathartic pleasures of driving along picturesque roads under pristine blue skies.
Here, in the comfort of your own home, and without the desperate need for a cup of coffee and a stretch of your legs before another 3 hours on the highway, the appeal seems somewhat greater, and for a while sliding and slipping your way round 90 degree corners without every touching the brakes is a genuine thrill.
But without the ever-present threat of running out of 50p pieces — or, more likely, pound coins these days — or a baying crowd of impatient commuters harrying you away from the machine every couple of minutes, you quickly notice just how little content there is in this package, and the joys of driving through a disconcertingly empty city soon begin to pall.
F-Zero2 (Format: NPS, Developer: Psygnosis, Publisher: Nintendo)
This sequel to Nintendo’s futuristic speed racing classic has been, somewhat surprisingly, developed by longtime British coding-house legends Psygnosis. But any reservations you might have had about whether they’d be up to the task slip away almost as quickly as your hovercar roars away from the starting line, and soon you’re bouncing round mobius strips and klein bottles at the speed of light and all you can think is “Wow”. If you can think at all in the adrenal rush of it, that is.
And with a soundtrack of classic underground club hits from the likes of The Shamen, Adamski, Enigma, 2 Unlimited, D:Ream and others (the only blemish being the risible Doctor Whooooooooo? Doctor Who! by ironic art-joke project The K-Foundation) this game surely proves that videogames are, finally, cool as fuck.
And the ones to avoid….
Street Fighter: The Game (Format: NPS, Developer: Ocean, Publisher: Capcom)
Based on the movie of the same name, Street Fighter: The Game the game is an utterly terrible product in almost every way. You play as one of two playable characters (brash American airforce pilot Ken or enthusiastic Hong Kong cop J. Chen) and must fight your way through a roster of ugly and witless nationalistic and racial stereotypes, including a monstrously obese Japanese sumo, an emaciated Indian Jainist, a Russian cossack dancer, a bowler-hatted English woman, and a feral child from the Brazilian favelas.
With a limited moveset, glacial movement speed, and controls simply unsuitable for analogue inputs, this game is a disgracefully rushed tie-in product even by the standards of shamefully rushed tie-in products, the likes of which we had hoped Ocean had put behind them long ago.
The final pisscherry on the shitcake is the price, with the game costing an extortionate £69.99, a move the publishers have tried to explain by referencing the sheer size of the program (it comes on 12 CD-ROMs, one for each adversary). But rather than justify the price this extruded packaging merely highlights the problems all the more, the constant disc swapping reducing the game to a constant stop-start that hampers any immersion a single disc version might — but probably wouldn’t — have allowed.
Not only is this game an unfitting tribute to a classic film, in the way the marketing bills this as the final performance by Kylie Minogue (who was tragically murdered at the hands of her lover shortly after the movie’s release), it is also proves to be a tasteless desecration of her memory and a cynical exploitation of her enduring popularity.
Parodius Collection (Format: NPS, Developer: Konami, Publisher: Konami)
You can’t go back again. That’s what I couldn’t stop thinking while playing this traditional 2D scrolling shoot ’em down. A year ago, heck, even a month ago, this would have felt like a perfectly enjoyable diversion, but now I’ve seen the freedom of higher dimensions, being trapped in this 2D plane felt so constraining I almost screamed. Why can’t I fly into the screen, I kept asking myself, setting out towards the tantalising mysteries dotted along the distant horizon? Or swoop above it, turning my craft up at the sky so as to catch a glimpse of an impossibly full moon? And what is in front of the screen, I wonder,. What would I see if I could turn my craft towards me and look directly into my front room?
But instead you and your craft are resolutely stuck in that single plane, trapped on a interminably slow crawl forward, unable even to turn round and fly back the way you came. It induced in my that same sort of feeling of immobility you get when you’ve got a sore neck and suddenly find you can’t look left. And when you want to look left no amount of sexy cartoon octopii directly in front of you will sate your desire for turning round, just once, to catch a hopeful glimpse of something new.
And before we go… A Quick Chat With GRR Martin (page 98)
Acclaimed science fiction writer GRR (George Ray-Rick) Martin was passing by our offices on his way north for the 53rd World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow. We sent David N. Guy outside to have a quick word.
DNG: Hi, George. First I would just like to say what a huge fan of yours I am…
GRRM: Well, thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.
DNG: …which makes it all the more disappointing to me that with your new novel you have abandoned the world of science fiction for the inferior genre of fantasy.
GRRM: I don’t think —
DNG: It’s made me very sad.
GRRM: You know I’ve written fantasy [The Kings Of Sand, the Beauty and the Beast tv series] before, right? I find it very strange that anyone would not see science fiction and fantasy as both part of the same world of imaginative fiction.
DNG: But fantasy is just terrible. Made up rubbish. There’s a reason this is a science fiction magazine, you know? I just don’t understand the point of it. No one does, surely? I think C. Staples Lewis said it best when he said to [J. Reuel] Tolkien, “What the fuck is this piss, John? Get the hell out of my pub.”
GRRM: I don’t think—
DNG: You keep saying you don’t think. Well, maybe you should think! About what you’re writing. What’s the point of reading something if it’s just made up? You can make anything up. “Oh, look, we were all saved by magic!” How convenient. You could have said that at the start of the book and saved me all this wasted time.
GRRM: And science fiction isn’t made up?
DNG: It is made up but it’s made up according to rules. The rules of science. Look at the TARDIS. It might seem like nonsense, like magic — I mean, a wardrobe that leads to other worlds and other times? “It’s absurd,” you say. “It’s a fantasy!” But it is actually a very interesting scientific idea. We know space is malleable and deformable, so who is to say that time isn’t as well. And that one day we might not be able to control these forces and condense them down into something that resembles a mundane piece of bedroom furniture.
GRRM: So you believe that Doctor Who And The Last Best Religion, say, is an example of something that could really happen. Am I right in saying that you see it as a possible future, rather than an as allegory of belief? That’s very interesting. You know that Aslan is supposed to be —
DNG: A robot! Aslan is a robot. Created by Azros, The King From Beyond The Sea (And Above The Skies), using the brain of his poor son, Aslad, born without a body but with a soul greater than any of our own. And, as you well know, robots and cyborgs are not only scientifically plausible, but some would say scientifically inevitable. Unlike dragons.
GRRM: I’m not sure a dragon is any more implausible than, say, a dinosaur.
DNG: They don’t have a dragon skeleton in the main hall of the Natural History Museum, do they? They’ve got a Brontosaurus! And some sort of giant sloth.
GRRM: But dragons —
DNG: I hate dragons! Hate them. And if you like dinosaurs so much, why not make the dragons [in your book] pterodactyls instead?
GRRM: So if you imagine that every time I’ve written the word ‘dragon’ I’ve really written ‘pterodactyl’ instead, would that make you happy?
DNG: It’d certainly be better. You’d still have to explain why there’s all these pterodactyls flying around, though. Perhaps there has been a deformation of time somewhere…
GRRM: Or maybe they’re all on a distant planet.
DNG: Yes. YES! I like the sound of that. A distant planet which is being used as some sort of space zoo by a mysterious race of ancient interstellar beings to preserve all the extinct animals throughout earth history. And humans are there because we’ve destroyed our home planet through our hubris and incompetence. Yes, that sounds wonderful. Very interesting and very plausible.
GRRM: Okay. But what about all the zombies?
DNG: There’s nothing wrong with zombies, is there? They’re definitely plausible. And therefore definitely science fiction. Everybody loves zombies, surely?
GRR Martin’s The Dragon Who Just Wanted To Sleep will be released next year.
1. This was mostly written in January and February 2016
2. Except the Douglas Adams Doctor Who script, which was written in July 2014
__________If you like the things you've read here please consider subscribing to my patreon or my ko-fi. Patreon subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real.(Ko-fi contributors probably only get the gratitude I'm afraid, but please get in touch if you want more). Thank you!