Once again, I have hit a weekly deadline for this letter. Wonders may never cease.
It has been a weird week. School starts back on Monday, so this has felt like the last week of the longest school holiday ever. I am battling a back-to-school feeling, even though I’m going nowhere. Obviously I understand the value of education and importance of schooling and all that jazz, but I’ve really liked having the kid at home and I will miss her when she goes back to being a teenager with all her mates, and that sullen teenage attitude, which has all-but vanished over the last few months, returns with a vengeance.
Preparations are underway to record Season 3 of the podcast, titled The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Writing this essentially became my lockdown project and it has been a struggle at times to focus on it, but I think the end result is pretty good. This is going to be the last part of the story for the foreseeable future, so there was a big responsibility to stick the landing in a satisfying way that is also in keeping with the tone of the story and the source material. Hopefully I’ve achieved that. We start recording remotely on the 5th September and then move out onto location for a few days after the weekend. The regular cast are all back and there are some great new voices lined up for this season. I’m really looking forward to taking a break from writing to actually make something.
In other podcast news, my company Storypunk has got full-funding for its first podcast series. I don’t want to say too much about it at the moment, save that it’s a sci-fi show with a time travel element. I’m writing the pilot right now and have put together a writers room for the first season.
Storypunk also has another podcast series in development and five pilots in the works, which we’ll be going out for financing on soon. In addition, we have a feature film of my radio play “Bad Memories” to set up. All of this was achieved during lockdown, thanks to the awesome power of Basecamp.
I read the novella “Chess” by Stefan Zweig the other day. It’s a fantastic account of obsession, almost a horror story.
I’m now into “London Game” by Len Deighton, which I have never read (when Deighton was at the height of his powers, I was still a kid obsessed with James Bond). Deighton is incredibly good at making the job of espionage feel like any other office job and he gives almost equal weight to his protagonist’s domestic life. There’s no glamour in Deighton’s espionage world, and the danger is mostly under-played; you can sense it’s there, but an unauthorised trip over the Wall into East Berlin plays more like an inconvenience than an adventure. If you’re a fan of the Slough House novels, you should really check out Len Deighton.
In an effort to do something useful about my prose style, I bought John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4”, which is a set of essays on writing non-fiction, and a gigantic tome called “Garner’s Modern English Usage”, which was much discussed in Season 1, Episode 3 of Michael Lewis’s podcast “Against The Rules”.
At my daughter’s request, we sat down and watched “IT”, Chapters 1 and 2, over the weekend. Having heard from a lot of horror fans that these were not great, I was pleasantly surprised. Although I’m not sure I’d ever class them as horror movies; they seem to have more in common with “The Goonies” or “Stranger Things”. The character stuff is very good. The monster stuff is fun (Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise is great). It’s a gory movie, but at no point were any of us really scared. I think the story lets itself down by explaining its monster, but I often think that about Stephen King and no one else ever agrees with me. There’s a nice running gag in Chapter 2 about the author character being bad at endings, and King himself even makes a cameo to take part in the joke.
I listen to music pretty much all day when I’m working (I use Roon as my desktop player, because I have a lot of hi-res FLAC files), and I recently bought an audio interface to enable home recording of podcast material, so it seemed like the right time to finally upgrade my speakers. I therefore ordered a set of Adam Audio T7V monitor speakers, which arrived this week. These speakers are HUGE and look pretty ridiculous sitting on my desk but they sound completely amazing and they make music something that envelopes you when you’re working, like wearing a pair of really good headphones, rather than something that just sits in the background, merging with the traffic noise from outside. Hi-Res music files, particularly, sound so detailed and immersive now.
A few interesting bits and pieces from the archive: