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The Supreme Lie

The mind of Geraldine McCaughrean is one of the great natural wonders of our universe. Ever since I first discovered her books in the early 1990s I have been eagerly awaiting each new one, like an astronomer watching for radio bursts from a distant nebula, eager for clues about what’s going on in there. In her previous novel, the Carnegie Medal winning Where the World Ends , Geraldine restricted herself to a small cast and a single location - not even an island, just a storm-scoured sea stack where her characters were marooned. The Supreme Lie takes the opposite approach, creating a whole imaginary country and cramming it with people and animals.  We are in Afalia, which I visualise as being somewhere in South America (there are snakes, fire ants, and mighty rivers) and somewhere in the Twentieth Century (there are cars, planes, and telephones ). The charismatic ruler, Madam Suprema, is somewhere on the Eva Peron/Servalan border, but even she is unable to cope when terri
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Lord God

"I know they say 'God is an Englishman' - but I never thought He'd be quite this English..." Last summer, in the gap between Lockdowns, Brian Mitchell and I finally sat down and wrote Lord God , a musical comedy we'd been talking about doing ever since we finished The Ministry of Biscuits, twenty years ago. And on June 10th this year it will have its premiere at Brighton Open Air Theatre , with a tour to follow as soon as things settle down a bit and venues become available again. Poster by Sarah McIntyre When the Lord God is persuaded by His retainer and chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Gabriel to take an incognito holiday to a Devonshire seaside hotel (largely to get Him out from under His angels’ feet), He looks forward to a fortnight of u ninterrupted tennis, billiards, tea on the terrace and the latest Agatha Christie. But the presence of campaigning atheist Professor ‘Minty’ Tweddle and her fiance, notoriously hard-to-please theatre critic Rex Addis

Space Oddity

Often when I'm doing events I get asked, 'What was the first thing you wrote?', and I always talk about Spike & Spook , a story about a spaceman and his dog which I remember writing when I was little. As I recalled it, it just went, 'One day Spike and Spook went to the moon, but they met a monster, so they came home again THE END.' But last week my dad was going through some old boxes and he came across the ORIGINAL STORY! It turns out to be a lot more complex than I'd remembered, and part of a whole series - the cover of the notebook bears the proud boast 'Spike and Spook for 5 and a harf pagis' . Here's the first story. It's quite hard to decipher, so I've added a slightly corrected version below. Spike and Spook: The Spaceman Who Saw A Thing Wuns a spaceman went to the moon with his dog and he saw a thing so he went out in his rocet to see wat it was but everetim he got ner it floo of. So he told the uthur spaceman who was with him and

The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy (2)

After the cult success of its first series, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy returned to Radio 4 on Christmas Eve 1979. I remember listening to it when it went out, and I've always thought of that episode as the Christmas Special. Actually there's nothing Christmassy about it, it's the same length as all the other episodes, and it picks up pretty much where the first series ended. Nowadays, it's just bundled in as the first episode of Season Two, which was broadcast a couple of weeks later in January 1980. It’s a sign of how big HHG had become that it made the cover of that week's Radio Times... The fact that Douglas Adams jettisoned or repurposed so much of the Series Two material in the later books suggests he wasn’t happy with it, but at the time I thought it was great, and it still contains some of my favourite sequences. It opens with Zaphod  arriving on Alpha Centauri to visit the headquarters of Megadodo Publications, publishers of the eponymous

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1)

This is a blog post about The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy , one of the most remarkable radio shows ever to emerge from the great Light Entertainment Department of the British Broadcasting Corporation. It's not going to deal with any of the later iterations of the story, which exists in more forms across more media than almost anything else I can think of. I don't remember much about the TV version, I never saw the stage show, I no longer own a copy of the LP, the film came too late to be of much interest, and I actively dislike the books. But the two original six-part radio series (and the Christmas Special which linked them) were once a big and important thing for me, and I'm sure their influence can still be detected in the stuff I write. So I thought I would have another listen, and try to explain what they meant to me. The first series was initially broadcast in March 1978. I remember reading the listing for it in the Radio Times, and thinking it looked intere

Utterly Dark & the Face of the Deep

It was always at sundown they were seen. In that twilight hour, when the walls between the worlds grew thin, strange things might slip through the cracks. Sometimes then, so the stories went, enchanted islands would appear in the empty ocean to the west of Wildsea…     I have a new novel coming out in September! The cover (above) is by Paddy Donnelly (who is also working on some chapter-head vignettes), and it will be published by David Fickling Books . Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep takes place in the early 1800s on the remote island of Wildsea. For centuries, the Dark family have acted as Watchers, keeping a look-out for mysterious islands which are believed to appear from time to time on the western sea, and guarding Wildsea against a terrible monster which is said to live on them. When the current Watcher mysteriously drowns, his young ward Utterly takes over his duties. Gradually, she starts to discover her strange connection with the forces which dwell in the deep ocean.

The Dig

  I don’t tend to associate 21st Century British films with a deep sense of landscape. Don't @ me - I know I’m probably ignoring all sorts of bracingly challenging art house offerings, and I’m aware there’s a whole genre called ‘folk horror’ built around the deep unease which grips townies when they find themselves anywhere that doesn’t have street lights, but most of the more mainstream Brit-pics that cross my radar are set on estates. Sometimes they’re estates of the council variety, where chipper youngsters fresh from drama school are struggling against homophobia or racism to make a name for themselves as dancers, footballers, or singers. Sometimes they’re estates of the Balmoral, Sandringham, or Castle Howard sort, where slightly more established actresses in empire-line frocks are emoting their way through another Jane Austen, or Judi Dench is being Queen Victoria again. But whichever sort of estate it is, the setting is seldom much more than a backdrop: I don’t think the fir