Several hundred people including friends of mine have been spending an intense weekend of serious sci-fi action in one of the more glamorous hotspots of the North Wales Riviera. Whilst I have not felt the need or desire to partake I do claim some form of kinship. Sci-fi in its many forms has long formed a background to my life. I do not claim to have any sort of in-depth knowledge or be able to make meaningful contribution to a conversation on whether fantasy is a genre on its own or a sub genre, I have absolutely no idea or interest where Wizards, Vampires, Werewolves and Elves sit in any form of hierarchy – if indeed they do.
My engagement with lands of fantasy and myth began at an early age when some of my most favoured reading was around Norse legends – heavily supplemented by Sunday Tea Time viewing of Noggin the Nog. From this I graduated to exploring my father’s library, and here started a life long relationship with space ships, aliens and the quest to understand and discover the universe.
My Dad had a fascination with the unknown, as we traveled overnight to holiday destinations in Devon and Cornwall he would plan our route to include a detour via Warminster on the off-chance we spot a UFO. Our bookshelves were filled with works by Asimov, John Wyndham, Arthur C Clarke – whose epic TV programme Mysterious World – complete with iconic beach and umbrella was required viewing for the whole family . As we scoured the local library for my personal favourite Ray Bradbury, Dad graduated to examining the works of catastrophists such as Velikovsky, and we were taken along for the ride.
I can ( and this will show my age) remember the very first episode of Doctor Who with William Hartnell, DW was a non negotiable spot in the viewing schedule for many years. These were the days before video recording when negotiation techniques worthy of international conflict resolution took place to make sure the whole family managed to get a glimpse of their favourites from the extensive programming across two (non 24 hour) black and white tv channels. The same was true as soon as Star Trek hit the air waves and I well remember watching every episode as a family, as I do travelling to Manchester to see 2001 Space Odyssey rather than waiting for it to hit the suburbs.
Over the years my tastes in literature. film and tv have changed, but I am still a sucker for a good intelligent bit of Sci Fi – I ‘ve been through Star Wars still 4, 5, and 6 for me. I’ve ditched Star Trek for Stargate, flirted with Babylon 5, rushed home from work to make sure I didn’t miss Blake’s Seven, loved the underrated and misunderstood Sapphire and Steel, stayed up all night for the moon landings and followed Apollo missions, lived through an X Files obsession, done Battlestar Galactica in both incarnations and for me Robert Powell will always be Toby Wren of Doomwatch.
Literature wise I’ve moved through spin-off fiction, read good and bad fantasy – got part way through Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, flitted in and out of good and bad trilogies and sagas and found my way to Anne McCaffrey and her singing ships, overcrowded planets and of course her fabulous dragons and their riders.
Visually, Blade Runner is up there in my top ten films of all time alongside Close Encounters with a nod to Midwich Cuckoos/Village of the Damned. For me good stuff doesn’t need overblown CGI, I still remember being spooked by The Quatermass Experiment, its about the story and how it grabs the imagination and I’m off to Amazon now to check out whats looking good…