A Life Of Fiction LXXXVI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

 

Gas-lamp fantasy, steampunk and Victorian adventure on the television and in other media: I have mentioned some of my favourite films and programmes in the past, such as the wonderful Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which Granada Television did absolutely yonks ago. But there are others which deserve consideration for those of us interested in such things. As I can’t think of anything new and interesting to say about my writing this post I may as well spend a few words discussing them.

 

Ripper Street: I try to like this programme, as it is set in London, at the same period in time as a lot of my novels. It is obviously well-researched: there are no obvious anachronisms. Yet, for some reason, it has not yet grabbed me. That seems to be the case with a lot of people, and is the reason that it was cancelled by the BBC (I understand that a third series will appear on the internet).

Perhaps it is the fact that it is sometimes just a little bit too grim. There is no light touch here. Yes, I know that London, in those times, was pretty depressing if you were at the poor end of society. But that does not necessarily make good television.

If this is repeated by the BBC I must give it a second chance, as I only watched a few of the episodes.

 

The Murdoch Mysteries: This, on the other hand, is excellent, and illustrates how to do a perfect crime drama set in the 1890s. There is a lightness of touch to this programme which is not evident with Ripper Street.

For those unfamiliar with the programme, it is set in Canada in the 1890s, around Detective Murdoch, played by Yannick Bisson. If there is a famous person who was around in that period, and who visited Canada, then there is a chance that they might appear on this show: we have had people play Arthur Conan Doyle (as he was then) and Nikola Tesla.

A lot of the murders deal with the beginnings of what would become forensic science. X-Rays, recently discovered by Röntgen, are used (marking this as being in the mid 1890s). Chemistry features more than once. Ballistics featured in an episode; and fingerprints are collected at the insistence of Murdoch, though this was a science in its infancy 9and not yet proven that no two individuals did not share a set of prints).

There is a nod towards the fantastical, as well, although all of the explanations fall within the realm of science. One murder appears to have been committed by a werewolf. Another appears to have been committed by an automaton. But Murdoch always manages to discover the truth, however obscure it might initially appear to be.

I have watched this programme with a critical eye, as I have written a lot of tales set in a similar period (albeit in Britain, rather than Canada). In the first two seasons I could only spot one very tiny little error. This really is very well-researched, and does evoke the period.

I understand that this programme is called The Artful Detective in the States. I’ve heard that they have made a bit of a mess by re-editing it, as well. Why mess with something which works?

They’ve only shown the first two series, so far, on Freeview. I’m hoping that they will eventually show the rest. I really do recommend this series for anybody interested in the late Victorian era. Go check it out.

 

Penny Dreadful: I haven’t managed to watch this programme yet, as it is not on Freeview. I’m hoping that it may come to Freeview one day, as it sounds interesting. Some reviews of it have not been all that great, though. But I will make up my own mind should I ever get to see it.

I like the idea of this television programme. I like the idea of all of the characters such as Dorian Gray and Frankenstein and all the rest.

Maybe I should pick this up on DVD so that I can do a proper review of it. You can’t really discuss something which you have never seen.

 

The League of Extra-ordinary Gentlemen: Am I the only person who thinks that parts of this film are excellent? Yes, it is flawed. But so are some diamonds.

The film is an adaptation of a comic written by Alan Moore. I’ve got the first four issues of the comic, but I gave up collecting it when I could not obtain the next issue. I really wished that I had kept with this comic, as I am a massive Alan Moore fan.

Alan Moore hates this film adaptation of his work. But Alan Moore hates all film adaptations of his work. He does have a point with films like Swamp Thing, which is truly dire. But some of the set scenes in this film are great, such as on the Nautilus. I just wish that the studios had not shoe-horned Tom Sawyer into the movie. The money men at the studios apparently insisted that there be at least one American hero in the film. They didn’t think that American audiences would go along to see a group of British heroes. If I was an American cinema-goer I would be rather offended by that – it suggests that Americans are all innately anti-Brit. It is something which I know not to be true.

Moore does have a point, to a certain extent, as there are some changes between the comic and this adaptation. Some of those changes do not improve the work. But I’m an Alan Moore fan.

The film is set at the end of the nineteenth century. A group of heroes have to be assembled to stop a great evil, promulgated by a character known as the Phantom (not connected with the pulp hero based in Africa). The heroes are Tom Sawyer (why?), Allan Quatermain (played by Sean Connery), Mr Hyde (or Henry Jekyll), the Invisible Man (Mark II), Dorian Grey, Captain Nemo, and Mina Harker. I won’t give away any more details of the film, as I don’t want to spoil it for anybody.

Check out the film, if you haven’t seen it, the next time that it is on the television. Or you can always check out the much superior comic.

 

The Robert Downey Junior Sherlock Holmes: I like Sherlock Holmes. And I like Robert Downey Junior. I thought that the Iron Man movies were fine. But I am not a massive fan of the two Sherlock Holmes movies which he has made. Oh, I love the setting, and they are both rollicking adventures. But I would have preferred the main hero to have been somebody other than the great detective. The Holmes of my mental adventures was the Holmes who solved problems with his mind, rather than his fists.

I think that the problem is not necessarily with the films, but because I tend to be a Sherlock Holmes purist. I like the canon, and I can find it annoying when somebody messes around with it. But that is just me.

I prefer the second film to the first. Perhaps it is because it has a better adversary. Holmes needs decent adversaries, although there have never ever been many people who could challenge his intellect. That was, perhaps, one of the few flaws in the original tales.

Will they do a third film? I suppose that it depends how successful the second film was. I want there to be more interpretations of the Sherlock Holmes stories, even if nothing will beat the 1980s Granada TV series.

I suppose that each generation has to reinterpret these stories, in some way, in order to keep them alive. From 1939 to 1946 you had the Basil Rathbone interpretation, which had the tales take place in what was then the modern day. I used to like these films when I was a kid. But now I find them almost embarrassing to watch. So my tastes change. Perhaps in some years I will think the Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes films to be works of genius.

 

Books: I mentioned other media, so here are a few steampunk books. I have only read a few of these. But I am reliably informed that all of these works are a good read.

 

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling: The Difference Engine.

Michael Moorcock: The Land Leviathan.

Michael Moorcock: The Warlord Of The Air.

Kim Newman: Anno Dracula.

 

Then there are a few comics or graphic novels:

 

Bryan Talbot: Grandville

Bryan Talbot: The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright

Phil and Kaja Foglio: Girl Genius

Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell: Sebastian O

Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill: The League of Extra-ordinary Gentlemen

 

Well, that’s enough for this post. Next time I’ll try to do something interesting about my writing. Yeah, right…

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