Posts Tagged ‘Fan Conventions’

Stephen Hawking to Play The Book in New Series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

February 18, 2018

The I newspaper yesterday reported that the physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, is set to play the Book in a new radio series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Entitled ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Edition’ the series will commemorate the original show on Radio 4 back in 1978, featuring the original cast.

I loved the original series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the first two books based on the show, the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. However, I lost interest in it after the third book. I tried reading the fourth, only to give up. I think by that time Douglas Adams himself was growing tired of writing them. I’ve heard someone say on an interview that he was only lured back to write his last Hitch-Hiker book by the publisher’s promise that in it he could destroy every possible Earth in every possible universe. So I’m not sure I’ll listen to it, especially as the series is being carried on by other writers.

I also wasn’t impressed by Adams’ expressed contempt for the genre he wrote in. Back in the 1990s he was interviewed on the radio by Paxo, who said his book was Science Fiction, but different. It was good. Adams replied by saying that he didn’t write Science Fiction. Which is odd, because that’s what Hitch-Hiker is. But I guess Adams wanted to avoid being pigeonholed as a genre writer.

At that time the prejudice of the literary establishment towards Science Fiction and Fantasy was much stronger than it is now. I can remember seeing Terry Pratchett speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, saying how the organisers looked on him as if he was going to talk to people about fixing motorcycles. There’s a clip of the BBC arts programme, The Late Review, in which the Oxford lecturer and poet, Tom Paulin, and a female litterateur are asked to review one of Pratchett’s books, where they both make very disparaging remarks. The woman states that she felt like writing across it in big lines ‘I cannot read any more’. Paulin compared it to lifting up a stone to find all these weird people doing weird things underneath it. And going further back to the 1950s Brian Aldiss commented in The Trillion Year Spree that at that time, despite being championed by Kingsley Amis, pornography had a better reputation than Science Fiction amongst the literary elite.

Pratchett had to fight against that literary snobbishness throughout his life, but is now being taken very seriously by critics. I think Adams avoided it. Back in the ’90s he and Hitch-Hiker were the subjects of one edition of the South Bank Show with Melvin Bragg. But perhaps the price of that critical acclaim was his denial that he wrote Science Fiction at all.

But other people are different, and so I’ve no doubt that there are millions of Hitch-Hiker fans out there, who will be delighted to hear the news. They know who they are. They’re the people, who bought merchandising, like the Hitch-Hiker bath towels. This was a large, white bath towel with the text from the HHGG talking about how every Hitch-Hiker really needed to know where their towel was on it. I found one of those in Forever People, the comics/ SF shop in Bristol. The show’s fans are also the people, who organised conventions with dubious names like ‘Slartibartday’, after one of the creators of the Earth, Slartibartfast.

Hawking is in many ways an ideal choice for The Book after the death of Peter Jones, who was its original voice on Radio 4 and then in the BBC 2 TV series. He already has an electronic voice to fit the character of an electronic book, and is a world famous space scientist and advocate of space colonisation. But you wonder how massive his ego will be after playing a publication, which the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes as, amongst some people, having displaced the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom.

Advertisements

Boris Gets His Own Glossy Fan Mag

November 30, 2015

More proof of Boris Johnson’s vaulting political ambitions, or at least, his galloping megalomania.

Looking through the Cheltenham branch of W.H. Smith a few weeks ago, I found on the magazine racks a glossy brochure devoted to Boris. Simply titled Boris Johnson, it was very much like the type of glossy specials brought out to celebrate a royal event, like the queen’s coronation, the jubilee, or a royal wedding. It also reminded me of some of the material that came out during Thatcher’s reign. Despite its highly offensive and distasteful subject matter to anyone on the Left, and to a few genuinely caring Tories, for that matter, there was a point to it. Most of these came out when Thatcher celebrated 13 years in power. She was at that point the longest serving British prime minister, and the first woman to hold the office. In those respects she deserved to be commemorated. Or at least, she had as much right to be as every other holder of the office.

Boris, on the other hand, is still some way away from that lofty post. He’s been editor of magazine, The Spectator, though so was the fictional Jim Hacker of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister fame. And part of what made Hacker funny was that essentially he was a nondescript, junior MP, who was given a political office – the Minister for Administrative Affairs – who imagined himself as something far greater and grander. Like Winston Churchill. His voice took on the Great Warleader’s inflections and tones when he started to imagine the glorious political future stretching ahead of him, and the country under his benign leadership.

Which makes you wonder somewhat about Boris. Does he also stand in his office, posing as Churchill, trying to capture the great man’s tones and mannerisms in his office while no-one’s looking, conjuring up before his inner eye a magnificent future in which Maximus and UNUM have saved the government millions by killing off all the disabled through starvation, and the poor and proles are properly confined to their own ghettos and know their place?

The first part of that grim scenario is unlikely. Johnson has gained much of his popularity through posing as a loveable, bumbling oaf. He makes mistakes, but he means well, and it’s all a good laugh, so why not vote for him? In actual fact, while I’ve no doubt some of his accident prone persona is genuine, it strikes me as exaggerated and played up to get public sympathy. And people who know Johnson say he is a steely political operator with a vicious temper, quite different from the amiable fool that appears on Have I Got News For You.

The second part of that scenario, on the other hand, is all too plausible. It seems very clear that Johnson covets the role of PM, and would like to unseat, or at least, succeed Cameron in that role. And like the rest of the Tories, he has an absolute contempt for the poor and working and lower middle classes. It’s indicative of the contempt he feels for the people of London that he decided he couldn’t afford to pay the firemen a proper wage, but could buy three water cannons.

Cheltenham is also on the edge of the Cotswolds, and the magazines looks like it was designed to appear to the Cotswold set of very wealthy that live outside the town, reading magazines like Cotswold Life. Cheltenham itself is rather different, and has a large underclass, very like other towns such as Bath, where the very rich and the poor live practically cheek by jowl.

It also reminds me of the jokes about Adolf Hitler in Red Dwarf, when a set of photographs mutate so they can use them as a time machine. One of the photos is of Hitler, who Kryten recognises as he was featured in one of Rimmer’s specialist magazines: Fascist Dictator Monthly. The Fuehrer was Mr October. It also reminds me of the fan magazine devoted to the evil Torquemada, the genocidally racist grandmaster of Termight – Earth, thousands of years in the future – in 2000 AD’s ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip. As Torquemada was the absolute, totalitarian ruler of this nightmarish future Earth, he also had his fan magazine, with the slogan ‘Let’s talk Torquey’, and fan conventions. The last seemed partly modelled on the comics convictions that have been going since at least the ’70s. Johnson is far too clever to give in to the urge to make racist rants like Torquemada. He merely fronts TV series on the splendours of ancient Rome and appears as a genial guest on popular satirical quizzes.

But this is evidence of his megalomania, his driving ambition and his need for popular acclaim, as well as the popular votes, nonetheless. Be afraid. Be very afraid.