The Red Lines Page

April 10, 2016

Logopolis novelisation

Filed under: drwho,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 5:51 pm

 

Title sequenceTom Baker’s final series of Doctor Who episodes stories were first broadcast from August 1981. Much as I loved the traditional opening, I was greatly impressed with the novelty of the new “starfield” titles that new producer John Nathan-Turner introduced for Season 18. I got to watch it on my parents’ colour TV, and from the comfort of their  cosy sofa, in a warm living room in which all other family members had been ruthlessly drilled not to interrupt during first transmission.

This was so I could enjoy the show and also make an audio recording from the TV speaker. Yes, speaker, singular. None of your fancy stereo telly back them. I had it tough. Although, on reflection, my mute family probably had it tougher.

Listen up

Beach snoozeMy pal Tony, a fellow fanzine editor, somehow contrived to miss episode one of “The Leisure Hive,” and so the audio recording was my invaluable soundtrack for explaining to him what he’d missed. Tony hadn’t enjoyed Season 17 of Doctor Who much, and listened patiently to me extolling of the virtues of the opening episode. Those of you who remember “The Leisure Hive” story will recall that almost the first two thirds of episode one seem to be a tracking shot on Brighton Beach to the sound of Tom Baker snoring, so Tony’s patience was sorely tested.

My other fanzine pal, Peter, agreed with me that this series of Doctor Who stories was terrific. Peter was also a dedicated off-air audio recorder of the show. In the days before TV scripts were available to fans, he would painstaking transcribe the dialogue from audio recordings and type it up. This meant we had a written record of a story even before the Target novelisation was published. There is a generation of Doctor Who fans for whom the Target books were the primary way to relive stories post-transmission.

By October 1981, however, I was hundreds of miles away at university, where I lived on the eighth floor of a student hall of residence. Although in the 1980s student facilities had advanced  beyond the chalk slates and quill pens that younger readers of this blog may be imagining, it wasn’t anywhere near the always-connected multi-device environment that my own children take for granted these days. Eighth floor roomMy choices for television at university, for example, were: (a) watch a portable black and white device in the room or (b) get a seat in the hall’s communal TV lounge and hope the majority wanted to watch what I wanted to watch. I suppose there was also (c) the TV lounge in the Students’ Union, though that was an impossibly long distance to get to from my accommodation at short notice.

Because, needless to say, making sure I didn’t miss an episode of Doctor Who was a Saturday ritual. Sometimes there wasn’t a student consensus to watch BBC 1 that week; irrationally, there were people who preferred to watch Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, scheduled by ITV directly opposite Doctor Who.

In which case, I had to make a dash for the lift and go up eight floors back to my room in the hope I didn’t miss anything. Obviously, I would have left my black and white TV switched on in anticipation of such a calamity – no faffing around getting it tuned in and warmed up, plus I could have the audio recording happening in my room if and when I was in the communal lounge. Well, I could hardly do an audio recording in the student TV lounge and expect my fellow students to be as amenable as my family, could I? No, of course I didn’t ask them. And on mature reflection, this tells you volumes about my wonderfully tolerant family back at home.

Speaking of whom… in the middle of Season 18, my parents bought a VHS video recorder.

Get it taped

E180 tapeMy parents patiently agreed to record Doctor Who for me each week. Occasionally, this was delegated to my younger brother, so some element of risk was involved every Saturday. Crucially, they agreed to keep the episodes and not record Match of the Day over them, on condition that I furnished a sufficient number of E120 or E180 video cassette tapes. This was no minor concession, because in the early 1980s an E180 blank tape cost £9.99 (including VAT at 15%).

The availability of videos started to transform the experience for fans. Some other DW enthusiasts had been recording the show on tape since about 1977 (or Season 15, as DW fans know it). So it was possible to relive the stories in exactly the way they had been transmitted, rather than through the medium of a novelisation. Many of the books were published shortly after the TV transmission, and tended towards a perfunctory recollection of the programme – or even, a literal translation of the original scripts (rather than what was recorded and broadcast) because they were written so close to transmission.

Subsequent novelisations were a bit more imaginative, expanding on the original stories in a way that anticipated the brand new, original novels that Virgin Books would publish after the BBC put the original Doctor Who series on ice. And indeed that BBC Books would publish, and where I launched my own professional novel writing career.

Godel-Escher-BachDoctor Who fans are collectors and completists, and so obviously we kept buying the novelisations. Peter and I were very enthusiastic about the concluding story in Season 18 (and Tom Baker’s finale) “Logopolis.” This was also the time of Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 “metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll” called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which particularly captured Peter’s interest.

A novel idea

Peter and I thus concluded that “Logopolis” might not be well-served by the kind of Target novelisation then being written. Because we were publishing our fanzine Frontier Worlds around this time, we ambitiously decided that we’d do our own novelisation. Peter had written up a dialogue transcript from the TV. And I had my video recording. So I used those to write a novelisation under our Frontier Worlds imprint as a not-for-profit fanzine.

This was before we knew that Christopher H Bidmead was writing the Target novelisation. He is the author of “Logopolis,” and the Season 18 script editor to boot. He very graciously agreed we could publish our version. Through a contact in the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, we also wangled to talk with John Nathan-Turner backstage at a London convention, and he said he was OK with us publishing our version as long as it did not appear before the official Target version.

So that’s what we did. Tony Clark drew the cover. In those days, desktop publishing and typesetting would have been ruinously expensive for students, so I typed up the text and did all the wonky letter transfers (the back cover features some especially wobbly Letraset).

I notice, now that I look at my copy of it, that we conspicuously didn’t thank either CHB or JNT in the published version – for which, 34 years later, I apologise, as they were both very accommodating with their permission at the time. And with the benefit of over three decades’ hindsight, my po-faced “Authors’ Note” (page 8) makes a somewhat implausible claim that the novel isn’t just a transcription of the TV show – an unsubtle comment that we thought it was better than the contemporary Target books.

Target novelisation of "Logopolis"As it is, the Target novelisation by Christopher H Bidmead is far superior to ours. We knew that, because we kept our promise to JNT, and had therefore read his excellent Target version shortly before we printed and published ours. Christopher’s book is a much better written expansion of his very enjoyable TV story.

Peter and I had also really liked “Castrovalva” (Christopher Bidmead’s script to follow “Logopolis” and the debut for the Fifth Doctor). On this occasion, we’d somehow got hold of the actual camera scripts for the episodes, and were laying plans for a novelisation of that, too. We got as far as having a cover drawn up by Andrew Martin. But we recognised, based on “Logopolis,”  that we couldn’t do as good a job as the Bidmead book for “Castrovalva” would be, so we shelved our plans.

Indeed, there was something of a renaissance for the Target novelisations – especially those adapted by the original script writers themselves, such as Andrew Smith (“Full Circle”) and Stephen Gallagher (“Warriors’ Gate” under the pseudonym John Lydecker). And I really enjoyed David Fisher’s adaptation of his script for “The Leisure Hive,” which did not cause any snoring.

Free novelisation 

I’ve seen a few copies of my Logopolis novelisation turning up on eBay, and even Amazon sold a few at some point. Back in the 1980s, the only money I took off readers was to cover printing, postage and packing, so I can’t really approve of people making money from it. You can download a completely free copy of the Logopolis novelisation here.

If you enjoy it, feel free to add a review at that Amazon site. And perhaps consider purchasing one of my officially licensed books.

Frontier Worlds

March 23, 2016

Shadow novelisation

Filed under: Blake's 7 — Peter A @ 8:26 pm
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img005 - CopyThe success of my 1985 Blake novelisation prompted me and my pals to consider publishing further Blake’s 7 TV adaptations. Chris Boucher had been very helpful by allowing us to adapt his script for the series finale, and kindly agreed we could publish a similar not-for-profit version of his Season B story Shadow.

David Tulley (pictured here in 1985) was a contributor to the Frontier Worlds fanzine. And like me, Peter, and Tony, he was a student when the TV series aired. We were pleased when David said it was one of his favourite stories, and that he’d like to write the novel.

img005Andrew Martin provided a splendid cover featuring Cally and Orac, and we once again used Tony Clark’s new logo.

Three decades later, the publication is long out of print. Thanks to the wonders of eBay and a half-decent scanner, I can now make Shadow available here for free, with David’s permission.

I was amused to see that there’s also an Amazon page for the fanzine. So if you enjoy reading David’s book, you can add a review there!

There was a third novelisation planned… I may blog about that another time.

March 17, 2016

Blake novelisation

Filed under: Blake's 7,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 9:12 pm
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BlakeCoverIn 1981 I went with my pals Peter and Tony to BBC Television Centre London, where we saw the final episode of Blake’s 7 being recorded. I’ve blogged about that elsewhere on this blog. Subsequently, I documented the visit in our fanzine Frontier Worlds.

Alongside the set report, I also included snippets from the scenes we had seen recorded in studio or  film excerpts that we spotted on the production gallery monitors. Our fanzine readers seemed to like them, and so a few years later in 1985  I wrote up the rest of the story as a novelisation.

We published it as a not-for-profit Frontier Worlds special edition – with the kind permission of the story’s original script writer, Chris Boucher. Andrew Martin drew a cover, and Tony Clark created a new Blake’s 7 logo for us.

WarshipIt’s been out of print for decades, though it occasionally turns up on eBay. I thought it was a shame not to make it available, as a sort of historical curiosity. So you can now read it for free here.

Almost thirty years later, I was able to novelise my own Blake’s 7 script. You can still get that as an e-book for the bargain price of £2.99 If you like the idea of getting my Blake novel for free, why not spend a few quid buying my officially-licensed book, Warship, from Big Finish Productions? You can do that here.

 

December 13, 2015

Yahoo! BooHoo!

Filed under: Grumbling,usability — Peter A @ 4:25 pm

Aabandon hopeThe successor to Yahoo! has failed to fix my problem or respond in a timely manner, and I have therefore decided to aabandon Aabaco completely. What a shame they seem so uninterested.

They are not to be confused with Aabaco Environmental, who are apparently “well known for being a leader in providing bio-remediation products for hydro carbon spills.” I am led to believe they are also very popular with carpet care professionals. Who knew?

Anyway, you should find that anghelides.org and contact e-mails now work again, because my new domain services company was able to (a) handle the transfer promptly and without fuss and (b) respond to two phone call inquiries immediately.

So I commend GoDaddy to you instead.GoDaddy

November 28, 2015

Disappointing! Customer! Service!

Filed under: Grumbling,Uncategorized — Peter A @ 7:04 pm

YahooTurnoverThe transfer of the Yahoo! small business… er… business to Luminate, no, hang on, I mean Aabaco has been a bit of a fiasco.

People who have been with Yahoo! for over a decade have found the transfer has been fumbled. They can’t transfer open problem tickets to the new company; you have to close it and open a new one with Luminate. Or is it Aabaco? I don’t know, because I’m losing the will to live.

This tweet seems typical of the reaction from existing customers:

If Yahoo! can’t handle this transition effectively, why would you trust them with any of your current business? Search me. (DYSWIDT?)

I’ve already set up anghelides.com as an alternative for my domain and e-mail. I’m giving whatever-they’re-called-now one last chance to sort out a current problem, or I’m just going to bail on them.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll find that anghelides.org and anghelides.com will both route you here. Please let me know, via the usual channels, if that’s not working for you.

September 6, 2015

Frontier Worlds interview

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 11:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

A big hand for this bookI found another interview that I did. This is from 2000, when Kevin Mahoney of authortrek.com was talking to me about my Doctor Who novels. At this stage, I had written The Ancestor Cell, but it was not due to be published until the following year – so you should be able to detect some not-so-subtle plugging for that.

As further context, it’s worth noting that this interview was conducted five years before the new series of Doctor Who relaunched with Christopher Eccleston in the title role. Note how I say things like “if the series comes back” and talk about the novel of Human Nature, long before it became a TV story.

Q:  There seems to be a whole difference of tone between Kursaal and Frontier Worlds.  In comparison with the latter, Kursaal seems to be quite constrained.  It’s a trend which appears to have affected Kate Orman and Jonathan Blum also – their recent Unnatural History is far more fun than Vampire Science.  Were the tones of these novels affected by contemporaneous editorial decisions?

A: To keep myself interested when writing, I try to make each thing I write a bit different from the other stuff – whether it’s a piece of short fiction or a novel. Both Kursaal and Frontier Worlds were edited by Steve Cole, but at different times in the BBC Books range’s history. When I wrote Kursaal, I had to adapt my original proposal to accommodate the new companion, Sam.

When I was commissioned to do one of the linked series of 1999 books, it was with full knowledge of how the main characters were developing. I’m not sure whether that means Kursaal was less constrained, because it was conceived originally as completely standalone (and then worked in  some of Sam’s development leading in to Longest Day), or whether Frontier Worlds was more constrained because I already knew where the characters had to end up.

Q: You must have fshed around for a lot of the jokes in Frontier Worlds (as in “What do you call a fish with no eyes?”).  Fitz cutting wires in his apartment reminds me greatly of Del Boy’s famous encounter with a chandelier in Only Fools and Horses.  Why did you decide to increase the joke content?

A: I happily stole the fsh joke from the back cover of one of Steve Cole’s books. One of his other things for BBC Worldwide, this was a joke book for a kids’ magazine, and that was my son’s favourite joke in it.

I first heard the chandelier story long before the Only Fools and Horses thing (which I’d forgotten until one of my read-through team commented on it). When I heard the story, it was about a paranoid spy in the British Embassy in Moscow. I suppose I wasn’t consciously increasing the humour  content, but as a lot of Frontier Worlds is seen through Fitz’s eyes, maybe that’s why it turned out that way. I took out a lot in the final draft, mostly scatalogical jokes in very poor taste.

There are probably fewer jokes in The Ancestor Cell (and no fart gags).

Q:  In many ways, Frontier Worlds seems to be quite reminiscent of the classic Who serial The Seeds of Doom.  There’s a huge plant which likes to turn humans into its kind, an evil capitalist or two, and there’s a scene where the Doctor kicks someone in the head, quite like Tom Baker thumping the chauffeur in Seeds.  Was this a deliberate homage?

A: Some people have seen parallels with Seeds of Doom, and I suppose it’s a helpful shorthand for reviewers. That wasn’t my plan. The book started out more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and as the idea developed the Raab became more  of a background to the humanoid characters’ actions and motivations. Does the  Raab turn them into its own kind? I debated the “kick in the head” with the editors,  who originally felt it was a bit out of character for the Doctor. I persuaded them that it gave him more “edge,” given what he’s been put through. He’s not always fluffy touchy-feely.

Q: The beginning of Frontier Worlds also feels like a Bond movie.  The Doctor and  Fitz are pursued by goons on skis, and there’s even some red fish eyes.  Was that an effect you wanted to achieve?

A: There’s a scene where Fitz is chased through a field, too, but that doesn’t make it North by Northwest:-) I wanted there to be action sequences, certainly, because I see the Eighth Doctor as being physically capable and resourceful.

Most of all, I wanted to start the book in the middle of some big event, rather than “TARDIS lands  and then…” which I’d already done in Kursaal.

I do enjoy Bond movies, but I wasn’t  playing any soundtracks when writing. And I don’t remember the red fish eyes!

Q:  Prior to Frontier Worlds, I’d never really liked Fitz.  He just seemed to be a little too lifeless, and prone to being kidnapped and brainwashed.  But your use of the first person for his narrative really made me identify with him for the first time.  Did you feel the need to boost his characterisation?

 A: Thank you. In previous books, there hadn’t been much Fitz-and-Compassion-together stuff, so that was an important part of Frontier Worlds for me, so see how they did (and didn’t) get on together, with Fitz as unreliable narrator.  I wanted to restrict the number of points of view in the book, to focus it on a couple of people’s reactions (mostly Fitz and the Doctor), though occasionally it was difficult or impossible to restrict it to them, so I used Compassion (tricky) and Sempiter sometimes.

The fun parts of Fitz for me were (a) reluctant hero, (b) would-be con man and (c) 1960s  England. And with first-person, one can be a bit more outrageous with the commentary, because it’s the character who’s being a smartarse, and not the author.

A:  One critique I’ve heard of Frontier Worlds was that it was too “political.”  Stephen Cole, in his introduction to Lawrence Miles’ Interference, also referred to that novel as “political.”  How far can politics be brought into Doctor Who books?  A lot of your Doctor Who fiction seems to share an environmental theme.  Kursaal is a planet threatened with the destructive development of a leisure complex and fox hunting is mentioned, whilst Frontier Worlds deals with Frankenstein foods. This seems to be very much on a par with the current concerns about undemocratic multinational companies, witnessed by the recent protests in Seattle.  Is this why the culture on Drebnar had to seem so contemporary? 

 A: The GM foods stuff is a contemporary hook for readers. When I was writing Kursaal, there was a lot of fuss in the UK about a ring road (by-pass) being built through woodland near Newbury, a town which has some resonances for UK and US people because it’s near to the former US nuclear base at Greenham Common.

When I wrote Frontier Worlds, the fuss about GM foods had blown up in the UK and was starting to filter into North America (along with the recent GATT protests). So it was a  motif that people would recognise, which I think works better than (say) introducing  some theory about quantum subparticles and then having to have the plot stop for eight pages while your main character lectures his companion about the science of your story.

The other, much lazier reason is that it’s a great deal easier to use shorthand analogies for the mechanics of “phone,” “car”, “office,” “secretary” than to have to invent a culture, society, hierarchy, technology, physiology, legal and financial system etc. I didn’t have the time, the page-count, or the inclination to do that!

Q:  There’s a great scene in Frontier Worlds where the Doctor palms a gun in Compassion’s possession.  There have been quite a few companions in the books who seem more than ready to fire off a few shots, like Compassion in Parallel 59.  What’s your view about the Doctor and guns?

A: Compassion really tests the Doctor’s patience and ingenuity. Unlike other companions, perhaps, she’s dangerous because she chooses to be, rather than because she’s a danger to herself or recklessly overconfident. In that respect, she’s a great counterpoint to Fitz.

The Doctor doesn’t carry guns or use them, and yet here’s a really dangerous character who he is transporting all round the universe. I think that’s a nice irony – it’s like he’s got a blind spot, as though he is being somehow reckless  and overconfident.

Q: You receive an acknowledgement within the pages of Parallel 59.  The main similarity appears to be the continuation of Fitz’s narration. What was your contribution to this book?

A: I read all the books in the linked series –either the published books or the latest available drafts, right the way through to Shadows of Avalon. That way I could ensure that, where appropriate, I “seeded” ideas for the later two books or I reflected stuff in earlier ones. I’d been able to see Parallel 59 from its outline stage, and had offered some (presumably useful) comments on it then.

So Natalie and Steve got me to read and comment on the whole thing. In the end, I did the structural edit for the BBC, too. Incidentally, I did the same thing for Justin Richards’ novel Grave Matter.

The Fitz first-person narration was a coincidence, though. I did suggest some alternative titles for the book, and I can’t remember if Parallel 59 came from me or  Steve. Probably Steve, as he came up with The Ancestor Cell, which I wanted to call it The Horrid Obsession of Greyjan the Sane and was wisely talked out of.

Q:  With the revelation that Stephen Cole wrote as Tara Samms, there’s been quite a lot of speculation about Natalie Dallaire.  Many fans are guessing that she could be a pseudonym also.  Would they be on the right track?

A: They’d be completely off the track and into the ditch. Natalie is alive and well and real and, shortly after delivering the manuscript for Parallel 59, delivered her beautiful baby.

Q:  Parallel 59 had the revelation of the Doctor being in the nude, as witnessed by Compassion.  Yet she doesn’t blink an eyelid, in much the manner that she reacted to Fitz’s nudity in Frontier Worlds.  So, is the Doctor fully humanoid under that Edwardian frockcoat?

A: Hmm, the Doctor gets his kit off in Kursaal as well, now I think about it. It probably says something about his unselfconsciousness. As to what he conceals beneath his Marks & Spencer underpants… well, all I can say at this stage is that they are dimensionally transcendental, and they weren’t spun on any loom.

Q: Frontier Worlds seems to include quite a few scenes related to the current story arc.  How difficult were these to inject into the plot?  What sort of process is there in the creation of such a linked story? 

A: I knew where things were supposed to be in the linked story because I’d discussed it at some length with Steve Cole and the other authors via e-mail, and a bit in person. One of my earliest and longest contributions to the discussion was a whole series of reasons why Compassion would be an absolute nightmare to use as a companion. We had some robust debate on this point, and my punishment was that I had to write a book with her in it.

So rather than cheat and sideline her, I decided to use these thoughts in her characterisation. And I ended up quite liking her. It’s interesting to pick things up now with The Ancestor Cell.

Q:  What’s the best way to cook tofu (the Doctor seems to be a fan in Kursaal)?

A: Oh dear, don’t ask me! Whenever I’ve tasted tofu it reminded me of eating Plasticine in infant school. My wife is more of a devotee – I think she’d recommend frying it and cooking it in a black-bean sauce. I’d recommend making stick figures out of it for five-year olds.

Q:  Why did you decide to have a werewolf-like race in Kursaal?  Do you think that vampires have been done to living death in Doctor Who?

A: I didn’t think werewolves had been done in Doctor Who before –  Mags in Greatest Show was a one-off, and I’d conveniently forgotten about Sorenson in Planet of Evil and the Primords from Inferno.

So perhaps it was that they hadn’t been central to a story, with the familiar trappings a DW “spin.”  And I thought it would be fun to do a Hammer Horror set in Disneyland, with a big scene where our heroes are stalked through Pirates of the Caribbean.

Actually, I’ve just remembered that there was a Doctor Who Weekly cartoon about werewolves, but all I can now recall is the fourth Doctor slavering over his companion, the implausibly-named Sharon.

Vampires done to living death? Well, I really enjoyed State of Decay, Goth Opera and Vampire Science, which all had distinctive elements and the DW “spin” on the legend.

Others have had them more peripheral: Curse of Fenric has a wider idea about possession, and I think I remember Blood Harvest more for the gangsters!  (Any more? Me and my rotten memory.)

Q:  In a recent article in Doctor Who Magazine, David Darlington wrote that if a new TV series of Doctor Who were to come along, then much development in nine years of original Doctor Who novels would be lost, and that the books had polarised Doctor Who fans. What’s your view on this?

A: Depends on what this “much development” is. If it means “story events” (aka “continuity”) then I can’t get too excited about the prospect of losing it, or at least, forgetting it for 99.9% of the audience.

It’s much more interesting for me when Doctor Who mines the spirit of the series, rather than the facts or characters or plots. Few of the eras of Doctor Who that I’ve really enjoyed have depended on “developing” stories from the past. Even in the recent repeats of Genesis of the Daleks on BBC2, I think most viewers will remember the idea of the Daleks, rather than the fact that it contradicts a story first broadcast in 1964.

If the series comes back, most viewers will still assume that Daleks can’t traverse a staircase (yes, sad fans like us know a couple of episodes that contradict that and which were actually watched by a few million more viewers than saw the Genesis repeats).

So a series of books that is read by mere tens of thousands of DW devotees (or at least aficionados) can’t expect to have more influence on a TV or movie revival – even when they’re doing such interesting things with the Doctor’s character as (say) Human Nature – unless it’s the current writers who are working on the new show. And even then, they’d be digging a big hole for themselves if they put nine years of development for that small audience ahead of compelling original contemporary Doctor Who for a huge new audience.

As to whether the books have polarised Doctor Who fans, well I think it was Lance Parkin who said that if you show two fans any transmitted episode they’ll come up  with three contradictory opinions! There’s something in any hobby activity which encourages collection, classification, deriving an order. The Eighth Doctor would laugh at the way fans find patterns that aren’t really there.

Polar or binary attitudes are the simplest categories of all, just like the endless “canon” discussions of what’s in and what’s out (no leeway for what’s shake-it-all-about there).

That all said, I think most fans can adopt a pick-and-mix approach. Like me forgetting that there were actually quite a few previous werewolf stories. And it’s why I usually avoid specific dating for my fiction, because I’m too lazy to do the research about the History of the Universe… leave it for others to decide where Frontier Worlds fits in.

The BBC books can be controversial because they’re not on TV, or they’re not faithful to TV, or they’re not as good as the Virgin books, or… well, you see my point. For the moment, they are the most regular and widely-available continuation of the DW franchise, and have a consistently professional standard.

That’s good enough for me.

June 24, 2015

Coming out as an LGBT ally

Filed under: IBM — Peter A @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , ,

I posted a version of this in my work blog, and decided I’d like to share it more widely. The postings here on The Red Lines Page are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Once upon a time…

It’s the early 1990s. We’re three friends, early in our careers, unmarried, in our mid-twenties. On a Monday morning, we talk about our weekends. I’m dating a technical author. Paul has just returned from the Home Counties, where he’s spent time with his fiancée. Craig explains how he’s been out in Coventry with his partner.https://www.flickr.com/photos/23912576@N05/2942525739

Paul’s stories were the common currency of young employees in the office, and colleagues were at ease talking to him. Whereas some people in the office were disdainful or ill-mannered about Craig and his boyfriend. Craig didn’t care — he was an out gay man, and just as happy talking at work about his relationship as he was about programming or project management.

But that wasn’t the point. There were other gay men in the office who did not feel comfortable that people might know anything about their private life, and chose not to be out at work. It wasn’t that anyone was openly hostile; just that the business culture in the early Nineties was not so accepting. Simple things like the office rituals of congratulations on an engagement or marriage were something that applied to Paul, and not to Craig.

It wasn’t the big things that were discriminatory, but a succession of small things. Today, we’d call them “microaggressions” — brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults.

Twenty years later

More than 20 years later, society and the law have changed. Marriage equality and workplace legislation have both reflected and changed attitudes. The company where I work, IBM, continues to be in Stonewall’s Top Global Employers. We have an internal community for employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or who have family, friends or colleagues who are L, G, B or T.

And I am proud to say that two members of my organisation are the LGBT Location Champions for the major site where I work.

June is recognised around the world as LGBT Pride Month — and IBM is a keen participant. Everyday business activities, such as hiring, training, compensation, promotions, social and recreational activities, should be conducted without discrimination based on race, colour, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or age.

What about that technical author? Reader, I married her.

Now, although I met my wife through IBM, there is very little overlap today between my work and my home life. Despite blogging this, I’m usually fairly private, but that’s my choice — there’s nothing about my work environment that would make me uncomfortable being open about my non-work life. If I wish, I can talk about my family, and I have photos of them in my office. Whereas LGBT employees may still be uncomfortable being out at work. They may feel unwilling to personalise their work place, or spend energy being ambiguous in conversation about “my partner” and what “they” are doing. It’s important that we can all be our whole selves at work.

Straight Allies

I'm an LGBT allySo it’s not enough for a company just to say it has a policy, or that it follows the law. We all have a part to play in challenging those “microaggressions.” And I’ve personally seen how effective that is when individuals at work do that for my friends and colleagues who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

If you’re not LGBT, you can be a Straight Ally and have a transformative effect on the workplace experience of your colleagues, both gay and straight. Every LGBT person will make a personal and conscious decision about whether they will be open about their sexual orientation at work. And it’s not simply a case of coming out once. Gay people have to decide whether, and how, they come out every time they meet new colleagues, clients, suppliers or stakeholders. That decision is made easier, however, if they believe their managers and colleagues will support them.

You can find a super guide here about coming out as a Straight Ally. And there’s an interesting workplace guide from Stonewall that I’ve referred to when writing this blog. I’ll quote some more of it in the comments below.

So here I am, coming out as a Straight Ally. And not just for June. I expect I’ll need to come out again in the future when I meet new colleagues, clients, suppliers, and stakeholders. I hope you will, too.

January 15, 2015

Sparkle

Filed under: IBM — Peter A @ 10:43 pm

There’s a website where you can “ship glitter to your enemies.” Apparently it’s the socially acceptable alternative to putting a brown bag full of dog poo in someone’s porch and setting light to it. It’s funny at someone else’s expense. Though the personal expense is about ten Australian dollars. I’m not recommending it.glitter

In contrast, earlier this week, I received a Thank You card from a colleague who left the company. She had thoughtfully written this by hand, included some specific things rather than “thanks for everything”, and ensured it got to me after she had gone. We’d talked before she went, of course. But this was a most welcome and personal thought, and one I greatly appreciate.

The card isn’t very glittery. But it has some glitter on the lettering. I took it home in my work bag, and now there’s a slightly sparkly patina on the cover of my laptop computer. At my desk in the office, earlier today, I noted the cuff of my suit jacket had a faint flicker of silver. And each time I saw that, it made me smile.

Because it reminded me of the card. And then that recalled how I felt when I first opened the envelope. It’s really nice when someone catches you doing things right, and takes the time to tell you. Buying a card. Writing something specific. Ensuring it got delivered.

There wasn’t a lot of glitter on the card. It was just enough. And it’s made me think that there are times when, instead of taking positive things for granted — people, actions, comments — it’s worth making the effort to say thanks. This is me saying thanks for that to my colleague, and passing it on. You know who you are. You may have left the company, but your influence continues to be felt.

August 19, 2014

Continuity error

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 7:43 am

Fresh outrage at continuity error in Downton Abbey publicity photo.

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July 12, 2014

Hursley FM competition

Filed under: Audios,Technology,Warship,writing — Peter A @ 9:24 pm

We have a winner! I will contact them shortly.

The Red Lines Page

Script for WarshipAfter months of negotiation with my agent, I agreed terms with http://hursleyfm.comfor a podcast interview. Oh, all right then, they e-mailed me at work last Wednesday, and I said yes straight away.

On Friday, I made my way to their studio (spoilers: an office in Hursley D Block) and had a lovely chat with Dr Adrian, Jonny Mac, and Mr Jezzalinko. We discussed technology, my work at IBM, and my various bits of genre writing over the years. And, yes, they really are called that.

Hursley FM microphoneHursley FM is a podcast and community about technology, inspired by the people at the biggest software development laboratory in Europe. By a happy coincidence, it’s somewhere I’ve worked for nearly twenty years.

As you can see from my photo, the studio looks exactly like the podcast illustration.

It’s rare that my various worlds coincide like this. So to acknowledge that, and also encourage people to…

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