Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë

It's taken some weeks to get through this 16-hour reading of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I last read while at university a millennium ago. On 10 June 1847, Gilbert Markham writes a long - very long - letter to a friend explaining how he got together with his mrs. She was Mrs Helen Graham when he met her, and it turns out that she and her son were in hiding having fled an alcoholic and violent husband. Gilbert doesn't know this for some time into their acquaintance, and gets increasingly cross and frustrated as he falls in love...

Alex Jennings reads this version, though one long section - when Helen tells her own story - is read by Jenny Agutter. That underlines that this is a woman's story largely told by a man, but written by a woman. There's a lot on gender roles here, and the constrictions imposed by sex, class and power.

What's more, the conceit that this is an account of events that really happened isn't unusual for the time, but in this case it all feels more credible than the better-known and more goth-fantastic works of Bronte's sisters, ie Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I'd need to read those again to judge whether it's more disturbing when such wicked men and part of everyday, ordinary life.

This novel builds on Anne's Agnes Grey, in which there was also a lot on the awful trap of making a bad marriage. Here, Helen is motivated to escape not by the threat to herself but to the lasting impact of her husband's behaviour on her son. He wants the boy to follow his example, and had him drinking wine and joining in the parties. In that way, it's about not bad individuals but a culture. How strange to be immersed in this as revelations came out about our now former Prime Minister partying through a crisis, "entitled" to do so by culture in which he grew up.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Blake's 7: No Name cover and blurb

Big Finish have released the cover and blurb for Allies and Enemies, the trilogy of Blake's 7 audio plays out this December that includes my story, No Name:

From the start of the rebellion to its brutal conclusion, Arlen has hunted for Roj Blake.

Cally fights beside her. Jenna Stannis works for her. Space Commander Travis is her mentor. As she plays each side off against the other, how will Arlen decide who are allies and who are enemies?

Saurian Major by Lizbeth Myles 
Saurian Major is a key Federation communications hub. Federation Officer Arlen undertakes an undercover mission to destroy the rebel factions that threaten it. The last person she expects to find is an Auron outcast among the humans. Will the mysterious Cally disrupt her plan?

No Name by Simon Guerrier 
Everyone on Vanstone is hiding something. That’s why they are there. Hiding from her own past, Arlen wonders what has brought Roj Blake to this remote outpost. Has Arlen uncovered a buried secret? And what does Space Commander Travis want on Vanstone?

Sedition by Jonathan Morris 
Jenna Stannis knows that smuggling guns will help free Solta-Minor from the Federation. And she suspects that’s not the only reason why Arlen wants her help. But Jenna doesn’t know who else is on the planet. How can Travis have survived Star One?

The cast includes Sasha Mitchell reprising her role as Arlen from the final TV episode of Blake's 7. The director is Lisa Bowerman. Produced and script edited by Peter Anghelides. Cover art by Mark Plastow. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Doctor Who Magazine #582

The new issue of Doctor Who Magazine features Sacha Dhawan on the cover as the Master, part of the 20-page preview of next month's epic TV episode. To tie in with that, this month's Sufficient Data infographic is devoted to the Master's TARDIS. As ever, it's written by me and illustrated by Ben Morris.

On page 11 of the mag, m'colleague Paul Kirkley recalls queuing for Tom Baker's autograph at the Friar Street Bookshop in Reading back in 1997. I was there, too - and here is a photograph of me with both Tom and hair.

Tom and me, 1997

At the time, I'd just started my MA in science-fiction and had lofty hopes of writing things relating to Doctor WhoI'm now producing two Doctor Who audio plays starring Tom. Blimey.