05 September 2017

The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

The granddaddy of all anthology shows: Rod Serling’s allegorical tales are still as powerful today as they were when they first aired over fifty years ago. It was sci-fi / fantasy in appearance, but was really dealing with contemporary concerns such as intolerance, McCarthyism, cold war paranoia and so on. And sometimes it just goes all-out to spook you.

The Year of the Sex Olympics (BBC, 1968)

This was a weird and wonderful satirical one-off TV play written by Nigel Kneale, the genius behind Quatermass (I could also have chosen Quatermass and the Pit, incidentally, as a brilliant piece of sci-fi-horror). The Year of the Sex Olympics is set in a dystopian future in which the population is kept in a state of docile laziness by perpetual exposure to willfully mindless entertainment. Our Fifteen Million Merits episode was heavily influenced by this.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams

I saw the BBC TV adaptation in the early 80s, then gobbled up all the books one-by-one. This was the perfect mix of Pythonesque humour and intergalactic road movie, fizzing with ideas and never taking itself remotely seriously.

On Writing

By Stephen King

One of the best books about writing I can think of. King wrote it while recuperating from an accident that almost killed him; it’s part-memoir, part-how-to guide: really practical, bullshit-free advice from a proper master. A big long pep talk that leaves you itching to hit the keyboard.

On Film-Making

By Alexander Mackendrick

A great companion piece to On Writing. Mackendrick directed Ealing comedies including The Man in the White Suit and The Ladykillers before crossing the Atlantic to make The Sweet Smell of Success. This book is a truly brilliant overview of the entire process of making films, from conception, to screenplay, to where to place the cameras – the whole shebang. Not enough people have heard of this book. But now you have, so you can run along and bloody well buy it.

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