Posted on June 8, 2014 - by MG
A new era begins – and it all takes me back to the first days of THE JOSHUA FILES, when I posted a photo of the proof pages of INVISIBLE CITY.
We went on to have postcards, enamel badges, glow-in-the-dark wristbands and T-shirts too, but it all starts with a manuscript. For GEMINI FORCE ONE we’ve got the whole kit and kaboodle ready from the start – thanks to the Power Of Kickstarter. How proud I was to turn to the back of the pages and see the list of awesome Kickstarter backers who donated enough to get onto the Official Backers list. Everyone who backed us gets a gift of some kind, but the Official Backers list will go down in history. Thank you all, guys!
In fact there is even more on its way than shown in the photo – also in the works are embroidered patches, a GF1 jacket, postcards of original artwork from Andrew Probert and others. We might even have a poster. And verrry excitingly, a team of costume designers who’ve worked for the BBC on top genre shows have offered to design and make a full GF1 uniform as worn by the official crew, in time for display at LONCON 2014.
Meanwhile, how is the story coming along, you may ask?
Well, the first draft of book 2 (working title, GHOST MINE) is about 80% completed. As far as Ben Carrington goes, as well as GF1, we’re still in Origin Story country here. Ben is finding his feet on GF-One, hoping to prove his worth to the elite team. But aspects of Ben’s personality make him a difficult recruit. Is it that he’s reckless, too eager, or does boy have a flippin’ deathwish? Either way, Truby has a tricky decision to make regarding the latest recruit to GEMINI FORCE.
I do find myself reflecting on the differences between Josh Garcia and Ben Carrington. We get to know Josh from a younger, perhaps more callow age. At just 13 when his adventure starts, Josh is more a reluctant hero. The end of the story sees him turned into a skillful pilot and fantastic problem solver, and a time-traveler to boot.
By contrast, Ben Carrington is 16 when we first meet him. There is nothing reluctant about his heroism. There’s a huge hole in his life where a family should be and he’s determined to fill it with something equally worthy and resonant. He’s more gleefully physical than Josh, far, far less adept when it comes to girls, but in one aspect, they are very similar. Reckless! Why? Because it is SO fun to write these boys into horrible situations, and then to help them find a way out.
Other firsts in book 2:
- A new teenage character is introduced to the base (read more about the process of writing teen characters in a Gerry Anderson world.)
- Ben steps up the official recognition of his role in GF1
- First mention of a character named after Gerry Anderson – his role in the evolution of GF1 is in the backstory but crucial.
We now have a date for the publication (7th August) of the special collector’s edition of GERRY ANDERSON’S GEMINI FORCE ONE: BLACK HORIZON. You can only get this from Goldsboro Books, unless you were one of our £50+ backers. Numbers are strictly limited – order now to be sure of a copy!
Posted on April 22, 2014 - by MG
Y’all know what a ma-hoosive geek I am. Blake’s 7, Doctor Who, Thunderbirds, to say nothing of X-Files, Babylon 5, Star Trek DS9, Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I’ve been to conventions, written fan fiction, edited and published a fanzine, stalked actors to the stage door, yes, I admit it all.
Never done filking or cosplay, but that’s a general rule in life. I’m the one who turns up to the fancy dress party in my own clothes. (Except when my hosts lend me an outfit…) Effort.
So IMAGINE MY JOY to be invited to not one but TWO scif-fi conventions this year already, to discuss the exciting new project GERRY ANDERSON’S GEMINI FORCE ONE!
The first was BritSciFi at the National Space Centre in Leicester. Jamie and I did a Q+A about GF1, showed a whizzy presentations with videos and images (some secret, for now!) and I read an as-yet unreleased excerpt of the final manuscript for BLACK HORIZON to a small but very receptive audience (thank you for that, Anderfans!).
I then dashed off to sit in the audience of the Blake’s 7 panel discussion over in another room, apparently having missed some shenanigans in which one actor objected vigorously to having photos taken by members of the audience.
After spending time in Anderson Alley, exhibition space devoted to the shows and models of the worlds of Gerry’s shows, I then spent an absolutely delightful evening in the company of Jackie and Diane from Horizon, the official Blake’s 7 fan club, to which I was a signed up member in the 1980s and 90s.
Then this last weekend, was the very exciting first ever Anderson Entertainment convention – ANDERCON – dedicated to all of Gerry Anderson’s marvellous productions. Even more excitement for me as I finally met and hung out (!) with many Anderfans that I’ve met via Facebook, brilliant backers of our Kickstarter campaign for GF1, as well as the wonderful Andrew Probert, Hollywood designer extraordinaire, who has been working with Team Gemini to bring Gerry’s ideas for the design of GF1 to reality.
Like BritSciFi, Andercon was run by Mark Dando and Tom Huang of Basestar, which was brilliant because these two guys are totally charming and exactly the guys you want to see when you arrive at a convention. I must admit that I was blown away with the whole look-and-feel of the convention. All the exhibition spaces and the lobby were decorated with wonderfully presented artwork, photos of Gerry, original art, photos and graphics from the shows. It was easy to see how wraparound the Anderson universe could easily be – an Anderson theme park wouldn’t have a single boring corner. (WHY ISN’T THERE ONE?)
I didn’t have too much time available, so I decided to spend it as much as possible with fans, collaborators like Andrew Probert, Henry Gewanter (our press supremo), Dave from IDOTV (who designed one of the Easter egg websites for GF1 as well as more to come…), Phil Ford, lead writer for TV shows NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET,SARAH JANE ADVENTURES and DOCTOR WHO. Even my literary agent Robert Kirby managed a supportive swing-by to attend our GF1 event and to chat.
There was real excitement for me in the green room (where I hung out with the TERRAHAWKS team, comicbook artist Lee Sullivan and the actual Nicholas Parsons yes!), as well as Matt Zimmerman (THUNDERBIRDS) and Dave Graham (Parker!), and Georgina Moon from UFO (Uncle Johny! I met Georgina Moon! She’s lovely. )
There are lots of photos and some videos on the Andercon 2014 Facebook page. I now have a lovely collection of photos of puppets and models. Gorgeous! (I wanted to play with them!)
Anyway, I guess this post is probably a bit tiresome by now. I went to some cons and you didn’t, right?
Well, what do you expect? I was getting my geek on good and proper.
Posted on March 7, 2014 - by MG
So far I’ve been to three. (I know, lucky!) First up was Jo Cotterill’s LOOKING AT THE STARS, which was the loveliest cake party packed with other kids authors from Oxford and the environs as well as a bunch of Oxford school’s loveliest librarian. All-round kidlit sugary goodness to celebrate an actually rather serious book about a girl who uses story-telling to help her comfort her family and to survive a harrowing journey of exile.
Then last week, to get down for the first book of Robert Muchamore’s new series ROCK WAR (the link is to an interview he did on the BBC about the new books). The Rock War launch was a rollicking rock and roll party in Camden with invites mocked up as classy rock-concert tickets. Little Daughter and I went with another mother-and-daughter couple, friends from Oxford. The tweens strutted their stuff amongst the hordes of other young people while Clare and I looked wistfully at the buffet table of goodies and wished we maybe hadn’t just stuffed our faces with yummy Chinese street food of yumminess. We also chatted to all the other kids authors who were there, this time the London lot. Robert was busy all evening signing books and taking photos with fans, announcing his imminent retirement, probably, until he decides to launch a comeback.
As exciting as all this was, it wasn’t until the last day of the month that it reached the highlight of book launches, probably for the rest of my year. Because my dear friend Sarah Hilary, a friend since our teenage years, was finally and spectacularly published by Headline with the blisteringly good detective thriller – SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN.
We were probably fourteen years old when we met for the first time. It was outside the stage door of the Rex Theatre in Wilmslow, where we’d both come (alone) to see our favourite actor from TV series Blakes 7, Paul Darrow, starring opposite Rula Lenska in Mr. Fothergill’s Murder. So taken by this event was I that I ended up recreating the scene in what is technically my first novel, the post-modern, experimental Blakes 7 fanfic novel, BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH. (Come on, every writer has a po-mo experimental fanfic novel in the drawer, admit it.)
After having our hearts set a-flutter by meeting the sexy Mr Darrow at the peak of his handsomeness, Sarah and I remained in touch.
From the beginning, Sarah made it clear that she wanted to be a writer. I, on the other hand, had swapped that very early ambition for another, possibly more difficult one – being a film director. We lived quite far apart in Manchester so saw each other intermittently over the next few years, principally to get together to watch Blakes 7. We went to college, the relationship became one of correspondence. Sarah was writing an original screenplay. She was writing an adaptation of a Philip K Dick book. My ambitions to become a film director had been thrown aside, this time for a career in science. Sarah, meanwhile, appeared to be studying something creative and getting on with the plan.
I was fairly certain that soon enough, I’d be seeing movies with Sarah’s name attached as writer.
We grew into our twenties. And lost touch.
Fast forward to 2004. Sarah wrote to me via the website of the IT company I co-founded and where I worked. As it turned out, she lived close by in the Cotswolds, had a young daughter a year older than Little Daughter. We met up. Of course, my first question was – what happened to the writing. Sarah shrugged. She’d gone down the path of getting published – it hadn’t worked out. I’m thinking of trying it, I told her. Have an idea for a technothriller about the Mayan apocalypse in 2012. Good luck, she said, with honesty. It’s not easy to get published, but you should definitely try.
Then we talked about fan fiction. Sarah hadn’t spent years reading and writing fanfic, and was fascinated. Especially to hear that I’d gone cold-turkey on fandom, around 1997. (Yes that is how committed I was to getting published, I even gave up my hobby so that my mind would be clear of Blakes 7 and ready to develop original ideas. )
In the next few years, I began writing seriously. Sarah began to write fanfic. She was really, really good at it. Soon she began to write a literary novel. I loved her first manuscript. It certainly got agent attention. But the usual thing – not quite what they were looking for, difficult to find a market. It was a bit of a re-run of what Sarah had gone though years before. But this time, she didn’t give up. There we both were, bloody-minded and determined to get a book deal.
At Cadbury World, I told Sarah of my planned sequel to Failed Ms #1 – title THE FIFTH CODEX. This eventually became INVISIBLE CITY – my first published novel.
At an indoor kids playground in Carterton, Sarah and I chewed over her own progress with agents. It wasn’t happening. Why don’t you write crime? I said. You certainly know how to write violence and fear and suffering. Crime’s got a lot of that, hasn’t it? You’d be brilliant. Sarah wasn’t sure. I’m not sure I can do plot. One can learn how to do plot, I said, and anyway I think you can. Your books keep me up all night.
So began the Sisyphean task of breaking ground as a new crime author. I won’t pretend to know anything about the genre, except that Scandi stuff is popular, isn’t it? And a cool woman detective.
Finally, about two years ago, Sarah sent me something to read that she was hoping would get a book deal. If not, she was going to self-publish. That ms was SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN. When I finished it I emailed Sarah. I couldn’t imagine a world where this book wouldn’t get a book deal. It had everything a great crime novel should have – terrific structure, a wonderful twist, as well as what had been present in Sarah’s writing from the beginning – wonderful prose and characters. It was chewy, I remember telling Sarah. This one’s going to make it. Just wait.
And it did.
Posted on February 4, 2014 - by MG
What an amazing whirlwind is the GF1 ride…
It began in summer of 2013, when Jamie Anderson first suggested that we take his dad, Gerry Anderson’s final project – GEMINI FORCE ONE to Kickstarter. By that point I’d been working on the project for about ten months, from just before Gerry’s death in Dec 2012, and intermittently through the year.
Via my agent, Robert Kirby, we’d had some feedback from publishers. They loved the idea, but couldn’t see where to position it. Was it a book for an adult trade publisher, who could get the book next to the Doctor Who and Star Trek books in the shops? Was it a book for teenagers, or young children, 6-9?
Through it all, we stood firm by Gerry’s original vision. Family entertainment, with key adult characters and a young lead, Ben Carrington who followed in the footsteps of his heroic mother. (A character that Gerry envisaged as a grown-up Lara Croft with a teenage son!)
We had absolute faith in the love that people all over the world felt for Gerry Anderson, and felt sure that there’d be enough support from them to allow us to get the first book into print.
So we took the project to Kickstarter. After a frenetic month of preparation, commissioning art, planning and recording promotional videos, running spreadsheets of costs and rewards while we communicated between London, Cornwall and Oxfordshire, Jamie and I put together the campaign. Mainly Jamie!
And for only the third time in my life, my hopes and expectations were completely exceeded! News stories about the Kickstarter campaign appeared in major newspapers, sci-fi magazines and podcasts. Insane!
A super-high profile donor came in with a huge donation, slightly pseudonymous, but we soon found out the real identity.
We hit our target with more than a week to go…then things stalled…we bit our nails to the quick, watching every day…we added a bunch of new rewards, including lots of Joshua Files clobber, and then as the end date loomed into view, the donations began to roll in.
By then, every reward level had gone – except one. No-one had stumped for the dedication. I was, I’ll admit, secretly a bit relieved because in my mind, I had already reserved the dedication for someone – who else but Gerry Anderson?!
October 5th arrived and we stopped collecting donations at £33,463, over 30% above out original target! I’d already started writing beyond the three first chapters, and ace designer Andrew Probert had already started work on design of the key installation of GEMINI FORCE ONE – the base itself.
We were on target.
Meanwhile, however, our efforts to bring worldwide attention to GF1 had not gone unnoticed. A few London publishers started making inquiries. So, we brought Robert Kirby back onto the task of selling the global rights to publish GF1. He was soon taking meetings, phone calls, sending partial manuscripts around, until finally, he found the right match.
Orion Publishing Group called the three of us in for a meeting. I’d never been to a meeting quite like it – the MD of Orion General led the meeting, and introduced us to the key marketing professionals from both Gollancz (Orion’s genre imprint) and Orion Children’s Books, as well as Amber Caraveo, the Editorial Director of Orion Children’s Books who’d first seen the potential in GF1.
We were bowled over by Orion’s cross-imprint vision for how they would bring Gerry Anderson’s GEMINI FORCE ONE into the world. We knew we’d found the right partner in this publishing venture.
When Jamie and Orion announced the deal last week, we were thrilled to see so much media coverage. Starburst! SFX! Scifi Bulletin! There was a real feeling that people want to see this happen, want to see Gerry’s name out there again, his imaginary worlds as the setting for 21st century adventure.
And I get to write the stories. HOW COOL IS THAT?
Posted on December 18, 2013 - by MG
I do, however, have one publication this year and I’m ridiculously proud of it. Because for a former writer of Blake’s 7 fan fiction (IN YOUR FACE, CAITLIN MORAN!) there is no greater honour than to publish an official, licensed Blake’s 7 story.
The title is BLAKE’S7: ANTHOLOGY and the book features three novellas, each between 20-25k words, all set in Season 1 of Blake’s 7:
Berserker by RA Henderson
When the weapons research facility on space station Amber was shut down, something got left behind. Blake is determined to find out what…
Cold Revolution by MG Harris
Kartvel claims to have escaped Federation control – without bloodshed. But is all as it seems on this mysterious planet?
Trigger Point by GF Taylor
Infiltration and explosions are one way the Liberator crew can help the resistance on the corrupt planet Belzanko, but can a subtler approach work too?
The chance to have a story in this hardback publication came up last year, when my good friend and fellow author Una McCormack tweeted me about the Big Finish open submission. It was closing three hours hence. After a long day of working on a YA manuscript, I didn’t have time or energy to come up with something entirely new. I looked through all the Blake’s 7 stories I’d ever written for something I could adapt and extend into a novella. Most of my fanfics were set before the first episode (known as Pre-Way-Back), S3, S4 or after the final episode (known as Post-Gauda Prime). Clearly, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Also, like many fanfic authors, I used Blake’s 7 as a template to develop relationship stories, so I knew those were out, at least the plot-thin examples. Perhaps less commonly, I also used the fanfic as a way to experiment with different writing styles. (If you don’t have the cash for a Creative Writing course I can recommend this – homework for this week is to write a Star Trek:DS9 story in the style of Graham Greene!)
It didn’t leave me with many options for what might be adapted in time for the submission deadline.
I realized, however, that the events of a S1 episode Bounty could be used to set up a political conspiracy thriller involving most of the S1 cast. There were a few political conspiracy stories in my collection: Urbi et Orbi, The Real Life of Roj Blake and Cold Revolution – the first two heavily influenced by Mario Vargas Llosa and the third, basically a ‘Canadian shack’ story featuring Avon and Soolin.
In the end I went with Cold Revolution, a story set in late S4 during the time when Avon is trying to broker an alliance between anti-Federation leaders. In the original version, Avon and Soolin act as election monitors to a world that is set to cede from the Federation.
The version I wrote for Big Finish is a much longer version in which Blake’s crew become entangled in the murky post-Federation politics of a ceding world. In this version it is Avon and Cally who represent Blake as election monitors. No shack-located naughtiness for them, however.
Here’s the tagline again:
Kartvel claims to have escaped Federation control – without bloodshed. But is all as it seems on this mysterious planet?
For anyone with a memory that extends to the early 90s, it should be obvious that this story is an allegory of the Georgian Revolution. I wrote the original version not long after the events of that revolution, following an intriguing conversation with a neighbour who was one of the United Nations monitors at the first election.
Back in the early 90s I shared a multi-flat house with Oxford historian Mark Almond. When Mark disappeared on a frequent trip to an Eastern bloc country on some ‘official’ trip or other, he’d ask us to feed his cat. These trips were so frequent at one time that we’d ask him straight out if he was a spy. At which point Mark would smile enigmatically and say ‘The Secret Services would never use someone as obvious as me. I go on TV, I write in the newspapers. They pick people that you’d never suspect.’ ‘Ah,’ we’d say, ‘but that’s what everyone would expect. That’s why no-one would actually suspect you.’
It was a friendly joke. We sort-of-didn’t really think that a mild-mannered guy like Mark would risk his life or at least his freedom spying on the last remnants of the Evil Empire. Turns out that we were wrong. Mark was in fact risking a great deal – not spying but working as a cold war bagman, taking CIA money to dissidents in totalitarian countries.
Sometimes he went as an election monitor for the UN. Returning from the election which was won by Shevardnadze, I asked if the election had been honest. Mark smiled a smile somewhere between cynicism and sadness and told me ‘Not remotely. I could have voted myself – a man with a gun asked me if I wanted to vote. When I pointed out that I wasn’t Georgian he just said “the whole world wants to vote for Mister Shevardnadze”.’
I was reading a lot of Mario Vargas Llosa’s political novels in those days, and writing a lot of B7 fanfic. It struck me that Blake’s 7 had a great deal to say about 20th century revolutionary politics. Especially the first season.
Mark Almond’s anecdotes about Georgia had me wondering what would happen to our heroes if they’d ever found themselves in that situation. The external environment of a ceding Federation world would be far more dangerous to an election monitor than anything the UN faced.
The loser of that faked election was Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the winner was the West-friendly Eduard Shevardnadze. The media referred to Gamsakhurdia as a ‘warlord’ – which sounds bad, n’kay? There’s a warlord in S4 of Blake’s 7 and he’s a total psycho. Yet according to Mark, this ‘warlord’ was the true people’s choice, not the apparatchik former KGB man, Shevardnadze.
Interesting, I thought. Very Blake’s 7 – things aren’t what they seem, even when the good-guys seem to have won. Too good a setting to resist!
Avon should have seen it coming, right? Of course he did, yet as ever he talks himself into following Blake’s suggestions. The fatal charisma of that crazy revolutionary!
I also fancied an opportunity to tell a B7 story set on a relatively low-tech, non-fantasy world. You see a lot of primitive societies in Blake’s 7 but too much of societies with people who throw rocks and live in mud huts, not enough of low-tech societies who have at least late 20th century tech. Surely there’d be more a spectrum? Or low-tech worlds with some high-tech, the way you get very simple African villages where mobile phones and TV are normal?
Next time someone asks me if I have ever published anything for adults I won’t say ‘But of course! You mean you haven’t read my chapter on fibroblast growth factors in Molecular Endocrinology of Cancer?’. I will say, ‘hell yeah, a Blake’s 7 story, IN YOUR FACE Caitlin Moran.’
Anyway, there it is, my one official Blake’s 7 story. Thank you to Big Finish for publishing it and paying me actual money to write B7! (If you’re tempted to read the others you’d have to dig up some pretty old fanzines. And also know my fandom pseudonym *grin*.)