We are THe marTians
Making Fans For Nigel
released TBC January 470 pages | Paperback
Editor Neil snowdon
Publisher spectral Press
Nigel Kneale was “a prophet without honour”, according to Mark Gatiss, one of many distinguished contributors to this weighty volume on the creator of Quatermass.
He’s got a point: while Kneale’s name is revered in certain circles, the screenwriter has never enjoyed the wider cultural cachet of a Dennis Potter or Jack Rosenthal. Fuelled by “a sense of injustice” about this, editor Neil Snowdon has marshalled an impressive line-up of writers and critics to create a literary monument worthy of the man he describes as “ground zero for the development of television drama”. (If that sounds hyperbolic, let’s not forget that the original Quatermass serial emptied pubs when it was shown in 1953.)
Given free rein to explore any aspect of Kneale’s legacy, the writers have turned in an eclectic and absorbing collection of essays. Several, like Stephen Volk, writer of controversial BBC thriller Ghostwatch, talk of Kneale’s influence on their own work, while others laser in on specific titles such as The Year Of The Sex Olympics, Kneale’s ’60s satire that anticipated the rise of reality TV with uncanny accuracy.
The book is punctuated with interviews from key players in Kneale’s life, including his wife Judith Kerr, director Joe Dante – who recommended him to John Carpenter as screenwriter for the ill-fated Halloween III – and a puppyishly keen Gatiss.
A 1980 fanzine interview with Kneale himself finds our hero in characteristically curmudgeonly mood: “First of all, don’t count me as a science fiction writer,” he huffs, adding, “I find all the worshipping and gossiping pretty silly.”
He’d be mortified by this, then. But you won’t be: a real labour of love, it’s a fitting tribute to one of the most inventive writers of the 20th century. Consider the prophet honoured. Paul Kirkley