WE ARE THE MARTIANS: The Legacy Of Nigel Kneale

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Cover by David Chatton Barker

Toward the end of last year, my first book as editor ‘WE ARE THE MARTIANS: The Legacy Of Nigel Kneale’ was ‘launched’ at an event that was held as part of The Miskatonic Institute Of Horror Studies season of lectures, at the Horse Hospital in London.

It was an extraordinary night. I still pinch myself to think that it ever came together.

As part of a celebration not only of the book, but the astonishing work of Nigel Kneale, Jonathan Rigby lead a cast including Mark Gatiss and Jason Morell (son of Quatermass actor Andre Morell) in a rehearsed reading of Kneale’s lost drama ‘THE ROAD’, written and broadcast in 1963, wiped by the BBC soon after and never seen or heard since.

And everybody shivered. The cast were uniformly brilliant and even like this, with the cast sitting in a row on stage with scripts in hand and Jonathan reading the descriptions of action and sound, the drama was riveting. A frisson rippled through the room at the climax as hairs stood on the back of a hundred necks in unison. Proof positive that the power of Kneale’s writing remains undimmed after all these years.

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After which I nervously got up and lead a discussion about the book and Kneale’s work with a number of the contributors.

We had a whale of a time, and from what people said after the event, so did the audience. It felt as if on that night, in that room, something shifted. The tide turned in making more people aware of Nigel Kneale’s incredible legacy. His incredible influence on TV drama in the UK and the genre at large.

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L-R: Me (Neil Snowdon), Stephen Laws, Mark Morris, Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Dyson, Kim Newman, Maura McHugh, Stephen Volk, and David Pirie. Photos by Jez Winship and Virginie Selavy.

It’s a very strange feeling to get applause from people you’ve admired for years. But it was an incredibly gratifying, proud and humbling moment when Stephen Laws stopped the proceedings and asked everyone gathered to join him in saying ‘Thank you’ to me for my work on the book and for the event that was now wrapping up. The book, the event, the attention and appreciation for Nigel Kneale, had all been ‘a long time coming’.

I don’t mind admitting that my eyes may have been a little damp.

All the more disappointing then that, shortly after that, the original publishers – Spectral Press – ran into severe financial troubles. Faced with an uncertain future for them, and if/when the book would now see print, I took the difficult decision to remove the book from Spectral and search for a new publisher.

Thankfully that didn’t take long, and the book will now be published by PS Publishing later this year or early in 2017 (as soon as there’s a date you can be sure I’ll shout it from the rooftops).

However, cash flow problems at Spectral made it impossible to simply transfer the existing pre-orders over to the new publisher. It has also meant delays in some people getting refunds, though I’m informed that most have now received them (if you are one of the people who pre-ordered the book and HAVEN’T had a refund yet or are just finding out about the situation PLEASE contact Gary Compton via spectral@ticketyboopress.co.uk or spectralclaim@ticketyboopress.co.uk).

There has been a lot of of heated discussion on social media about the Spectral Press situation. And while I’ve been unhappy with the way it has been handled – particularly with regard to the many customers who have supported this project from the start and who I feel particularly concerned for – any problems I have are between myself and the publisher.

What I know is that the book is good. The book is worthwhile. And the book is alive! It will return! That’s not just my opinion either. Just before the launch event SFX Magazine ran a 5 Star review that knocked me flat, it came so out of the blue…

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I worked long and hard on this book. The journey of putting it together has been the journey of my life from amateur to professional as a writer and an editor. I’ve made incredible friends and met incredible people in the course of this. Spoken and worked with people whom I count as personal heroes going back many years. The passion and goodwill that has been shown to me and to this project has been humbling and inspiring at every turn. Kneale affected people deeply. That’s why they wanted to be involved, wanted to pay homage to him and his legacy. To the way he changed our lives. He changed mine when I first saw QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. My decision to write about him turned my life around in professional and creative terms.

Aim For The Heart. It’s the only way.

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2 thoughts on “WE ARE THE MARTIANS: The Legacy Of Nigel Kneale

  1. Nick Cooper says:

    Got screwed by Spectral. Never got a refund. The sort of thing that puts you off pre-orderign from small publishing houses.

    • Neil Snowdon says:

      Entirely the problem, Nick. Quite apart from the direct result for individuals – writers and readers – it’s the knock on effect for entirely unrelated publishers as well.

      Thing seem to have gone quiet, my most recent emails went unanswered by Spectral/those representing them. I’ll be trying again soon, and will be listing the names of every person that I know of who has not been refunded, or at least contacted to confirm that Spectral are working toward a refund no matter that it may take time.

      As ever, it’s the complete lack of communication that is the most galling.

      I’ll be sure to include mention of your specific order when I contact Spectral. Not that I have any contact addresses other than those given out for customers as well.

      But I won’t let it go. I can promise you that.

      Faithfully,
      Neil Snowdon.

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