The Red Lines Page

February 9, 2012

GallifreyOne update

The GallifreyOne people have kindly asked me to be on a number of discussion sessions at their forthcoming convention.

  • On Friday at 3:30 pm I’m doing something called a Kaffeklatsch. I’m not quite sure what that entails, though I imagine it involves having a coffee and a chat. People have to sign up for these things, apparently. My fellow chatter is the lovely and prolific Phil Ford, so perhaps I’ll let him do all the talking while I pour cups of Nescafé Gold Blend.
  • Straight after that on Friday at 4:30 pm I’ll be discussing the Doctor Who novels in a panel called “Back to the Pagoda,” accompanied by fellow enthusiasts Simon Guerrier, Robert Smith?, Graeme Burke, and Shaun Homrig. Simon is a colleague among the novelists. Graeme is editing a series of guides with Robert. Robert sports the most famous Doctor Who eroteme since Sylvester McCoy’s jumper. And Shaun is an Associate Attorney, and I am therefore legally unable to say anything more about him. I suspect most people will be at the other sessions during this time — Louise Jameson, Camille Coduri, Yee Jee Tso, and Daphne Ashbrook. But do come and visit us. (Even if it’s only to ask which room the Louise Jameson interview is in.)
  • On Sunday at 2:30 pm I will accompany Gary Russell, Phil Ford, Jill Sherwin, Racheline Maltese, and Jennifer Kelley for a panel discussion called “Sarah Jane is My Doctor.” Jill, Racheline, and Jennifer are stalwarts of this and other conventions, as well as writers themselves. Phil Ford will still be recovering from a coffee ovedose on the Friday. Gary Russell is, quite simply, my oldest and dearest  friend in Doctor Who. Oldest because he is 84 years old. And dearest because he’ll be making me pay for that comment all weekend.
  • Finally, at 5:30 pm on Sunday, I’m with Jason Haigh-Ellery and fellow story writers Simon Guerrier and Nigel Fairs on a panel about “Blake’s 7 on Audio”.  My CD Counterfeit is released this month, so we’ll be celebrating the launch of the new audio stories. West End Producer Jason is also the Executive Producer at Big Finish. Nigel is an actor, writer, and composer. And Simon is very tall. He’s a tall story writer.
  • There will be autograph sessions on the three days as well, at which I shall be scrabbling for the sharpies with  some of the aforementioned writers and producers. Depending on how famous one is, there are Premium Autographs, Sponsored Autographs, or Standard Autographs. I am in a category of my own (Bog-Standard Autographs) and will sign anything that gets within reach.
  • I am told by Lee Almodovar that there will be ribbons available, too. Not sure how those work, but a pass phrase or secret handshake may be involved. Check press for details.

If time and technology allow, I may tweet during the event. Hard to believe that the last time I was at GallifreyOne (back in 2009), Twitter was relatively unknown. Now the convention is almost twice the size, and I expect the #gally tag will be busy all weekend.

January 2, 2010

Mail Fail

Filed under: Articles,drwho,press,twitter — Peter A @ 9:23 pm

Daily Mail gets things a bit backwardsTwo suspiciously-similar articles appeared in the press this week, both grumbling that David Tennant was in too many BBC programmes at Christmas. One was in the Telegraph, and the other in the Mail. Both asserted that he appeared in 75 programmes.

To get to 75 appearances, they had to count over a period of three weeks. Now, I know Christmas starts earlier every year, but that seems a bit extravagant even by the Mail’s standards. Well over half of these appearances were Doctor Who (including the cartoon series) or other repeats; two of them were among the biggest-rated shows of the season (the two-part Doctor Who finale); and several others were news or documentary appearances as publicity for the finale. On that basis, the press will presumably be getting in a tizzy about the number of appearances by people in soap operas or the next time Britain’s Got Talent has its run.

The Mail article contained well below 500 words, plus a programme listing that could have been copied straight from the Radio Times. It took three journalists to write that. It contains several errors, which are helpfully explained to the Mail journalists in the many reader comments. They quoted two people from the many on their own comment boards to support the complaint about “overexposure”. Unfortunately, they selectively quoted one of those from a comment that was actually saying the complete opposite, and the original author had to correct them in the comments and reveal why she “really, really resented” their “pathetic” article. The Mail hasn’t apologised or corrected the published article.

This didn’t stop Conservative MP Nigel Evans complaining that this was evidence that the BBC was “freezing out young acting talent”, that the BBC should “name their big earners”, and that “200 channels of David Tennant doesn’t seem to be much choice.” He doesn’t explain how 75 appearances could make 200 channels, but fortunately he sat on the Culture Media and Sport select committee, and not one like the Treasury Select Committee that might require numeracy. Being a former committee member means he probably ought to recognise a non-sequitur, though. Note that he doesn’t sit on the committee any more — one of the errors that none of the three authors spotted in their article, possibly because they think retyping something is easier than checking the facts.

Speaking of which, moon-faced miserablist and Mail regular Jan Moir subsequently regurgitated the whole story in the paper, using the information in the article but conveniently ignoring all the corrections helpfully provided by readers of the previous article. She probably doesn’t think much of readers’ comments, after there was a record-breaking number of complaints to the UK Press Complaints Commission about her nasty article about the death of Stephen Gateley. Charlie Brooker described that fiasco rather better than I could, however – read his response here.

Other recent articles by the same Mail authors include:

  • Ross: “Jonathan Ross angers BBC bosses after slamming television schedule”, another in the Mail’s continuing attacks on Ross, in which no BBC bosses are actually quoted  (either on or off-record), the entire piece being based on a single tweet by Ross’s revealing his uncontroversial opinion that “BBC has shite on occasionally” compared with even worse on ITV.
  • Pope: “Pope has a pointy hat”, a piece about Vatican dress code that speculates whether the papal headgear is an attempt to distance the Pope from his Nazi past, and featuring the comment “puts the Rat into Ratzinger” and a photo of an infallible condom featuring the Pontiff’s smiling face
  • Rage: “’We want to wipe the smug grin from Simon Cowell’s face”, an article whose true Mail agenda is revealed by the website URL “BBC-backing-Rage-Against-The-Machine-sour-grapes-X-Factor-beating-Strictly-says-Simon-Cowell.html”
  • Fat: “Dawn French uses a floral walking stick”, containing the breathless assessment “It is not known whether her injury was linked to her weight, however it is well-known that heavier people tend to have more problems with mobility”, and a series of quotes from a “Harley Street diet expert” lambasting the injured woman.
  • Pug: “Kelly Brooks’ dog has a pink body warmer”, a feature piece containing photos of her, the dog and her rugby-player boyfriend, plus the words “amazing pert boobs”.

I made up one of those five stories — only four were written by those journalists. If you feel like doing a quick web search to work out which is the one I invented, then you’ll have worked harder on ascertaining the facts than the Mail journalists did on some of the facts in their David Tennant article.

PS: For the full effect, you need to imagine that I hand-wrote this blog post in full capitals on lined paper with green ink.

PPS: The Telegraph journalist has previously reported on MPs’ expenses, the war in Afghanistan, and the Jersey child abuse investigation. Must have been a slow news day for him, eh?

June 24, 2009

Flag day

Filed under: Novels,Torchwood,twitter — Peter A @ 10:52 pm

twThe fragrantly lovely James Moran has launched a competition via his Twitter feed. Caption this: http://twitpic.com/8as4d You need to tweet your caption by July 1st, using the #jmcap hashtag. The prize is to have a character named after you in the next thing that he gets made or published, and a signed copy of the DVD or book or magazine or whatever.

It’s most unlikely that anyone would namecheck me in anything, because my surname is a bit unusual. I accidentally namechecked someone in my own Torchwood novel Another Life, an Antipodean author who blogged about it when one of her friends drew her attention to it. My novel character was a secretary who met a grisly end. The author sent me a very charming e-mail. Her friend had suggested the namecheck was karmic comeback for a critical review she’d written. Posters on her blog saw a deeper revenge motive. Alas, it was just that I hadn’t checked for such a coincidence. And as I wrote the novel before the first series of Torchwood aired, my book was finished well ahead of any TV reviews, so any revenge would have been prescient at best.

We are careful about names in the novels. I picked some fairly innocent surnames (Bee, Wildman) from boys I was at at school with, though there was no other resemblance. My thoroughly professional editor Steve Tribe did note that one Welsh name I’d used was also the name of an unfortunate child victim in the Aberfan disaster, a 1966 catastrophe so dreadful that it makes me tearful just to think about it. So obviously, we changed that.

The photo that the flagrantly bubbly James Moran invites us to caption shows him standing on the paving flagstone lift inside the Torchwood Hub. This is a classy one up on most of us, who have our photos taken on the equivalent flag outside the Cardiff Millennium Centre in Roald Dahl Plass.

Andy Lane, Dan Abnett and I had our photos taken standing on that flag (the outside one), allegedly as a publicity shot for the trade press. We did it when we visited Cardiff as part of our research for the first set of Torchwood novels. I also took a “flag” photo of Joe Lidster on the slab. Joe was contracted to do the audio adaptations of the three novels, so obviously Andy and Dan and I didn’t get him in our group shot — I mean, we had to have certain standards. (I wonder whatever happened to Joe? Nothing good, I’ll bet.)

Series one of Torchwood hadn’t yet been transmitted, at the time of our photo, so for us it was a private joke. The success of the TV show has now made that slab a bit of a pilgrimage site for fans, and hurrah for that. We three novelists were granted a privileged insight of the whole first series — scripts, a studio tour, and an early viewing, all with appropriate nondisclosure agreements. When I wrote my second Torchwood novel, Pack Animals, I got to see scripts for the second series as preparation. It was very exciting.

The third series of Torchwood is broadcast over five nights on BBC1, starting July 6th. I’ve not seen any advance information about it, and I am even more excited about it — desperately avoiding spoilers, and eagerly anticipating five nights of thrills and shocks and laughs and surprises. The florally jungly James Moran is one of the writers. It’s going to be fantastic. So I thought I should flag this.

April 5, 2009

Brought on?

Filed under: press,Technology,twitter — Peter A @ 2:30 pm

 The Daily Mail lauds the actions of the good folk of Broughton, Buckinghamshire. Annoyed that the Google Street View camera was legally photographing their homes, the villagers took action against the driver of the car. Or to put it in the words of the Daily Mail‘s correspondent, “a respectable, bespectacled 43-year-old real estate executive” rounded up “a couple of housewives, a nurse, a Tory councillor and an energy consultant” to ensure that a car driver was “trapped for an hour and a half in the village”. More unkindly and inaccurately, The Times describes them as a “village mob”.

The Mail works itself up into an indignant sweat about the “computer giant’s insidious invasion of all our privacies”. I think they’re trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. Possibly a stable door on one of the charming barn conversions you’re likely to find in villages like Broughton. The villagers are upset because a camera ten feet high is more intrusive than an ordinary passer-by with a camera. But navigational information is already available from Multimap’s aerial and bird’s eye views of Broughton. Zoom in and try for yourself. A human chain’s not going to prevent that. Nor are brave villagers linking arms going to stop those helicopter shots that photographers like to take indiscriminately and then sell to villagers all round the UK.  Who authorised BlueSky to take these images of Broughton?

broughton, bucksThe Mail picked up the story from the Milton Keynes Citizen, which ran a front-page article about the human chain. The Mail even published a photo of the Google employee and his car. Unlike the Citizen, or indeed Google Street View for that matter, the Mail chose not to blur the number plate of the man’s car. And unlike Google Street View, the Mail didn’t blur the man’s face in their photo, either.

Mind you, the Mail can’t quite decide where Broughton is. On Saturday it was Buckinghamshire. On Sunday, they said it was the one in Cambridgeshire. Just to add to the confusion, the Sunday article included an aerial photo of the village in Buckinghamshire. On the Mail‘s website, the photo also invites you to “Enlarge”.

Perhaps that irony has escaped the Daily Mail. And the outraged villagers of Broughton seemed happy enough to pose for a press photographer.The Mail has now helpfully published three pieces about Broughton — all accompanied by photographs of the village, with the more detailed ones available on the web. The latest article regales us with the news that Broughton has “now become the focus of national attention” (possibly as a result of newspaper articles, you have to suppose) and that “Street View enthusiasts from across the UK” intend to “descend on the village to snap their own perfectly legal photographs”. Articles have appeared all round the world — including Norway, Turkey, Pakistan, and Ireland.

The villagers have not brought this on themselves. But the press, in a froth of indignation about this “invasion of privacy”, have exacerbated the problem. The Mail would have us believe that Google Street View is an “encyclopaedia for the burgling fraternity” provided by “Snooper Command”. “If our houses are plastered all over Google,” said the ringleader of the stoppage, Paul Jacobs, “it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike.” On the other hand, a local councillor explained that there had been five burglaries in ten weeks before the Google man appeared, and she seemed to attribute them to Broughton’s thirty-fold population growth since the opening of a nearby housing estate “in recent months”.

But if the number of burglaries now increases, and especially if that happens before any images appear on Street View, it won’t be the good people of Broughton, nor will it be Google, who are to blame.

February 27, 2009

TwitterGroups FAIL

Filed under: twitter — Peter A @ 9:37 pm

TwitterGroup

Further down Twitter GroupI have discovered TwitterGroups, but am yet to be convinced that it’s any better to look at (say) the Technical Communications tweets there rather than at hashtags or at the Twitter site itself.

For one thing, you have to scroll down past the annoying Amazon advert. If you scroll down further, the tweets are clumsily crushed into another scrollbar window (which… er… doesn’t scroll). But then a little more usefully, you can see people who’ve chosen to be members. Finally, another Amazon advert.

And then if you want to post something to the group, it requires you to “login to Twitter, Google, Yahoo, AOL, AIM or some other network”. But when you click the login button, it offers Google, AIM, Yahoo, or OpenID. Not, you will notice, Twitter. Which seems particularly obtuse for something called TwitterGroups.

There may be some steps to get around this. But in a Twitter world, with a Twitter span of patience, which of their users is going to struggle with that? I want to just walk up and tweet.

Nice idea, lame design. In Twitter lingo: FAIL.

The Rubric Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

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