Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

SF Short Film: Robots of Brixton

May 18, 2018

This is an interesting piece of what Beyoncé would call ‘Afrofuturism’ from the Dust channel on YouTube. Dust specialise in putting up short SF films, like the one above. This film, directed by Kibwe Tavares, imagines a kind of future Brixton, where all, or nearly all the people living there are robots. The film’s hero, a robot with Afro-Caribbean features, walks through the area, before relaxing with a robot friend, by toking what appears to be the robotic version of a bong.

A riot then breaks out, and robot riot police appear to crush it. This is intercut with scenes from the 1981 riots in Brixton, over which is dubbed a voice talking or reciting a piece about ending oppression. The film ends with shots of bodies on the ground, then and in this robotic present. And the quotation from Marx on a black screen: ‘History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, then as a farce’.

People of all races like and produce SF, and there are a number of very well respected Black SF writers, most notably Samuel R. Delaney, who’s been going since the 1960s and ’70s, and Olivia Butler, the author of Clay’s Ark and the Parable of the Sower. A few years ago a volume of SF by Black authors was published with the title Dark Matter, the title also referring to the all the invisible cosmic stuff that’s adding missing mass to the universe. Also in the 1990s over this side of the pond there appeared a book, written by a Black author, about an all-Black mission to save a space colony by turning them Black. This was to save them from a plague which affected only Whites. I can’t say I was impression by this piece, as it seemed to me to be as imperialistic as the White ideologies of civilising Blacks by giving them European civilisation. This seems to be less controversial, though still dealing with a sensitive subject. It is also part of the character of much SF since it first appeared in the 19th century as ‘the literature of warning’.

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George Galloway: Torygraph Publishes Piece Speculating on Coup to Overthrow Corbyn

May 12, 2018

This is an excerpt from George Galloway’s Talk Radio Show, which I found on YouTube. He begins with talking about a conversation he had with James Whale, a fellow presenter, about the dangerous situation in the Middle East, where Israel is now facing an Arab, Russian and Iranian enemy. He pours scorn, however, on the juvenile scribblers, as Galloway sees it, who claimed that the missiles shot at the Golan Heights had entered Israel. Galloway states that the Golan Heights were illegally seized by Israel from Syria, and so are not part of Israel, no matter what the hacks say.

He then goes on to talk about Theresa May’s volte face, which has meant that victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will now be allowed onto the board investigating it. After that, he moves on to talking about how the Brexit negotiations are an appalling mess, and the whole affair something which all of us will have difficulty getting out of.

But the main subject of his ire is a piece published by Paul Carter in the Torygraph the day before, which may be 10th May 2018. The Torygraph had speculated on the possibility of a military coup against Corbyn. Galloway describes the article as chilling, and states that its author, Paul Carter, has no footprint in social media. The article claims that this coup would occur if the labour leader was elected to power and proceeded to enact to enact three particular policies. These were conducting a referendum to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO, and taking us out of the western foreign policy consensus. Galloway himself wishes Corbyn would do all these, but the Labour leader will certainly not do any of them. The proximate cause of the Torygraph article is that it is 50 years since Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror met to plan a coup against the Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. Galloway states that Wilson was a political giant, who dominated the sixties and much of the seventies. He was right-wing Labour, a social democrat. But he had his house burgled and his mail intercepted because it was suspected that he was a Russian secret agent. If the coup had gone ahead, the country would probably be led by Mountbatten from the Despatch Box, probably from the House of Lords, unless he resigned and fought a bye-election. Not that such constitutional niceties would bother people, who had just overthrown their democratically elected leader.

He also makes the point that there were plans to intern 4,000 other leftists, including journalists, on the Shetland Islands. Galloway himself was too young at the time, but if they did launch a coup against Corbyn, this would be the last you’d hear of him for a long time, unless he managed to get onto Radio Free Shetland. He notes one expert, who has said that it would be much harder to launch a coup now that people have mobile phones and social media. It was easier fifty years ago when it was the editors of the newspapers to overthrow the government. But Corbyn would be wise to keep his mobile phone handy. If they did launch a coup, then millions would pour onto the streets to defended their elected leader? Or would they? Galloway leaves this as a matter of discussion for later in the programme. He says that eventually the plans for the coup were abandoned, because the conspirators thought better, including the government’s scientific advisor, Solly Zuckerman. But Galloway thinks this is false, and that they simply got cold feet.

Galloway then closes the segment with a piece about how popular the woman presenting the weather reports is becoming.

This is worrying, as it looks like a combination of smear piece and speculation by the Torygraph. Corbyn hasn’t any intention of trying to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO or acting against the current foreign policy consensus, so it’s a smear to suggest that he might. The absence of any social media footprint for Paul Carter suggests that this is a pseudonym. And this in turn invites speculation that it’s someone from MI5 or another branch of the security services.

This wouldn’t be the first time MI5’s been acting against the government, if this is the case. The agency was convinced Wilson really was a KGB spy, and Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, have suggested that it was behind the smears circulating then about the Labour leader.

As for the coup they’re discussing, the plotting occurred later than the article claims. Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror were making their plans in the mid-70s. And the Times was also looking forward to Wilson being toppled, though replaced by a civilian government of trusted members of the Labour party, like Shirley Williams, as well the Tories. These plots are discussed in Francis Wheen’s book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s, and by Ken Livinstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour. The date’s out, but otherwise everything that Galloway’s said about the proposed coup is correct. One of the reasons it failed is because one of the plotters approached Sandhurst, to ask if the old colonels there would help. They said they wouldn’t, and sent him away. Hurrah for Sandhurst!

Galloway says at the beginning of his discussion of the article that no-one else was talking about it. Which suggests that this is purely speculation and wishful thinking by the Weirdo Barclay Brothers and the paper’s managing director, Murdoch McLellan, and whoever is now the editor of this wretched rag. The paper’s been running articles attacking Corbyn, claiming that he’s an anti-Semite and so on, along with the Daily Mail. But this shows more than a hint of real desperation. For all the Tory and media talk about ‘peak Corbyn’, it seems they really afraid he’ll win the election. In which case, they want the troops to overthrow him. Not because they’re afraid he’ll do all the things they claim he will, but because his very mild socialist programme will cause the end of the Thatcherite consensus. The corporate rich could no longer look forward to a privatised NHS and railways, and parts of the electricity grid would also be renationalised, would which would also upset corporate profits. Not to mention that they could no longer rely on having a cowed, cheap workforce of the desperate on poverty wages, on zero hours contracts and kept in line by the threat of benefit sanctions and starvation.

This is all too much for the Torygraph and its scribblers. So they’ve started fantasising about the possibility of a coup. Just like the British stock exchange cheered the Fascists when they revolted against the Republican government at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The Torygraph has just about gone full Fascist with this article. And its publication is more than a bit hypocritical for the Tories. Not after they went berserk and accused Hilary Mantel of encouraging terrorism when she published her short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. But this shows just how far Corbyn has rattled the Tories, and shown how some of them, at least as for the Torygraph itself, have started hankering after a coup to stop him.

More BBC Bias as Question Time Panel Tonight Almost All Right-Wingers

May 10, 2018

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece commenting on the selection of the members of tonight’s panel for Question Time (10th May 2018). You probably won’t be surprised to hear that it’s made up nearly exclusively of members of the right. It includes Alejandro Agag, a businessman; Esther McVey, Tory MP and murderer of the poor and disabled; Chuka Umunna, the Blairite Labour MP, and Chloe Westley from the Taxpayer’s Alliance. The only person, who is probably left-wing and therefore may have something sensible and interesting to say is the rapper Akala.

Mike goes on to remark that he understands the show’s producer is a member of the hard-right BBC Tory hierarchy, and so there’s absolutely no point hoping that the situation will improve in the future. Mike clearly finds it disgusting enough that McVile is on the show, let alone the rest of the right-wingers. He therefore recommends that instead of watching it, you may as well go out instead.

Intriguingly, he ends his post by saying that he’s going to be down the pub trying to do something constructive. This may possibly be planning the launch of a balanced debate show on social media.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/10/esther-mcvey-to-appear-on-question-time-so-lets-all-go-out-instead/

If a truly balanced political/ topical issues panel show like Question Time on TV, and Any Questions on the radio does get going, then it’s bound to worry the BBC even more. The mainstream media is worried now that increasingly more people are taking their news from social media, indeed of sitting down and watching the corporate, right-wing biased material they pump out. You can imagine just what kind of explosion will happen at the Beeb if they suddenly find that more people are watching the internet’s answer to those two shows: there will be more huffing and puffing in the media about how the consensus is being destroyed and politics more fragmented, because people are watching the parts of the internet they agree with. This, I think, is a particular problem for the Beeb, as it’s the national broadcaster and so likes to consider itself the former of the nation’s opinions. Just like the various pompous Tory broadsheets, the Times and Torygraph. The result of this will be more scare stories about fake news on social media. And if the panel show is on RT or another foreign-owned station, they’ll try and work up a scare about it being a source of evil foreign propaganda.

The presence on the panel of a member of the Taxpayer’s Alliance is another example of the Beeb’s Tory bias, as I got the impression that it’s basically a kind of ventriloquist dummy for the Conservatives. It’s supposed to be independent, but a friend of mine told me he’d looked at their leaders, and found that they were all members of the Tory party. Those that weren’t in jail for dodging taxes, that is. Thus, it isn’t even remotely independent in reality, but this doesn’t stop the Beeb pulling them regularly on news programmes and claiming that they’re an independent group. This is presumably in the same way that Laura Kuenssberg and the rest of the Beeb’s news team are unbiased. As unbiased as Nick Robinson when he edited out former SNP leader Alex Salmond’s full answer to his question when reporting on his speech about the Scots referendum.

The Beeb is increasingly showing its right-wing bias, despite the snotty answers it gives those who dare to write in to question this. And as it does, more people are going to log on to the alternative news sites. Mike’s suggestion that a truly balanced topical issues show like Question Time might be on the way on social media sounds very interesting, and just the thing we need to replace the Beeb’s own biased programming.

Franco-Russian SF Series about Manned Mission to Mars on BBC4 Next Thursday

May 8, 2018

Next week’s Radio Times also says that a new SF series also begins on BBC4 next Thursday, 17th May. It’s a French-Russian co-production about a manned mission to the Red Planet, and the first two episodes are being shown at 9.00.. It’s called Missions, and the blurb for it in the magazine runs thus

1/10 Ulysses
Sci-Fi drama about the first manned mission to Mars, which faces a ciris just as they’re about to land, threatening to fracture an already mercurial crew.
2/10 Mars
A sub-team seeks salvage to save the stricken craft, but the trio’s discovery of a body means a surprisingly harsh reception on their return. French and Russian with subtitles.
(p.97).

The other piece about it on page 94 by David Crawford also gives the following information on it:

Two tech billionaires are locked in a race to send humans on a mission to Mars. Sound familiar? This French space series may be topical, but its low-budget, character driven treatment harks back to 1970s sci-fi.

The crew of the Ulysses, funded by Swiss billionaire William Meyer, are approaching the Red Planet after ten months in space. They’re a bit of a ragtag bunch for such a long and high-stakes mission, with an accompanying psychologist.

It’s a bit contrived, but when things start to go wrong and there’s an intriguing discovery, the claustrophobic setting and dysfunctional crew ratchet up the tension.

Both France and Russia are space-faring nations with a very long history of brilliant SF, so this could be very good, despite the low budget. Let’s hope so, at any rate.

Science Fiction Becomes Chilling Science Fact: Plans for Autonomous Drones

May 7, 2018

Last week, the I carried a story reporting the debate over the development of truly autonomous military drones. At the moment these killing machines require a human operator, but there are plans to give them AI and autonomy, so that they can fly and kill independently. I’m afraid I didn’t read the article, so can’t really tell you much about it, except what leapt out at me.

And what did leap out of me was that this is very dangerous. The I itself reported that there was a controversy over the proposals. Some scientists and other people have argued that it’s dangerous to remove humans from war, and leave to it cold, dispassionate machines. This is a valid point. A decade or so ago, one tech company announced it was planning to build war robots to be used in combat. There was immediately a storm of protest as people feared the consequences of sending robots out to kill. The fear is that these machines would continue killing in situations where a humane response is required.

whistleblowers on the American drone programme have also talked about its dehumanising effects. The human operator is miles, perhaps even an entire continent away from the drone itself, and this creates a sense of unreality about the mission. The deaths are only seen on a screen, and so the operator can forget that he is actually killing real human being. After one trainee drone operator continued killing long after he had completed his mission, he was reportedly hauled from his chair by the instructor, who told him sternly, ‘This is not a video game’. Similarly soldiers and pilots in combat may also become dehumanised and enjoy killing. One of the volumes I read against the Iraq War included a letter from a veteran American Air Force pilot to his son, entitled ‘Don’t Lose Your Humanity’. The father was concerned that this would happen to his lad, after seeing it happen to some of the men he’d served with. He wrote of a case where a man continued to shoot at the enemy from his plane, simply because he enjoyed the chaos and carnage he was creating.

Already humans can lose their own moral compass while controlling these machines, but the situation could become much worse if these machines became completely autonomous. They could continue to kill regardless of circumstance or morality, simply through the requirement to obey their programming.

There is also another danger: that the rise of these machines will eventually lead to the extinction and enslavement of the human race. The idea of the robot’s revolt has haunted Science Fiction since Mary Shelley first wrote Frankenstein at the beginning of the 19th century. It’s one of the clichéd themes of SF, but some scientists fear it the danger is all too real. Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, included it among the dangers to the survival of humanity in his book, Our Final Minute?, in the 1990s. Kevin Warwick, professor of robotics at Reading University and former cyborg, also sees it as a real possibility. His 1990s book, March of the Machines, opens with a chilling description of a world ruled by robots. Humanity has been decimated. The few survivors are enslaved, and used by the machines to hunt down the remaining free humans living wild in places which are inaccessible to the robots. Warwick was deeply troubled by the prospect of the machines eventually taking over and leaving humanity far behind. He turned to cyborgisation as a possible solution to the problem and a way for humanity to retain its superiority and survival against its creations.

These plans for the drones also remind very strongly of an SF story I read way back when I was a teenager, ‘Flying Dutchman’, by Ward Moore, in Tony Boardman, ed., Science Fiction Stories, illustrated by David Mitchell, Paul Desmond, and Graham Townsend (London: Octopus 1979). In this story, a bomber comes back to base to be refuelled and loaded up once again with bombs, to fly away again on another mission. This is all done automatically. There are no humans whatever in the story. It is implied that humanity has finally killed itself, leaving just its machines continuing to function, flying and bombing in an endless cycle, forever.

Many of the other stories in the volume were first published in the SF pulp magazines. I don’t know when Moore’s story was written, but the use of bombers, rather than missiles, suggests it was around the time of the Second World War or perhaps the Korean. Not that bombers have been entirely superseded by modern missiles and combat aircraft. The Americans used the old B54s against the Serbs during the war in Yugoslavia. These plans to create autonomous drones brings the world of Moore’s story closer to horrifying reality.

SF has often been the literature of warning. Quite often its predictions are hilariously wrong. But this is one instance where we need to pay very serious attention indeed.

Tory Vice-Chair Admits to Hacking Labour Opponent

April 10, 2018

Kemi Badenoch, the vice-chair of the Tory party, managed to put her foot in it in an interview with the Daily Mail at the weekend. The ‘rising star’ of the Tory party was asked in an interview what was the ‘naughtiest thing’ she had done. Unlike Theresa May, who said that this was running through a cornfield while she was small, Badenoch actually owned up to something far more serious: hacking.

She stated that she’d hacked into the website of her Labour party opponent, and altered the content so that it said nice things about the Tories.

Hacking is, of course, illegal. According to Mike’s article on the issue, it may carry a penalty of a year in prison. The Tories have been scurrying to defend Badenoch, saying that she only guessed the password. Which is immaterial. It doesn’t matter if she guessed it or not, she still hacked into someone else’s website. They also claimed it was simply a case of ‘youthful exuberance’. Which it may well have been, but as she was 28 at the time, she should have known better. Besides, youthful exuberance isn’t a defence either. I’m sure some of the thugs terrorising our capital would just love to get away with their crimes by pleading that their stabbings are just a case of ‘youthful exuberance’.

There’s also a more serious issue at stake here beyond the cavalier attitude to computer privacy by Badenoch herself. She holds an important position in a party, which has shown itself all too willing in the past to give individual’s confidential information away to corporate interests. Last week, Facebook was caught datamining 50 million users in order to pass this information on to politicians so that they could target individuals. It’s therefore fair to ask the question whether Badenoch is a fit and proper person to be trusted with issues like internet privacy and security, and how seriously the Tory party itself takes them, when they have given away personal data in the past, and their vice-chair has no qualms about hacking rivals’ websites.

Radio 4 Programme on 50th Anniversary of Kubrick’s 2001

April 3, 2018

Radio 4 on Saturday, 7th April, at 8.00 pm are putting on an edition of Archive on 4 marking the 50th anniversary of the release of Stanley Kubrick’s SF masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. The programme’s entitled ‘Archive on 4: The Ultimate Trip: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey’. The blurb for it in the Radio Times runs

Fifty years after the US release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, cultural historian and writer Christopher Frayling travels back in time to explore the making of the co-written by British author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke and directed by Stanley Kubrick. He learns how organisations like Nasa and IBM were enlisted to help Kubrick craft his vision and speaks to scientists, critics and film=makers to examine the film’s legacy. (p. 119).

there’s also a two-page feature about the movie on pages 114-5.

Pat Mills – Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History: Part Three

March 30, 2018

Although the comic has been revived and managed very successfully by Rebellion and its new editor for the past 15 or so years, some of the joy has gone. The close collaboration between writers and artists has disappeared, and the editor himself avoids close contact with the other creators. This is partly because of budget and time constraints. The attitude throughout the industry now seems to be one of diligent, quiet efficiency, rather than some of the fun-filled, boisterous meetings Mills and the others had, acting out what they wanted the characters to do in an atmosphere of playful fun. Not that it was always the case. Mills also worked hard, and as an editor he was often called up to deal with artists experiencing some form of crisis, including trying to stop one fellow from committing suicide. But the underlying cause of the decline in British comics remains unaddressed. This is the lack of ownership by the creators for their work. He states that this is the real reasons comics are declining, not computer games. They have those in France, but kids are still reading comics. He also talks about the immense fun he had over there with his Requiem: Vamnpire Knight strip, also available in English translation on the Net.

Mills also talks about some of the other strips he has worked on, which have influenced 2000AD, such as Battle, the notorious Action, Crisis and Toxic. Battle was a war comic, which Mills subverted with Charlie’s War, a First World War strip which had an anti-war message. Mills has come across a number of men, who joined the army through reading such comics. He’s very proud that Charlie’s War had the opposite effect, and after reading it one young lad decided he really didn’t want to after all. Mills is very political, and criticises British literature for its lack of working class heroes. He sees this as partly deliberate, as so many of the great adventure writers were connected to the Intelligence Services and the secret state. Names like John Buchan, Dennis Wheatly – who would have been gauleiter of London, had Hitler conquered Britain – and Ian Fleming. He describes how the script editor of Dr. who in the ’80s turned down a story he’d written, as it included a spaceship captain who was working class. The story has since been made into a CD adventure by Big Finish, and there have been absolutely no complaints.

Action was initially suspended, and then banned outright for its violence. It was also controversial as the first strip to feature a sympathetic, non-Nazi German hero in Hellman of Hammer Force. The comic was so hated by respectable society, that one of the presenters of Nationwide, a 70s current affairs magazine show pretty much like today’s One Show, tore a copy up on camera in front of one of the writers. After it returned, the violence because even more over the top to the point where it shocked Mills, leading to its eventual ban.

Mills is unhappy with SF as a vehicle for social comment, as he feels it is ducking the issue. And so he created Crisis and its Third World War strip, which was all about the exploitation of the Developing World and the politics of food. He’s particularly proud of one story about the scandal of Nestle’s baby milk. But this was completely beyond management’s ability to understand why he included this issue in a boy’s comic.

And Mills and his co-creators were also accused of anti-Semitism by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They did a story about Palestinian, in which a militarised cop, or a member of the IDF, beats a protester so badly, that they break all his limbs, and he falls to the ground. The Board complained that the man’s broken body resembled a swastika, which shows they were reading things into it which weren’t there. The three other creators of the story were Jews, and Mills thought that the Board couldn’t accuse them all of being self-hating. The strip was published by Robert Maxwell, who told them where they could stuff their idea. He was a crook, who robbed the Mirror’s pension fund, but here he did the right thing. You can beat the Israel lobby if you stand up to them.

Mills is clearly a hard-working, passionate enthusiast for comics, and a determined supporter of his fellow writers and artist. He wishes the industry to go back and try to appeal again to young children, although he makes the point they’re ruder than the adult fans, with whom you can have interesting conversations at conventions. He admits that its much harder now to get published in 2000AD, but not impossible, and gives valuable, careful advice to aspiring writers and artists.

As well as a fascinating account of the rise and career of 2000AD, it was for me also quite a nostalgic read. I remember some of the strips Mills wrote for and created, including the comics Whizzer and Chips, Battle and Action. I have mixed feelings about Action. I enjoyed strips like One-Eyed Jack and Death Game 1999, based on the film Rollerball. I wasn’t so keen on Dredger, which did have some horrifying stories. One of these was a Russian dissident punished by having his brain gradually removed by surgery until he was vegetable, and another tale in which a foreign politician is murdered. Sulphuric acid is poured into his shower so that he literally goes down the drain. But the strip I really didn’t like was ‘Kids Rule UK’, set in a future where all adults had died, and Britain was run by violent kid’s gangs. I was bullied at school, and this was for me an all-too frightening concept. I also stopped reading 2000AD for a time, because the stories there were a bit too sadistic. Which was a pity, as I later found out, because I missed some great strips.

2000AD will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in a decade’s time, thanks to the inspiration of Pat Mills and his fellow creators. And I hope that afterwards the comic will go on to enjoy another fifty years under new, equally enthusiastic, committed and inspiring creators.

Splundig vur Thrigg, as the Mighty Tharg used to say.

Pat Mills: Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History: Part One

March 30, 2018

Pat Mills is the creator and founding editor of 2000AD, and this is history of the comic as he remembers it, although he recognises that others’ memories may be different and contradict his. It takes its title from the watchwords of his most popular villain: Torquemada, the ultimate Fascist Grand Master of Termight, in a feudal age of space travel, violence and magic far in the future. The book is divided into three sections, each named after one of Torquemada’s three commands. The slogan even turned up on the Berlin wall, which figures. The East Germans had been living under a dictatorship not too different from Torquemada’s. It was anti-racist and anti-Fascist, but still very much a police state, where the country was watched and dissent ruthlessly crushed. A friend of mine also told me that the slogan was used by Adolf Hitler in a speech he gave to the Bund Deutscher Madel, or German Maids’ League, the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth. Which also figures. Torquemada wanted to exterminate every intelligent alien race in the Galaxy, and was constantly making speeches exhorting humans not to ‘have truck with deviant, dally with the succubus’ and so on. In other words, no racial mixing. Which was definitely what the Nazis were trying to indoctrinate these girls with.

The book tells how Mills and John Wagner got sick of grinding out stories in a garden shed, lit by paraffin lamps, and moved to London to revolutionise British comics with creation of Battle, Action and 2000AD – the Galaxy’s greatest comic. At this stage of their career, Mills and Wagner were so poor that they couldn’t afford new typing paper after they ran out, and so at one point ended typing them up on tracing paper. The economics of writing stories was such that to make ends meet, you had to write several stories very quickly in a matter of days.

It is this attitude, and the British industry’s contemptible treatment of comics creators, that Mills returns to criticise throughout this book, making a very strong and convincing case that it is these attitudes that have caused the decline in comics in Britain in contrast to France, where they are flourishing. In Britain, comics creators do not own the rights to creations. They can be given to other writers and artists, and their creators are not paid royalties for them. In France, the reverse is true, and so comics creators spend years, decades, writing and drawing some of the greatest strips in the world. Think of such comic greats as Moebius, Caza, and Enki Bilal, and the rest of them, who came out of Metal Hurlant and les Humanoides Associes.

He also had to cope with the lack of interest in any reform from the old guard, who were quite simply just content to go on as they always had, until the industry finally collapsed and they were made unemployed or drew their pensions. They were shocked when Mills bought several books on science, because he was writing and editing a science fiction comic. This was too much for company management, who found the idea of doing research for a children’s comic ridiculous. And then there’s the issue of the studied contempt the management treated artists’ work. They used them on dartboards, or to plug drains. Several artists told Mills flatly that they weren’t going to work him as IPC was the company that closed down Frank Bellamy’s studio. Bellamy, along with Frank Hampson, was the awesome artist who worked on the classic Dan Dare. And his artwork was treated in the same contemptible fashion. As a result, much of it has been lost, although its still a massive favourite at fan conventions and when it comes on the market, rightly fetches high sums.

Mills tells the story of how he came to create favourite 2000AD characters like Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine and Finn. He champions the work of artists, who he feels have been unfairly neglected, or even vilified. They include Belardinelli for his contribution to the Slaine strip, which he is proud to have had put back into Titan’s reprints of the strip, as well as SMS, David Bircham, and Fay Dalton. SMS is a superb artist, whose work has appeared on the cover of Interzone, amongst others. He drew the ABC Warriors strip when they were trying to save Termight and the universe from destruction from an artificial black hole, created by Terra’s engineers to give them quick access to space and the Galaxy. One of the results was a whole city like the dimension-twisting drawings of the zarjaz Max Escher. Fay Dalton won a £1,000 prize in a competition to get more women into comics. She draws and paints in a retro style, looking back to the glamour of the 50s. She didn’t last long. It was too sexy for the puritanical Thargs. Then there was the sheer abuse some fans meted out to John Hicklenton, another awesome artist best known for his work on Nemesis the Warlock. Hicklenton was stricken with MS, and sadly ended his life in a Dignitas Clinic. His career and struggle with the condition was the subject of Channel 4 documentary a few years ago. His escape from this ‘medieval, terrorist disease’ was his art, and so it was particularly cruel that he should have subjected to often very coarse abuse.

Mills is also unhappy, and understandably so, about the way his then wife, and co-creator of Slaine, Angela Kincaid, was treated by the other writers and artists. She was the artist on the very first Slaine strip. This topped the reader’s polls that week, but she was very much excluded from the boy’s club of the other creators. No-one rang her up to congratulate her and she was ignored by them. This wouldn’t have occurred if she was a bloke.

Mills takes the time to correct a few myths. He was determined that it wouldn’t be a comic dominated by a main strip, which carried the others, like Captain Hurricane in Valiant. Instead, it was to be a comic of all main strips, including the revived Dan Dare, Mach 1, a superpowered secret agent based on The Six Million Dollar Man, and Shako. This was about a polar bear, who was being chased by the American army because it had swallowed a top secret, radioactive satellite that had crashed to Earth. He also talks about the creation of such fave strips as Ro-Busters, which became the ABC Warriors, and, of course, Nemesis the Warlock and the inspiration for Torquemada.

The evil Grand Master and Judge Dredd were based on two, viciously sadistic monks teaching at his old Roman Catholic school, and, he strongly hints, were paedophiles. One of them was yanked from teaching and sent to monastery in the Channel Islands to sort out his sexual appetites. He was later sacked, and returned briefly as a lay teacher, before being kicked again. The schoolboys made jokes about how the other monks on the island must be similarly depraved, and imagined what shipwrecked sailors would do. Coming up the beach to find the Brothers running towards them, they’d turn and head as quickly as possible back to the sea. But neither of the two were prosecuted. Other old boys have found literary outlets to express their pain and trauma at the hands of these monsters. Mills simply states that his is humiliating Torquemada.

Continued in Part Two.

Woo-hoo! China Mieville’s ‘The City and The City’ Coming to BBC 2 Next Friday!

March 29, 2018

Next Friday, 6th April 2018, BBC 2 screens the first part of its four part adaptation of China Mieville’s SF novel, The City and the City. The blurb for it in the Radio Times read

Detective thriller based on the novel by China Mieville, starring David Morrissey. A dead girl is recovered at Bulkya Docks on the border between Beszel and Ul Qoma – two cities with a division like no other – and inspector Borlu is surprised by the similarities to an old case that still haunts him. The entire series will be available on iPlayer. (p. 114).

There’s more information on the series earlier, on page 112, where the series is declared ‘pick of the day’ by the magazine. David Butcher’s description of the show runs

Imagine a kind of double city where citizens on either side are forbidden from looking at each other, and the frontier between the two – a frontier of the mind, partly – is ruthlessly policed. That’s the premise of China Mieville’s fantasy novel, adapted into a queasy, unsettling drama.

It has the air of a slow-motion Philip K. Dick fable, layered with retro seediness. David Morrissey plays a hangdog copper investigating the murder of an American woman stabbed with a glass shard. But he is haunted by the loss of someone dear to him and by parallels between her case and this one. “I knew there was another city I dare not see,’ he growls, ‘Just on the other side of where I was permitted to look.”

Gradually, we gather what the characters mean by words like “unseeing” and “Breach”,, so it’s best not to explain too much here. As a procedural, the plot moves through treacle, but the look and feel of the story create an oppressive mood that is hard to shift.

This looks very interesting, and I need my dose of TV SF now that the X-Files and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams have ended.