Friday, 22 January 2016

It's Never Twenty Years!

It’s never twenty years.

And yet, apparently, it is.

Its funny how time moves so quickly. After all, December 2015 gave us twelve years since Bob died, and some of the family asked how long it had been near the time, so I said “twelve years” and that was their response. “It’s never twelve years!” He seemed the most alive of all of us. Tempus fugit.

It’s also fair to be a pendant, and note that it’s actually been twenty-five years. That’s when I recall dad taking mum to the gates of St Helens in Shawlands. Of Bob himself – the most alive of all of us, you know – in his smart, dark blue jacket and black trousers. He was smiling, I remember, despite the fact it was his own personal loss. But I never counted that one, because I was far too young to remember my Uncle Tommy. And, if he was my grandfather’s brother, well, he must have been ancient to my four year olds brain! He was fifty-four, which doesn’t seem so ancient these days, but one can’t really call it my first family funeral, as I never attended it, and it was for a person I don’t recall.

That’s not the case for my great gran, though.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Terror of the Autons/The Time Monster

previously published in Whotopia in 2009.

Terror of the Autons

You know one of the things I really like about Doctor Who? It's the little things. In episode one of Terror of the Autons, we see a Time Lord character. He appears for less than five minutes. It's the only thing I know the actor from. But he takes the part with extra gust and is great for it. Lovely little cameos like that.

Terror of the Autons is where the things we all know and love about the Pertwee start to come together. We already had UNIT and The Brigadier, but now we see the débuts of Jo Grant, Mike Yates and The Master. Truly the Pertwee era is born with this story. It is the story of The Master, who wishes to bring the Nestene back to Earth, for reasons unexplained.

Black Mirror Fortean Times review (2009)

previously published in the Fortean Times in 2009.

The Black Mirror and other Stories
An Anthology of Science Fiction from Germany and Austria
Translated by Mike Mitchell
Edited by Franz Rottensteiner

Monday, 4 January 2016

Duncan Lunan 2010 interview

In 2010, I interviewed Duncan Lunan. A lot has changed since then: both of us have gotten married for a start! Some mutual friends have left, a Sarah has arrived, and Mr Lunan has had, I'm glad to say, something of a career renaissance. The piece this was for was to be the typical article length, but, as you'll see, Duncan provided the younger (and, dare I say, somewhat untactful) interviewer with a treasure chest of memories and insights going back fifty years. With his own permission, I re-print the entire thing here.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Myths, Glorious Myths

Previously published by Whotopia magazine in 2008.

A light-hearted look at some of the great misnomers of Classic Who fandom
Michael S. Collins

Doctor Who fandom is diverse. Yes I know, of all the entrances in all the fanzines, that may well hold the record for the most obvious opening ever written. But it's true, you know. I know two seven year olds – actually, I'm related to them – who were inducted into the way of Who via playground chats and David Tennant. And I know my mother, who can vaguely remember An Unearthly Child from its first broadcast. And then, of course, there was my late lamented grandfather, Bob, who had seen with his own eyes every missing episode, and who would use to playfully wind the rest of us up by going “Fury from the Deep lost? Shame, that was a fantastic piece of television.” And the diversity of fandom, from the very young to the very young at heart is what makes the whole thing so great.

Owen Hart (2007)

Previously published by The Oratory in 2007.

It might be rather out of date, but it does profess my love for the tragic pro-wrestler well, and is a good example of my writing from a decade ago. A decade ago? Bloody hell, tempus fugit. 

Owen Hart died, of that there was little doubt. An unenviable few witnessed it; countless others felt the effects of this moment. On the 23rd May 1999, at roughly 9pm ET, the youngest of the Hart brothers was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital in Kansas. The facts are simple enough. His character of The Blue Blazer was supposed to make a superhero like entrance from the rafters, but something went horribly wrong. The harness failed. The man fell 50ft to the ring. The PPV was held up. Jim Ross assured everyone that what was going on in the ring (not shown to television audiences) was not a kayfabed incident, that this was real and Owen Hart was in serious danger. Nevertheless, this was wrestling! Surely, no matter how bad the situation looked, Hart would be on RAW laughing at everyone with Jeff Jarrett and Debra McMichaels as usual. Only it was not to be.

The Rise of the Supernatural

Previously published in 2009. 

The Rise of the Supernatural
Michael S. Collins

I - A Welcome to the Supernatural
II - The Foreshadowing of Mr Dickens
II.2 - The Signalman
III - Le Fanu's Haunting
IV - Lost Hearts: Creeping Horror
IV.2 - Lost Hearts
IV.3 - A Warning to the Curious
V - Conclusions

A Welcome to the Supernatural

If you look at the history of the supernatural fiction, from recorded beginning to the current day, it becomes clear that there was a peak of some magnitude during the Victorian era. This stretches from A Christmas Carol in the 1840s, until beyond the death of Edward VIII. In this eighty-year time period, supernatural fiction sold like hot cakes. The people lapped them up. Every writer known to the language tried their hand at one: some, like Dickens, tried often, and some, like Le Fanu, were genre specialists. And they sold, and they were highly regarded for their craft, and the subject was frequently a best seller. All of the greatest writers of the supernatural all come from within this time period of 1840-1920.

The Other Side

The Other Side

by Michael S. Collins

(Previously published in 2013)

“Is there a Mr Williams here?” asked the nurse.

An old man rose to his feet unsteadily on two walking sticks.

“You are wanted in Séance Booth Four” said the nurse.

A Protest Vote

Previously published in Winterwind, 2013.

A Protest Vote

by Michael S. Collins

I’m an English writer, and by saying that of course I mean I’m Scottish. Except whilst I’m a Scottish writer, I’m not a writer of Scottish. I still write in the English language, and yet I’m no nearer English than I am Latvian. This whole business of semantics is rather complex: I gather it was all deliberately so. As a writer, you know not only does it make no sense at all (this English language) but worse, it’s all been set up to deliberately confuse you! So, in order to completely confuse myself, here I am musing about being an English writer from Scotland concerning the Irish muse whilst humming the Latvian national anthem.

With Those Less Fortunate

Previously published in Winterwind magazine, 2013. A social experiment I couldn't get away with nowadays as a dad...

With Those Less Fortunate

A few years ago now, I remember being surprised by the news I would not be allowed to visit friends at Dungavel Detention Centre. The reason for this (or at least, the reason they seemed to wish to imply) was simple. As I refer to myself as a writer in public, I might well go ahead and write about the conditions. A brief check with the arrangements at Barlinnie prison assured me that I could speak to friendly prisoners in that fine establishment with the suitable arrangements. (None of my honoured friends have yet found themselves in that place of abode, so that is a matter of principle just now and not one put to the test!) And this makes sense: after all, the children of torture victims who seek asylum in the UK are much more dangerous than our rapists and murderers. Which is why, of course, we keep these people in Category A and B prisons.

Agatha Christie and The Art of Writing

Previously published in 2013 in Winterwind magazine. Somewhat timely with the recent, brilliant, BBC adaptation of And Then There Were None.

[Warning – Whilst efforts to be maliciously spoiling have been kept to a minimum, there will be the odd spoiler ahead. Of course, the writer is curious about needing a spoiler warning for things that are older than his parents, but is reminded of the time he was told off online for giving a spoiler to Hamlet, a mere 400 plus years after its first performance! So, be wary. ]

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Bruce and Beeching

"The visitor, rumbling over the Clyde into Central Station, used to see fine buildings lining the river on either side. Not any more. Right next to the railway, on the corner of the Broomielaw and Jamaica Street, is a huge and -- to me -- deeply shocking hole in the urban fabric. What has disappeared in the last few months is a series of buildings of the sort that gives Glasgow its unique character. How can such destruction still go on? This was the site of the old Paisley's department store, long closed and derelict. Now I know that these buildings were not just dilapidated but in a dangerous condition. They were victims of the recession in that a scheme to rehabilitate them had foundered. Nevertheless, they were special, and every effort should have been made to keep them standing. Naively, I had assumed that these forlorn, grey-painted facades would eventually be restored -- until the bulldozers suddenly moved in."
Gavin Stamp, Herald Scotland, 9 July 1994