Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Well, that was an adventure!

Just back from a trip to Pakistan, the ancient family homeland, and had a jolly fine time. It's amazing the bargains you can find in the local bazaars near the Afghan border.

It's been a long, long time since I was last there, 24 years in fact. It was an emotional trip in more ways than one.

Firstly, catching up with a vastly extended family. I met cousins who, back in 1987, where newly married with babes in their arms. Now, those babies have their own babes in their arms. Time has marked on and when I was the teen youngest, now I'm the aged uncle. A generation has come and gone and it stared me starkly as I saw once vigourous men now old, and how their sons had become their fathers.

Pakistan is both terribly ancient and terribly new. As a country, it's just over 50 years old, but as a culture, it's one of the oldest in the world.

As some of you may know, Ash Mistry is based, inspired by, the great ancient Harappan civilization. This existed over 5,000 years ago, and the city of Harappa is in Pakistan itself. I visited the site and will report on that seperately. But there's something profoundly moving about walking streets that were teeming with people and had merchants and products from all over the civilized world of Mesopotamia and Sumer and Old Kingdom Eygpt when Rome didn't even exist and the Trojan War hadn't yet been fought. We're talking about way way back, back when myth and history were one of the same.
Then, there is the current Pakistan, with all the bad press attached. It's (sort of) the basis on my new project. I've my hands full with Ash Mistry but think it's high time I wrote something straight, adult and historical. No magic, no vampires, but lots of intense action and my version of the game of thrones, back when Britain was playing it in the Indian Subcontinent. It forged the modern world, for better or worse, and much (but certainly not all) of the trouble we have over there now is merely a modern replay of the trouble we've always had over there. If more politicans were historians instead of lawyers, we might not be in the shambles were are right now. Lets put it this way, even Alexander the Great couldn't get out of Afghanistan quickly enough.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

News on the Devil's Kiss tv series

I often wonder if there is only a certain amount of luck in the world. I do believe there are different types of luck. One type is the old 'the more I practice the luckier I get' type, which is the only luck you can control. Then there's the 'OMG, look, someone's dropped a walletful of CASH. Dinner's on me!' which is the right place at the right time sort of luck. Then there's 'the stars aligning, the sheer forces of the cosmos coming to your aid ably assisted by quite a few battalions of archangels' type of luck. Basically the sort of luck which, in an ordered universe, really shouldn't be allowed.
So, it was in that order of things I received this email yesterday.

Gaumont embraces Devil's Kiss

Gaumont International Television (GIT), the new Los Angeles-based scripted TV arm of the French movie studio, has teamed up with The Walking Dead's exec producer Gale Anne Hurd for its latest project.
GIT, which launched in September under former NBC Entertainment executive VP of drama programming Katie O'Connell, has acquired rights to Devil's Kiss, a series of young adult novels by Sarwat Chadda from the UK.
Hurd will exec-produce a miniseries based on the books, together with Stephen Gallagher (The Eleventh Hour), who will pen the adaptation.
Devil's Kiss tells the story of a modern teenage girl raised by her father to become a member of an ancient order of knights, drawing on the mythology of the Knights Templar and the Crusades. Beatrice Springborn, who joined Hurd's Valhalla Entertainment as executive VP of production and development last year, picked up the project. The books and TV series will appeal to fans of Twilight and True Blood, according to GIT CEO O'Connell.
"We wanted to work with the incredible Gale Ann Hurd and were so happy that she presented us this novel. We read it and fell in love with the story's scope and emotional resonance," said O'Connell. "I had worked with Stephen Gallagher in the past and he had such a fresh and wonderful take on how to transition this to a television show."
GIT, which brought former Power executive Erik Pack onboard to head international sales and coproductions, will be pitching Devil's Kiss to broadcasters in the UK in the coming weeks.
Hurd (Terminator, Aliens), who is also currently developing a series based on the novels of former UK MP Jeffrey Archer - as reported by C21 recently - said of her latest project: "I couldn't be more excited to work with the Gaumont team on Devil's Kiss. We share the same vision for Sarwat Chadda's books. Bili, the central character, is a unique heroine, and her epic adventures make her ideal for a television series."
Devil's Kiss will be the third project that GIT has put into development after announcing its arrival on the scene ahead of Mipcom, where it debuted Hannibal, a one-hour drama based on Thomas Harris's Dr Hannibal Lector novels, which was picked up by NBC earlier this months.
Also in the works at GIT is Madame Tussaud, a six-hour miniseries about the famous artist and business woman who survived the French Revolution. Michael Hirst (The Tudors) will executive-produce with Alan Gasmer and Sherry Marsh.

I mean, HOLEY MOLEY, right? It's still got a few hurdles (and big ones) to jump before we have Billi on the screen but, sheesh, I never, ever thought it would get this far. Remember, I thought we'd be lucky to be able to buy a new carpet with my first book deal (which we did too, very nice, from John Lewis but, blimey, it was a chore and a half to get it fitted).
So, there are MANY people who have moved heaven and earth to get the celestial bodies in the right place to make this happen. I mean Sarah Davies (of course), Jerry Kalajian, Gale Anne Hurd (big fan-boy moment when I met her!), Beatrice Springborn and the GIT crew. You're all invited around mine for Christmas lunch. We're having the traditional Murgh Mussallam.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Guest review from my mate Cameron!

Dune. Arrakis. Desert world. Either these terms will rock your very existence or you're sitting there going 'was that the movie with Sting is silver-winged underpants?'
Well, yes it was.

I'm one of those who wished he knew the weirding way, that his eyes were blue in blue and, god-damnit, wanted to be a Fremen.

But... some time ago I got into a twitter chat with LdySkyfire and recommended she read Dune, and watch the movie. The review below is teh result. Just for fun, folks!

Cameron’s Review of Dune by Frank Herbert
From the Blog Whatthecatread.wordpress.com

Book description by Goodreads

This Hugo & Nebula Award winner tells a sweeping tale of the desert planet Arrakis, the focus of an intricate power struggle in a byzantine interstellar empire. Arrakis is the sole source of Melange, "spice of spices". Melange is necessary for interstellar travel & grants psi powers & longevity. Whoever controls it wields great influence. Troubles begin when stewardship of Arrakis is transferred by the Emperor from the Harkonnen Noble House to House Atreides. The Harkonnens don't want to give up their privilege. Thru sabotage & treachery they cast young Duke Paul Atreides out into the planet's harsh environment to die. There he joins the Fremen, a desert dwelling tribe, the basis of the army with which he reclaims what's rightfully his. Paul is more than just a usurped duke. He might be the end product of a long-term genetic experiment to breed a superhuman. He might be a messiah. His struggle is at the center of a nexus of powerful people & events. Repercussions will be felt throughout the Imperium.


I will be honest; I’ve known about this book’s existence for years, but never had any interest in reading it. In fact, I have gone out of my way not to read it because I’m generally not a big fan of straight science fiction. However, when author Sarwat Chadda told me in a tongue in cheek way to read this book else our friendship would be in jeopardy, I decided to give it a try. Generally when I get a challenge like that, I follow through on it.

So what were my thoughts on this book upon finishing it? Well it was an interesting read. While I liked various parts of it, other parts were just boring. And yes, perhaps my dislike of straight science fiction clouded my feelings and made it impossible to read with an unbiased eye, but in the long run, the book just simply didn’t do much for me.

The ideas behind the Bene Gesserit teachings and the Fremen way of life I found immensely intriguing. The Litany against Fear especially caught my eye and left me thinking. In truth it was the thoughtful, intellectual moments in the book that were the most enjoyable for me. Herbert poses some truly deep philosophical ideas within this novel and those ideas held my interest far more than the actual plot of the story. Try as I might, I just didn’t care what happened to the characters or the power struggle between political houses. And once Paul became the “messiah”, I lost what little respect I felt towards him.

At the same time, I struggled with Herbert’s writing style. To me it was dry and extremely confusing. The general pacing of events took far to long and often times I found myself wanting to scream, “Get on with it already!” Not that that would have done much good. In fact, by the time I finished with the story itself, I chose to completely skip the appendices and glossary. Plus, the inner monologues just killed me. Almost all of Herbert’s characters engage in inner contemplation to the point where it was overkill.

Yes, Herbert created a world that truly was unique, however the actual story just didn’t work for me. I’ve heard that it has been compared to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d go with Tolkien long before I’d ever choose Herbert.

Cameron’s Review of Dune (1984 Movie) directed by David Lynch
From the Blog Whatthecatread.wordpress.com

Thank heaven’s I listened to the folks who told me to read the book before I watched this movie. Had I gone the other way around, I fear I would have been completely lost. Never in my life have I seen a movie more disjointed in its telling then this one. It felt like there were no transitions between major events, and the few transitions that were there were flat and poorly explained.

The use of the inner monologues, which run throughout the novel, were poorly dubbed and did little to enhance the plot. And the portrayal of the Harkonnen Baron was disturbing to say the least. In truth, the first time he appears in the movie, I had to fight the overwhelming desire to turn the TV off. True, the actual character in the book is not entirely mentally stable, but to physically see that instability depicted in a movie is just beyond creepy. At least with Sting’s character it was more a matter of physical appearance then actions. Sting has a truly wonderful psychotic facial expression through the movie.

For a movie that was produced in 1984, the special effects were well done. Nowadays most folks would consider the quality of the effects cheesy, but the depiction of the shield-filters worked well with what I had envisioned them to look like when I read the book. I will admit that the space creature who was responsible for folding time and space made absolutely no sense to me. I couldn’t figure out what it was suppose to be and at this point, I don’t think I want anyone to try and explain it because it will more than likely just make my brain hurt.

The best bit of casting, besides Sting as the deranged Feyd-Rautha, was Patrick Stewart as Gurney. I only wish there had been more of him as I really liked his portrayal of the character.

So, if you are considering watching this movie but don’t know anything about Dune in general, I will offer the same advice that folks gave me, read the book first. Trust me, it will make more sense in the long run if you do.