Thursday, 9 August 2018

3 Wyrd Things: Paul Magrs

For '3 Wyrd Things' I asked various creative types whose work I admire to tell us about three oddly, wonderfully, weirdly British things that have been an influence on them and their work - a book or author, a film or TV show and a song, album or musician. 

First up, Paul Magrs.

Paul Magrs lives and writes in Manchester. In a twenty-five year writing career he has published novels in every genre from Literary to Gothic Mystery to Science Fiction for adults and young adults. His most recent books include the concluding volume in a science fiction trilogy for kids - ‘The Heart of Mars’ (Firefly Press), and ‘Fellowship of Ink’ (Snow Books) which continues the multi-volumed saga of Brenda, the long lost Bride of Frankenstein. He has taught Creative Writing at both the University of East Anglia and Manchester Metropolitan University, and now writes full time

Paul's writing is always an absolute joy to read; it's 'War of the Worlds' as written by Alan Bennett and it's 'Hammer House of Are You Being Served'. His work is gloriously individual and utterly rooted in everything that makes British science fiction and horror so much fun and we are honoured to have him write the first in this new series.

More info on Paul's writing can be found on his website - Life on Magrs.

He is appearing at the Corner Theatre, Charlotte Square, as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival at 7pm Tuesday 14th August.
The dcovers of the 4 books in the Armada Sci-Fi series edited by Richard Davis
Armada was the most amazing and – I think – undervalued of children’s publishers in Britain of the Seventies. Never as classy as Puffin or Piccolo, their books were readily found in the paperback carousels of newsagents and motorway service station shops. A little cheaper, a little tackier and often a lot more fun. My favourite thing they did was their anthologies: umpteen volumes of ghost tales, mostly edited by the remarkable Mary Danby, and six books of Monster stories curated by the semi-legendary R. Chetwynd-Hayes. Best of all, to my mind, were the Armada Sci-Fi Books one through to four. Every story is a gem – juxtaposing shops and tower blocks with alien visitors and space fleets from afar. Richard Davis was the editor and these books are vanishing from Ebay, from endangered bookshops and from the face of the earth itself. They must be collected and preserved.

Two ladies share a joke in Three Salons at the Seaside
‘Three Salons at the Seaside’ is the most wonderful piece of telly I know. It’s a forty minute fly-on-the-wall documentary from 1994, produced for the BBC and directed by Philippa Lowthorpe. All it asks is that we sit quietly in the corner of three different hair salons in Blackpool during a rainy Monday (it feels like) as the sky blows and glooms outside and the elderly ladies come trogging in, in twos and threes, to have their rinses and blow-waves done. We eavesdrop on alarming conversations about death and disaster and all manner of frailties and scandal. We discover the secret of the communal funeral handbag and we marvel, basically, at these wonderful, watchful, eloquent faces as they mull over the meaning of everything, sitting under the driers. Outside a young girl flies back and forth on roller skates and the music is just exquisite; jaunty, hopeful and achingly nostalgic. It’s the best bit of telly there’s ever been, in my humble opinion.
Watch it here

The cover art to the Geoff Love and his Orchestra - Star Wars and other space themes LP
For a record I’d like to pick out Geoff Love’s ‘Space Themes’ – a picture of the cover appeared recently on this page. That marvellously copyright-infringement-dodging painting drew my eye back in 1978, when Fine Fare opened a late-opening megastore in our town precinct and offered all kinds of fantastic records and stuff to lavish your pocket money on. This album – joined by many other Geoff Love classics – has lived in my treasured collection ever since. The rendition of the Doctor Who theme is like the pulsating, thrilling, technicolour cinematic version that the Seventies failed to bring us.

Many years later, in 2011, when I was writing Doctor Who stories for AudioGo I played this version of the theme to myself, to get me in the mood for a day’s recording near Charlotte Street in Soho. I sat outside a Greek cafĂ© at eight in the morning, anticipating a day in studio creating a story I’d cheekily called ‘Tsar Wars’ – a kind of retelling of ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’ set in 1970s outer space.

We had a rather large cast arriving at about nine o’clock. I was there early, eating a bacon sandwich, sipping frothy coffee, enjoying the sun sliding over the canyons of Fitzrovia. The Geoff Love Dr Who theme was playing loudly and… at that very moment Tom Baker came galumphing round the corner. He was swinging a bag of cakes and sweets he was bringing to share with everyone at the recording.

It was a completely magical moment. There was no one else there on the street. He noticed me and gave a jaunty wave. And that moment became one of my favourites of all time: set to the tune of that disco-era Doctor Who.


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