Rik Hoskin’s latest story, plus an interview about White Sands. Plus a little news about my websites

No time for a catchy post title I’m afraid but I’ve got a few bit of news about myself and my friend Rik Hoskin.

Rik first! His latest short story has been published in Cosmic Horror Magazine, entitled The Invincible. It is available in print or digital format. Cosmic Horror, stories in which humans encounter vast, terrifying and often uncaring creatures or forces is intrinsically linked with the works of HP Lovecraft and his alien elder gods. These beings often act through unknowable motives, have dimensions which the protagonists find hard to comprehend and there is often a theme that we mortals almost without the monsters being aware of them. Aside from Lovecraft, another favourite of mine from this genre is The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. More recently, it has been interestingly suggested that the award-winning television series of Chernobyl had horror overtones and could be an example of a new kind of cosmic horror, with radiation as the uncaring, unstoppable monster.

Rik has also given a excellent video interview to a Spanish website dedicated to Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe. Talking to Tamara of cosmere.es Rik talks about adapting Sanderson’s manuscript White Sand into a series of successful graphic novels, working on other Brandon Sanderson properties, and his working process. He also talks about his career, including Deathlands, Disney comics, Game of Khans and his own original novel Bystander 27.

In other news I have moved the website of my Very British Futures podcast to a new permanent home. You can find it at https://westlakefilms.uk/verybritishfutures/

Similarly the website for my old Doctor Who audios from the 90’s can be found at https://westlakefilms.uk/fineline/

Weird Weird West

The wild west is one of the USA’s greatest creations. Based on historical fact, but the legend, landscape and characters have grown into a defacto fantasy kingdom. One that is big enough to hold many kinds of stories, from simple white hat/black hat children’s adventures, to gritty period drama to out and out horror. That’s where Card Trumps enter the picture with their latest pair of card games – Weird West – a easy to play Trumps style game featuring real life personalities mixed with hideous monsters, each realised with lurid artwork from Tim Brown and droll descriptions from Rik Hoskin.

Horror and the sinister works well in the West because it is already a harsh environment, where death can be sudden, a character can be isolated away from help, and it’s believable that there are unknown regions, or even bizarre creatures like Bigfoot. A theme of horror is the modern world coming up against ancient terrors and evils that its characters are trying to put behind them. The colonisation of the west is often that classic drama of an old life fighting back against a modern European civilisation with new kinds of danger. Putting monsters from the old country like vampires and zombies into the land of Stetsons and Colt 45 Peacemakers has novelty appeal too. Most of my references are movie based and amongst notable entries in this sub-genre are the anthology Grim Prarie Tales, Dead Birds, and Ravenous. There was also DC’s western occult hero Jonah Hex, television cult series Wild Wild West (forget the movie) and many of the works of horror author Joe R Lansdale.

Two cards from the pack
That tank looks kinda familiar

Long time readers of this blog will already be familiar with the work of Hoskin and Brown from their previous packs of Horror Cards, inspired by Top Trumps infamous Horror packs released in the Seventies. They’ve been extremely well received and this latest range has already achieved its Kickstarter minimum but there’s still time to pledge money and get hold of your own sets and some attractive stretch goals. I was sent some preview samples and can confidently it is well up to the standard of their previous titles.

You can learn more over at their Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/terrortrumps/weird-west-terror-trumps-two-new-top-quality-horror-packs

Happy trails!

Fantasy Trumps card game – The World of Talamander

Hope you have had a Happy Easter. I’m delighted to spread the word that Rik Hoskin and Tim Brown, the creators of the Terror Trumps card games I’ve talked about before on this blog, have just launched a new Kickstarter campaign for Fantasy Trumps.

Set in the medieval fantasy kingdom of Talamander, the 36 cards depict heroes, monsters, wizards, fare folk and their kin. All illustrated in the glorious retro style of the previous Terror cards and featuring Rik’s witty mini-bios. Not only that but they’re compatible with the earlier card games too.

Fantasy Trumps Promotional Video

Their first two Kickstarter campaigns were a great success and I’m wishing them all the best for this third release. You can learn more about the game and offers for supporters by visiting their Kickstarter page.

Manchester Indie Filmmakers Group

Two photos of Gareth Preston

It’s not often I get to talk to a real live audience, but this coming Wednesday 6pm 17 November 2021 I’ll be at Manchester’s Central Library to talk to the Manchester Indie Filmmakers Group about my career to date, with an emphasis on my audio and podcasting work. It should be a fairly informal event and free to attend. If you are interested, please check out their Facebook page for more details.

Gareth Preston is our guest speaker for this weeks meeting. Gareth is a writer and blogger with his own podcast series and regularly contributes reviews for the “Talking Pictures TV” podcast. Gareth has been involved in a variety of films and Theatre productions. A fascinating evening for anyone interested in audio , social media or how to get your own series recognised in the vast arena of Social Network.

Of course my association with MIFG goes back quite a long way. I have starred in several of Nigel Anderson’s films, including Angel Snow and The Diary of Anne Frank. Nigel, and regular collaborator Brian Clark were also my guests for the first edition of Very British Futures and I looking forward to having them back next year in the podcast to talk about A for Andromeda.

Elsewhere, Tripodscast goes from strength to strength with episode 3, looking at the original book The Pool of Fire. I know Rebecca, John and Dani have some interesting ideas for later instalments, including some exclusive interviews.

Examples of the new Terror Trumps cards

The Kickstarter campaign for the second wave of Terror Trumps collectable playing cards has already off to a roaring start, already at 144% support. My friend Rik Hoskin writes:
“We’re roughly halfway through the funding period for these Terror Trumps cards, and, as I write these words, we’re about to unlock our first stretch goal–free art prints for everyone! ┬áIf we reach 100 funders we’ll unlock even more free prints which will also go to everyone, because we want everybody to get as much out of this as we have… and we are having the time of our lives!”

I’ve seen a preview set of the cards and they are if possible even better than the first wave. If you want your own packs, plus some exclusive extras, visit their campaign page today.

Hope you are having a great November. Thanks for looking in.

Hosting the Talking Pictures podcast and more

Hope you are well. A quick round up of several pieces of interesting news.

Firstly, I am hosting the latest episode of the Official Talking Pictures TV podcast which has just been release, covering the Talking Pictures schedule for second half of October. For non-UK readers, Talking Pictures is marvellous, family run independent UK television channel which shows vintage movies from the 30’s to the 80’s. The podcast was started by Adam Roche, the genius behind the podcasts Attaboy Clarence and The Secret History of Hollywood. Later he handed into the capable hands of Scott Phipps, Mel Byron and Daniel Reifferscheid who’ve been doing a marvellous job since. But they deserve a break, so several regular contributors including myself are handling an episode each.

So I was sent MP3’s of the guest reviews and it was up to me to edit them into a programme, providing the linking material and adding some extra thumbnail reviews. Juggling that with my other work has been a challenge but happily I was able to clear an evening to put it together. Basically trying not to drop the ball. In this show you can hear reviews of films like Mona Lisa, Leave Her to Heaven and The Quatermass Xperiment. You can download it from this link or listen on all the major podcast apps.

https://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/show/talkingpicturestvpodcast/id/20827100


Excellent news from my mate Rik Hoskin. His graphic novel Only Death Can Save Us won the Indie Volt Award from Best Graphic Novel of 2021.  Rik adds “I say ‘my’ when really it’s mostly Russ Leach’s work, I just provided the script! Book 2 has just launched crowdfunding on indiegogo, so the award came at a good time!”

You can find out more about both books at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/only-death-can-save-us-book-2-techstone#/


Another friend and a splendid guest on the debut episode of my podcast Very British Futures, Nigel Anderson, has been busy on his own video podcast Doctor Who – Most Wanted and episode 3 is on Youtube now. He’s joined by VBF regular John Isles to talk about the Dalek stories, especially the missing or unmade episodes. It’s just as polished as the first episodes and well recommended.

Podcasts, Superheroes, and Dick Barton

Dick Barton logo

It’s getting busier as a new academic year looms and the UK slowly brings itself back to normality after more than a year of lockdowns and distancing. I’ve reached that stage where I am having to be careful about how I manage my time and future plans, but that’s really a good state of affairs to be in.

The Very British Futures podcast has been a great success and definitely the most fulfilling project I’ve been involved in for a long while. It’s been great to reconnect with some old friends and make some new ones along the way. Plus I’ve enjoyed the speed of the production process too. So it will be a wrench to take a break but I need to to concentrate on the final year of my BSc apprenticeship. Season 1 will be ending with a look at Outcasts and a reunion of three regular contributors. Season 2 will be coming in the Spring of 2022 and will feature another wide spread of British programmes, from Day of the Triffids to The Comic Strip. Thanks to all the blog readers who have supported it.

Rik Hoskin’s novel Bystander 27 has made a good debut. You can read my review on the blog. For newcomers it’s a fresh take on the superhero genre, looking at what it is like to live as an ordinary New Yorker in a city that seems to constantly under attack by super criminals, invasions from other dimensions, and power crazed scientists. Whilst Captain Light and The Jade Shade fight in the air above Manhattan one day, it’s business as usual for Jon Hayes, ex-soldier, and his pregnant wife Melanie, Until a burning helicopter thrown from the sky crushes Melanie in front of her husband. Grief starts Jon asking questions about the whole pantheon of superbeings. Why are there unnamed leagues of minor and major superheroes who only fight enemies at their ‘level’? Who can hold people like The Mechanic to account? Why is the world imperiled once a year by a threat that can only be defeated by a large team up? As Jon delves deeper he’s shocked to find his search coming painfully close to home.

The nature of modern publishing being what it is, reviews and social media are significant indicators that what publishers’ keep an eye. So not only do I recommend the book, if you have read it or do in the future, if you can leave a short review on Amazon etc. or just tweet your thoughts, it can really help. You can buy Bystander 27, a standalone fantasy novel from all good bookshops.

Man serving a woman at a counter

Unusually, some news from my day job. Manchester Metropolitan University’s Brooks Resource Centre was recently featured as a model of good practice by the National Technician Development Centre. You can read an article about where I work on the website, and see the above lovely picture of myself and fellow technician Lucy (pretending to be a customer).

After a long hiatus, Bolton’s amateur theatre scene is coming back to life. I’m currently involved getting the sound together for Bolton Little Theatre’s first production of the season Dick Barton – Special Agent. It’s quite a challenge since as well as the needs of this play, I am also putting the sound deck back together again and upgrading it too. But it will be ready for 13th September.


Dick Barton – Special Agent is a fast-moving comedy, affectionately mocking the famous 30’s/40’s hero of radio, TV and film, as he and his sidekicks Snowy and Jock battle Evil Foreigners In London (EFIL) and their plan to drug the nation with cannabis-laced tea. Running 13-18th September 2021. You can book online now.

Although I have stopped linking to every review, I am still a regular reviewer on the Talking Pictures TV podcast. The station has gone from strength to strength, with an increasing amount of vintage British television joining their film library. Their Saturday Morning Pictures programming has been a big success, and they are hoping for equal reaction to their new Friday night cult film nights, The Cellar Club, hosted by Caroline Munro. I review the first night on the current podcast, which includes Hammer’s The Mummy and nudie flick How to Get Undressed in Public. Available, like Very British Futures, on all major podcasting platforms.

Recently I had the pleasure of guesting on The Randomiser podcast, talking about Doctor Who and Red Dwarf with Tim Reid and Chas Auchterlonie. The time flew by and hopefully the episode will be out soon. In the meantime you can check out this excellent banter pod at randomiserpodcast.buzzsprout.com

In further podcast news, my friends and VBF contributors John, Dani and Rebecca will shortly be starting Tripodscast, all about the classic BBC SF show and perfect if we’ve intrigued you with our recent coverage. Nicky Smalley is also going into the podcast business with Unended, a show pondering what happened next to the fictional lives of characters in popular TV shows.

I’ll be back soon with more on Outcasts soon and other theatre news. Thanks for reading.

Very British Futures – Threads

A definite change of tone for this episode and possibly the most serious drama I’ll be covering in the series. Not to mention being a BAFTA award winning production. Threads is Mick Jackson and Barry Hines’ coal-black spectre at the feast of television. A dramatic portrayal of the effect of nuclear war on Britain, including the then new theory of a nuclear winter. What makes Threads such a shocking watch is not the graphic radiation injuries, the shootings or the wrecked towns and cities, it is the complete loss of hope, kindness and any kind of compassionate humanity. As far as this film is concerned, not only will the immediate survivors be quickly reduced to merely surviving, but their descendants will be barely be better than stunted savages.

Before that grim, almost surreal last act, the film is an expertly written and produced drama documentary, full of well-observed Northern characters and believable detail, as Sheffield City Council prepares for a possible attack, whilst the populace get on with their lives, feeling helpless and detached from the news of conventional war in the Middle East.

To discuss Threads I was glad to invite Rik Hoskin, writer across many platforms from award-winning comics to novels by way of games and audios, and Andrew S. Roe-Crines, lecturer in political science at Liverpool University. The latter has already contributed to my Tripods episode.

Find out about Andrew’s forthcoming book Corbynism in Perspective.

Read Andrew’s article on the recent Labour leadership battle, “Selecting Starmer” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00344893.2021.1927809

And of course Rik is no stranger to this blog.

Cast:
Karen Meagher – Ruth Beckett
Henry Moxon – Mr Beckett
June Broughton – Mrs Beckett
Reece Dinsdale – Jimmy Kemp
David Brierly – Mr Kemp
Rita May – Mrs Kemp
Harry Beety – Mr Sutton
Ashley Barker – Bob
Phil Rose – Medical Officer
Michael O’Hagan – Chief Supt. Hirst
Steve Halliwell – Information Officer
Brian Grellis – Accommodation Officer
Peter Faulkner – Transport Officer
Anthony Collin – Food Officer

Producer and Director – Mick Jackson
Writer – Barry Hines

You can listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, Listen Notes and many more platforms. You can also download it from this very page.

Very British Futures – Threads

If you do listen to it on a platform that encourages feedback, we would love a review. Or share a link. Many thanks for reading.

Doctor Who Most Wanted Episode One

Television and logo

Shortly before I started out making my own podcast series, I took part in Nigel J Anderson’s own video podcast Doctor Who Most Wanted, alongside Brian M Clarke. The same line-up would meet again online a couple of weeks later to record the first episode of Very British Futures.

Brian, Nigel & Gareth on Skype
, Nigel

Now that podcast is available on Youtube and I urge you to watch, especially if you have been enjoying Very British Futures. The focus of this episode is on reconstructions of missing episodes, both official and fan-made. I knew Nigel had ambitious ideas but I’ve been taken aback with how polished and visually entertaining the episode has turned out, thanks to the many hours he has put into it, to turn a Skype chat into a proper half hour episode.

Where possible the Skype footage is enlivened with CGI illustrations, alongside an animated clip of the unmade William Hartnell story Masters of Luxor, a clip from Nigel’s live action recreation of the opening chapters of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, plus other animations.

We cover quite a range of topics in course of the episode, including a look back at The Stranger series starring Colin Baker, the recent animated Troughton stories, and what stories we would especially like to be returned to the BBC archive.

Visit Youtube to watch the episode.

In other news, there is still a little time to take part in Rik Hoskin’s Terror Trumps Kickstarter campaign and get a copy of his marvelous 70’s retro horror card game. If you want to learn more, take a look at their Kickstarter page http://kck.st/3bLx6zm

Son of Terror

Spread of horror trump cards

Grisly, lurid artwork. An array of horror fiends, both classic and original. Yes it is the return of Rik Hoskin, Tim Brown and Chatri Ahpornsiri’s labour of love Terror Trumps a card game which is also a homage to the classic Seventies Top Trumps Horror packs. I wrote about this project a few months ago. Now I’m the proud possessor (ho ho) of the enhanced version 2.0. Not only do many of the cards feature fresh characters and new art, but each carries a witty description by Rik too. Plus they’ve introduced more power-up cards too.

If you would learn more, take a look at their Kickstarter page http://kck.st/3bLx6zm

I really hope this imaginative project gets the support it deserves.

Horror in a Pack – Hot Trumps

Horror and childhood are closely linked. Not just because we are having the formative experiences that future storytellers will be tapping into for the rest of our lives, but because children are paradoxically one of the major markets for terror filled merchandise. Halloween is around the corner and the supermarkets are full of gaping mouthed zombies, scowling skeletons and howling ghosts, all aimed at the family market. Plenty of toy franchises have their share of monsters. Harry Potter is infused with fairytale gothic. Nineties children made Goosebumps a phenomena. Eighties kids could enjoy Freddy Kruger replica gloves and dolls. But I’m a child of the Seventies and let me tell you we had some messed up merchandise aimed at us, material which somehow seemed a lot closer to the horror aimed at the supposed adult end of the market. Writers and artists on comics like Misty, Scream and 2000AD deliberately tried to get away with as much as they could when it comes to disturbing stories and illustrating them. Children’s television drew from the visual language of Hammer and its rivals. Even the public information films wanted to scare us. Merchandise like the infamous Aurora horror model kits, including one of a screaming girl known only as The Victim! Whilst at school we were playing Top Trumps, which included two marvellous Horror sets. Now Rik Hoskin, Tim Brown and Chatri Ahpornsiri have paid homage to these inspired games with their very own Horror Hot Trumps.

The original Horror and Horror 2 sets were distinguished by wonderfully lurid artwork printed in bright four-colour comic strip style. Blood spurted from victims as monsters attacked them. Everything rendered with dark dramatic inks, the artwork could be ugly, but that was part of its energy. They were recently reprinted by Winning Moves in new retro editions. Just in case you have not come across them, it’s a simple card game where players draw a card, compare stats and player with the highest value wins the round and the other’s cards. Eventually the winner owns all the cards, although in practice when a game dragged on and we got bored, a majority was accepted. Aircraft, football players, motorcycles were typical subjects. Now with these set we could compare the merits of the Madman (killing power 69) against The Living Skull (killing power 63) or The Sorcerer (killing power 72). But Top Trumps had a secret weapon of collectibility. Long before Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, its maker knew enjoyment came as much from flipping through a pack to read their info. For a generation of young fear fans raised on Saturday night TV double bills, and Dennis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, we loved the artwork, not least because we could often recognise the famous publicity stills which the artist had cribbed from. For a Doctor Who fan like myself there was the bonus of seeing a Sea Devil carrying a blood drenched axe, here renamed Venusian Death Cell, or a Daemon now employed as a Fire Demon.

Some of the delights inside Horror Hot Trumps

Hot Trumps is labour of love by Rik Hoskin, multi-media writer and no stranger to this blog, and comic strip artists Tim Brown and Chatri Ahpornsiri. I received a promo pack of Horror this weekend and I love them. Designed to played in their own right or mixed in with the Top Trumps originals, they perfectly capture the gleeful, gory style and humour of the Seventies cards. Amongst my favourites in this set are Martian Machine (horror power 90), Raw Rex (Fright Factor 80) and Dracula’s Daughter (Physical Strength 69).

If you would like a set of your own, the team will be unleashing a Kickstarter very soon. You can find out more by visiting their new website http://hottrumps.com/ and joining the mailing list.


Rik’s having a busy month, not least because he’s still been on the publicity trail for his new novel Bystander 27. He’s written articles for The Nerd Daily and File 770. He’s been interviewed by Roni Gosch for the Litcast of Doom podcast about his marvellous tribute to the Silver Age of comics.

Perhaps most impressively he’s now on YouTube, in conversation with Pierce Brown, author of the New York Times bestselling Red Rising SF series. Talking about Rik’s Bystander 27, and their collaboration on the Red Rising: Sons of Ares comic book series, as well as taking questions from the audience. Enjoy. It was organised by publishers Angry Robot. And read Bystander 27 if you haven’t already.

Hands across the Atlantic