Friday, 27 February 2015

A few thoughts on Leonard Nimoy

I’ve been meaning to write a new Star Trek blog for some time now. Tonight I have finally run out of excuses. For tonight is the night of Leonard Nimoy’s death. I will soon post about Star Trek (TOS) Season Two, but until then I must present a few words on a wonderful, underrated performer with a classy sense of humour.

The fact is that Leonard Nimoy played a crucial role in my development both as a viewer - because he kept surprising me - and as a writer, because he helped show me the great depth science fiction stories can have.

My first encounters weren’t encouraging. I think the first Trek movie I saw in the cinema was Star Trek 5 (which is an awful snooze no matter how you slice it) and shortly after I discovered his Bilbo Baggins music video. Neither created the impression of someone to be taken seriously. It was easy to dismiss him as little more than a vessel for those ears, the lucky bearer of an iconic part anyone could have played.

But he kept cropping up during those teenage years, that period of life when your taste really crystalises, and he kept startling me - offering excellent performances in places I didn’t expect to find them. He was such a revelation in Wrath of Khan (more of that later) that my friends and I sought out his other work. So it was we discovered Invasion of The Body Snatchers, a beautifully bleak science fiction remake, shaped around Donald Sutherland’s lead and Leonard’s cool, unflappable Doctor David Kibner.

Then there was TV. I had a deep affection for 70s Colombo during my late teens and early twenties, appreciating this most formulaic of formulaic shows mostly for its brilliant cars, clothes and reassuringly familiar devices. Occasionally there was an episode that did something a little special - usually marked by an outstanding performance. Leonard Nimoy guest starred in one such show, delivering a stony portrayal of a killer so calculating he actually causes Colombo to lose his cool - a rare occurrence of the detective breaking out of character.

Then there was Leonard’s Simpsons work. He was one of the first celebrities to have the self-confidence to send himself up in the show, and remains one of the very few cameos to be funny in his own right. Where others draw laughs as objects for Homer’s scorn/lust/admiration, Leonard makes his own funnies – check out his introduction to the X-Files episode. Of course this is largely due to the writers, who worship the man like a God, but the fact remains that when I saw his episodes at school I was hugely impressed by his wit, and by his class.

So Leonard helped make me more tolerant and inquisitive as a viewer. More importantly, Leonard taught me that science fiction could be truly moving.

Wrath of Kahn was a major event in my movie history. The film delighted me, providing everything I had always wanted from space opera - humour, spaceships (fighting each other) and at least a nod to the sublime – but added a startling extra: a genuinely moving, human scene, hinging on a broken yet dignified performance by Nimoy.

It might sound daft, but it was a moment that really spoke to me. It was one of the first occasions that I found science fiction touching. Alongside three or four other early experiences, it bred an ambition to write something even half as accomplished.

I’m ashamed to say that I’m only beginning to discover Star Trek The Original Series now, which is the very definition of doing it backwards – but, as always with Leonard, the experience has been a revelation. He may be gone, but I’m still getting to know him.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

New website!

For a while now I've been meaning to create a new website to compliment thingaboutchickens.

When I started out blogging I was producing opinion pieces and the like, interspersed with links to my short stories as they were published. I was fairly clueless about it, approaching blogging like a kind of online scrapbook.

I began to add movie reviews, and bits and pieces on science fiction TV and literature. Then Barricade came along, and I added updates about that. The whole thing began to feel like a bit of a mess  - and besides, it was always daft having a website without my name in the title.

So it is that I've created a new site,, purely for posts relating to my writing (featuring the above posh snap by the one and only Jack Ladenburg). It's taken me an age to actually get my rear in gear about this, and despite the techno fear/ rage that was involved in its production (I am sub Cro-Magnon when it comes to this stuff), I am well pleased to have the site sorted out. I'll update soon with articles covering everything from my new book's cover art to the love of dogs. There'll also be regular updates about the forthcoming sequel to Barricade (Steeple, coming in June), related articles and hopefully details of new short stories (I have to write some of these freaking ideas and send them off!)

I certainly don't intend to let thingaboutchickens fade away - in fact I am going to try and post here more than ever. I've had some great interest in past opinion pieces (like those on Macca and Cardinal O'Brien) and have the need to scratch this commentary itch regularly. I also can't help but write about TV and film - so look out for forthcoming pieces right here on Star Trek The Original Series (Season Two), and the madness of nuclear weapons.

In the meantime many thanks to all the brilliant folk who visit thingaboutchickens. Please do keep up your visits, and comment if you care to - I'd love to hear from you.