We are THe mar­Tians

Making Fans For Nigel

SFX - - Reviews -

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

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