In which I kill a jogger. Well. Nearly.
You’d think that in the middle of a world pandemic, you’d want to avoid apocalyptic television! But this was so good that despite its grim subject, I kept going to the end.
There were two things that struck me about that made it so very good: the first occurred in the second episode, after the attack on Earth. A main character started a journey across London on foot. The camera tracked back and you saw all the bodies lying scattered everywhere, cars (no longer working) parked at odd angles, the world come to a dead stop.
It was a devastating scene. Watching it just days after the lockdown came into force made it so much more terrifying. It foreshadowed exactly those first few days of the lockdown when the streets were suddenly empty of traffic and you tried frantically to avoid anyone out for a walk in case they breathed on you.
What made it so brilliant was the unearthly silence. And this is the second thing that struck me about this series: the quiet. The silence. The muted scenes. Unlike your usual end-of-world movie, there was no screaming, no crashing sounds of destruction, no weapons fire, no overwhelming Hans Zimmer-style soundtrack. This alien invasion was a horrible, silent, creeping thing and this is what made this version of a very well-known tale stand way above any other production.
And there have been a few! Wasn’t it just the other day I was watching a BBC production set when it was actually supposed to be set: in the Edwardian era. It seemed quite promising at first. The female lead was set up as a strong character and the production looked good. But it seemed to go awry somehow and I got very tired of that dusty red future we kept cutting to, particularly as there seemed to be no story. And suddenly our heroine was almost superfluous. The plot kind of ran out of steam and whatever it was trying to say was rather lost.
The Fox TV series has fewer pretensions. Set in the current day in France (with subtitles!) and England (I kept trying to work out where in London they were but it was actually filmed in Bristol!), it was a world instantly recognisable, one in which the viewer could quite easily identify with and ask: what would I do if this invasion happened to me. There are no heroes. The main characters are not always likeable. The story seems to both crawl and race at the same time, and sometimes there seems to be very little story. Tension levels are either high or very high, with no breathing space ever. Events played out in crap hotel rooms or empty streets, or a French observatory. The aliens look kind of stupid, to be honest, and they are actually stupid, resembling metallic dog-things that creak ominously when they walk. And yet they proved to be really scary, particularly as they never seem to miss when they shoot.
It doesn’t sound all that promising when I tell you the characters spend quite a lot of time walking, but this is Walking While Very Tense. The unravelling of character’s individual storylines was made more interesting by the lack of soap-style drama, into which this never descended. Most captivating of all was the overriding mystery: a blind girl hears a weird noise, can see again, has some kind of connection with the aliens and you know that tattoo she gets right at the beginning of the series? HAH!
I found myself screeching and tearing my hair out when the end credits came up at the end of the last episode. Was this the END?? But, no, there is a second series coming. I can’t wait.
I hadn’t planned to write anything this spring. I had been working on my short story compilation when the lockdown began and, doggedly, I’ve continued to put it together: editing, doing a little rewriting, formatting, etc. Quite a lot of it is done and I fear that it will be finished too soon – before the end of the lockdown, before summer, before I have a cover ready for it (whichever comes first). I really hadn’t intended publishing this book before September, so there’s no particular rush.
My next big job (I’ve got this whole year pretty well mapped out) is to once again edit my Prizewinner and begin preparations for submissions to agents. In the meantime, I’m still approaching agents for my fantasy series (though I seem to have stalled a bit during the lockdown). And then – the big prize at the end of the year, or autumn, or just...later on – I will sit down and write the third Honeysuckle novel. But between here and then...that’s a lot of time not doing any writing. I started the year struggling with my writing and felt it was a good idea to take a break, doing something really constructive, such as working on the short story collection.
It’s just that I couldn’t possibly have known how I was going to feel in this lockdown. I want to write. I need to write.
But what, exactly?
I have PLENTY to be getting on with. I’ve got five series on the go. Yes, really. How did that happen? I think it’s because I’m one of those people who love starting new things, who have endless ideas, whose imagination flies in every direction. The five series are:
The Exodus Sequence: White Shadows, Last Exit, Golden Queen, Merlin – a gloriously huge tale spanning millions of years, crossing several genres and experimenting with style. (Finished 12. Unsure of end total)(short stories/novellas)
The Fleet Quintet: Mindwalkers, the Fleet, the First, Gomenzi – an alien invasion of a most peculiar kind. (Finished 4 out of 5)(novels)
Honeysuckle Rage: Lightweight fantasy set in modern England with only one door left to a magical realm, about to be invaded. (Finished 2 out of 7)(novels)
Tales of Everlast: Short stories set in the magical realm first introduced in the Honeysuckle Rage novels. (Finished 3 out of however many I feel like writing)(short stories)
Jacaranda Jane: Autobiographical short stories. (Finished 1 out of however many I feel like writing)(short stories)
I also write the occasional short story that fits into no series at all. And of course, there are any number of novels in my head all clamouring to be written too.
I should really do another Jane story but they are hard to confront, seeing as how they are about me, albeit in the third person. I’d rather do something more escapist, at the moment. Having just finished an Everlast story, I might do an Exodus one instead. But there are so many to chose from! I want to write more about Zipp (the heroine of SPOOKED) but the next part of her tale is quite complex and I actually can’t get my head around it out right now. Also, I need a different kind of challenge. Which may involve reading Plato. Urgh, really? Must I? Can’t I just cheat and read the Wiki page instead?!
As an entry in The Exodus Sequence (volume two), it stands slightly outside of the general plot line – not that the reader so far would be aware that there is a plot line, but trust me, there is one! Volume Two will be much more explanatory, compared to Volume One which, for the most part, concentrated on introducing readers to the characters and the aliens.
Let’s see how far I get with Plato…
In which I describe with great hilarity two new kinds of anxiety: parcel anxiety and facemask anxiety. (Apologies - it was a cloudy morning and I didn't realise how dark the recording was until it was too late).
In which I get flattened by some nutjob jogger on the sidewalk breathing his GERMS all over me.
I live in Bloomsbury.
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