The Arts

Open To Interpretation

Parents are getting older. They’re waiting longer to have children and, it seems among my friends at least, are having trouble conceiving. Or as my doctor put it bluntly, ‘a geriatric pregnancy is one occurring after 35.’ I only mention this because I’d forgotten that when my mother started giving her oldest son advice she was […]

Ad Absurdum

A postscript to yesterday’s review on the subject of ‘serious’ SF. (I had written that piece hastily in a Jamie Oliver airport cafe balancing my laptop beside a badly heated poached egg which I didn’t have time to send back again; no wonder he went broke.) ‘Ad Astra’ fell at the first hurdle here because […]

Q&A 2

Some more answers to your questions, starting with one from yesterday’s comments (and another cheesy shot of me at some thing). Where is the best place to steal ideas from and get away with it? Film, book, TV, radio or a particular source/place/author. The answer may infuriate you. When I’m working on the main drafts […]

Q&A 1

I love good public Q&As, and with the peak book and film seasons coming up in the not too distant future, I’ll be booking myself in for as many Q&A events as possible. They’re best when the questions are original and the answers aren’t rote. Here are a few of the questions I’ve been asked […]

Long Read: Should We Rewrite Books?

You know when a suspense novel works because you tense up as you’re reading, so you should know when a joke works because you laugh, right? Unforch, it doesn’t work like that. As someone who has just spent the last two days trying to guide a comic scene to its payoff, I can tell you […]

Bryant & May: World-Building For Beginners Part 2

As we saw yesterday, world-building comes in all shapes and sizes, from the epic to the miniaturised. Which brings me to the Bryant & May novels. There was a little controversy in this site’s comments about proofing which has a direct connection to world-building. I base everything on known historical facts – often there are direct […]

Bryant & May: World-Building For Beginners Part 1

  Which books have created a world for you? It’s not just for fantasy writers. The creator of every story has to make his or her world convincing. The most extreme examples are practiced by authors like John Crowley, Ursula LeGuin  and Paul McAuley, but we all have to do it to different degrees. The […]

Finding The Rhythm Of Words

Words can fall so perfectly on notes that you can’t tell which came first. Whenever I’m stuck on a chapter, particularly one that demands an amusing situation, I read about other writers discussing their craft, from Noel Coward or the Simpsons/Seinfeld writers to stand-ups. Recently I returned to the older end of British comedy writing. A […]

The Joke’s On Us: Where Does Comedy Go Now?

I wrote this a decade ago: ‘The English sense of humour really takes a lot of explaining. It’s a mixture of coarseness, camp, surreality, amateurishness, cruelty, subtlety, wordplay and dark dry wit. We don’t do puns – they’re loved by the French. We do like the strangeness of language (why else would we find the […]

Spitfire!

After reading yesterday’s comments, I quickly researched the PSB films recut from COI and GPO shorts. They seem to have started out with many musicians, who eventually boiled down to two, who became the band Public Service Broadcasting. They’re appear to be British, thoughtful, low-key backroom boys who have discovered a niche and give live […]