The Arts

Rotten To The Core

Peter Barnes is a writer who’s still misunderstood by critics seeking easy tags. His work was elaborately constructed, intellectually rigorous and controversial, his language exact and demanding. But it must also have been a bugger to memorize. Barnes was born in Bow in 1931, but his parents soon moved to a geriatric coastal town to […]

Thinking About Film 2: Unreal & Over-Familiar

Stars make love fully dressed and shrug off bullets as if they were mosquito bites One of the problems with present-day entertainment is that Hollywood long ago won a determined and heavily funded cultural war. American lifestyles dominate global TV and film to the point where we hardly see anything else. I’ve watched too many […]

Writer’s Rules: Not Everything Needs Explaining

Not everything needs spelling out. During America’s Great Depression, MGM and Warner Brothers made a fortune from relentlessly upbeat musicals. After Watergate came a slew of films that explored and explained how things became so broken. And now, when the young are facing the kind of crises they really shouldn’t have to worry about until […]

The Illustrated Man

It was rather like a smart wake. I had missed the news of the illustrator Vic Fair’s passing some while back, so this week I attended an exhibition of his work, held in Lauderdale House, a Tudor mansion built in 1582, visited by Charles II and lived in by Nell Gwynn, set in Waterlow Park, Highgate. […]

Write What You Don’t Know

Writers are allowed to make shit up. What made me decide to set one of my first short stories in New York, when at that point I hadn’t been to America? It felt right for the tale but I got the details wrong. Luckily a good editor bailed me out and made it more authentic. […]

A Foot In The Door

I still remember very clearly what it’s like to be an outsider, thinking that although I wrote I was not a real writer. I imagine all authors go through this stage except the most supremely self-assured. At one of my very first publishing parties, I found myself among a group of Very Assured Ones who […]

Inarticulate Men

It seems we all enjoy stories about the Inarticulate Male. On TV they’re never women, who might be clumsy (‘Miranda’) or venal (‘Nighty Night’), but are never incoherent. Males, particularly funny ones, have a long history of being annoying and hard to understand, from British TV shows featuring forgetful, confusing Harry Worth and Charlie Drake’s […]

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 […]