Calm Down…Calm Down!

One of the hardest parts of being a creative person is the time when you hand your work over to the public for their enjoyment (or otherwise!).  However, at this point you inevitably gear yourself up for a mixed bag of reactions, understanding that you can’t please everybody all the time, but also all too aware that you will NEVER please some people EVER!  There are far too many ‘fans’ who relish in attacking, deconstructing and destroying.  Many have blamed this on the internet, for opening up the world to the ability to comment and criticise.  But it has gone on for a long time, in magazines and newspapers, letters columns and the angry ‘green ink’ letter from Tunbridge Wells!

What is a particular problem at the moment is that genre fans don’t seem to know that they’ve never had it so good.  We are in a time of genre dominance, in movies, TV and books (not so much radio!). Take Doctor Who for instance…it’s not so many years gone that DW was dead and buried on TV, that the only DW lights burning were Big Finish and DWM. DW fans would relish and be grateful for any new DW release.  But now…since DW’s rebirth, and the BBC’s realisation that they have a massive hit that they can get big audiences from and make a profit on to help repay the cost of production, fans have been getting more and more DW than ever before.  And what is the reaction?  Well, of late it seems to be getting more and more negative, nit-picking and aggressive.  One of my audio releases recently (on which I only produced the narration, not the final audio) has been referred to by many as a pointless release, with lazy decisions and only of use to young kids.  Well, I’m very sorry you don’t like it, but if we would have turned out such a product 7 or 8 years ago, looking at, say, the 8th Doctor’s reign, you would have been swinging from the rafters with joy.  Don’t get me wrong, any and all constructive criticism is joyfully received and listened to.  But more and more ‘fan’ reaction is simply negative…”It’s not good enough”, “It’s not what I would do”, “I don’t like the writer so I’m going to write a negative review regardless of the content” (we all know who THAT one is!).

Fans today, especially DW fans, are swimming in a sea of new and exciting content.  That doesn’t mean we should drop our standards as producers or creatives, but fans DO need to realise that this won’t last forever.  AT some point the audios and magazines and toys WILL stop.  The BBC, or other broadcasters will move on to new series and other priorities.

It is good to critique, it is good to request more and better content.  But remember that every product was made by people who genuinely care about what they are making, who lavish time and energy and creative soul on it, who aim to entertain you.  When you respond as a fan, or as a paid reviewer (with no experience of making said productions/books/etc… yourself) bear in mind that [a] no-one has forced you to buy/illegally download this item [b] there are several people who worked damn hard to make it for you [c] you have the right to constructively critique, you do not have the right to deconstructively destroy!  Enjoy the goodies that are here now, for one day they will be a thing of the past.  Not everything will be to your liking, but not everything in life ever is.  Just because something related to your favourite show/character/book has ‘let you down’, don’t go on a rampage of hate, rather look for something else…or, shock horror, have a try at creating something yourself.  For until YOU have experienced the difficulties of creativity, the nightmare of budgetary constraints, the reality of long hours and hard work…only then will you have the right to dole out the soul-destroying and depression-inducing vitriol of hatred and bile that some ‘fans’ and reviewers spew forth far too often.

And do you know what?  Those of us that DO make these things, rarely if ever offer up such heartless and immature feedback to our peers, because we know the level of work and passion that has gone in to the piece.  So we discuss and debate, we CONSTRUCTIVELY CRITIQUE, we offer support and suggestions.  And then, we congratulate and thank each other for the work done.  Because, in genre production, those behind the scenes are even more passionate about the series/characters/stories than many of the ‘fans’…it’s true!

Please continue to be fans, continue to push us for more, continue to feedback and offer criticism (that can be good as well as bad, you know?).  Just think long and hard about what it would feel like if we were to come to your work and do the same to you.  Or if we were to comment harshly and without compassion at something you have created (your child, your garden, your private collection of never before seen art or poetry).  There are humans behind your favourite shows, and nobody is perfect.  But you’ve never had it so good, so please take a deep breath and remember that this is people’s art and craft and soul and passion you are commenting on, NOT just a piece of your favourite genre series.

N.B. These are MY opinions and DO NOT necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd, the BBC, AudioGo, or any other business, company or individual.

Neil Gardner is the owner/MD of Ladbroke Productions, the UK’s oldest independent radio production company.  He has written and produced many genre/SF radio dramas, readings and series.  He is also a producer of Doctor Who audiobooks, and the co-creator of The Brightonmicon Audio Series.  He regularly discusses SF and genre on the podcasts Sci-Five and The Big Pair.  In 2010 he published his first book, The Bumper Book of FICTS, with cult author Robert Rankin.


Yes, three exclamation marks!  It must be exciting, eh? Well, today is a truly exciting day for me coz we are officially launching “The Bumper Book of FICTS”.  OK, so we’re not being published by a super-giant publisher just yet, BUT you CAN buy the book online now, and it does look rather spiffing in all its 96 page hard-backed glory.  So…just what the heck is all this FICTS business anyway?  Well, I’ve been working in the UK radio industry since 1994 (good grief…that long?!) and sometime around 1996 I was presenting various radio programmes in the East of England (cue the Alan Partridge jokes) and for one particular programme I would prepare a load of silly sketches, audio nonsense and fake facts (I have always hated the laziness of using daily newspapers to come up with material for your show).  One of the most popular and long-lived of these bits of stupidity was an item called “Interesting But Blatantly Untrue Facts”.  These ridiculous non-facts were either read out live or sometimes pre-recorded by various famous DJs I worked with (such as DLT, Steve Wright, Paul Carrington, etc…)  People kinda liked them, the boss thought they were original, and so I kept writing them.

By the turn of the millenium I had about 200 of the blighters, but sadly I was no longer presenting, having moved on to become a producer/director.  I tried resurrecting them on the Dr Glitz Disco Hits show on Heart which I was producing, but they didn’t really fit.  So they sat in a file on the computer for many years gathering e-dust.  Then in 2008, following the success of bringing Robert Rankin’s “Brightonomicon” to audio life (it LIVES!!!!), I got to thinking about trying to get the collection published.  Having spoken to some rather important people in the publishing trade I was advised to get the book illustrated, so it would have a USP.  So…who did I know who was a kick-ass illustrator and enough of a friend to work as a partner with me on such a speculative venture?  Well, as it so happens, I did know one chap…a certain favourite author of mine, and following the Brightonomicon, a good friend.  Yes, Father of Far-Fetched Fiction, Robert Rankin had a prodigious writing talent, but also a rather incredible set of illustrating skills.  Having visited the exhibition of his books, art and sculptures at the Gunnersbury Park Museum, I knew I wanted Robert to take a pass at making FICTS something more tangible.

And so, over a few pints of perry in Brighton one sunny afternoon, I asked the great man, and he humbly agreed to do an initial 20.  A few months later, and the first 20 arrived, and…oh my deary me…they were spectacular!  As you have seen on this here blog, the design work, the originality, the humour, the intricate details…all of it contrived to make FICTS jump off the page and become real!  Where does someone get such abilities?  I am sure there is some hocuspocus involved (or spaniels at the very least!)

So, we had the perfect protfolio to show FICTS off to the world…to you via the blog, and to potential publishers.  And the rest is history, as we now have THE BUMPER BOOK OF FICTS, with 89 fully-fledged FICTS within its covers.  A 96-page hardbacked joy.  We are published through a small publisher at the moment, but we hope to get the book into wider circulation as soon as we can.  But in the meantime, it is available exclusively via the internet and it is already selling well.

So…back to today and the launch.  In fact, it is a double launch day for Robert.  At lunchtime he is appearing at the fabulous Forbidden Planet superstore in central London where he is signing copies of his latest novel “The Japanese Devil Fish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions” and then popping to the pub with friends and fans for much toot-talking.  And then this evening he’ll be joining me, and a host of Rankin fans and friends in lovely Brentford (West London and spiritual home of all Rankinites) to officially launch our FICTS book.  All the details are below…EVERYONE is welcome, just turn up and say hi!  We’ll have books there to buy, and we’ll sign each one AND add an exclusive bookplate.  In addition, the Rankin fanclub will be running an auction/raffle in which you could win some rather tasty rare items (including a cast-signed Brightonomicon poster) and something rare relating to FICTS.

I am VERY excited about tonight an hope to see a lot of old and new friends.  A night in the pub with Robert and the gang is always fantastic, but this should be a once in a lifetime experience.  I really hope you can join us.



7pm – late – The Magpie & Crown Pub, 128 High Street, Brentford


The Bumper Book of FICTS – Out Now!

I’ve finally managed to get my very first book published! A collaboration with best-selling author and the father of far-fetched fiction, Robert Rankin. The Bumper Book of FICTS is a beautifully illustrated 96 page hard-backed feast of fun and silliness and is available for you to buy now, exclusively from Ladbroke Productions & RAGA Publishing! Here’s everything you need to know, and a wee BUY IT NOW button to click:

The world is an amazing place, chock full of facts wherever you look, in plain view for all to enjoy.  And then there are the fictions, those oh-so-cheerful nuggets of the fantastical that float around us like clouds.  Now, after years of research, field trips and evenings in the pub, Neil Gardner & Robert Rankin can unveil the previously unknown third form of reality…the FICTS!

Somewhere between fact and fiction is where you will find the FICTS, nestling in unusual locations, like amazing Easter eggs, just waiting to be discovered, unwrapped and enjoyed.  They are non-facts, meta-fiction, something somewhere in between but at the same time co-existing in a realm of ‘almost-truth’.
The reading of FICTS is perfectly safe, having been rigorously tested in laboratory conditions by leading literary-scientist-boffins across the globe (this may not be true!).  The only side-effects are:

  • A need to giggle regularly
  • A feeling FICTS may actually be facts
  • A desire to live in a world where FICTS are reality
  • A need to giggle some more and then show them to a friend

Be warned though…once you open your senses to FICTS you will start to see them all around you.  DO NOT be tempted to approach them, photograph them or blog about them.  The authors are expert in the collection, collating and reporting of FICTS.  Leave it to the professionals because one mis-step may leave you trapped in a FICT forever!

The Little Book of FICTS is written by award-winning radio writer, producer & director Neil Gardner, and illustrated by best-selling award-winning fantasy/humour author, and Father of Far-Fetched Fiction, Robert Rankin.

To buy the book simply CLICK HERE to visit the official Ladbroke Productions FICTS page, where you will be taken to the secure and safe PAYPAL service. Delivery is by first-class post and should take between 3 and 7 days.

COST – £10.00 per book – POSTAGE – £1.50 per book

If you would like the book signed, please leave a note to this effect when ordering 🙂

Spending Time With The Doctor

Kate, Tom, me and Richard

Kate, Tom, me and Richard

Calling all Doctor Who fans…so, it’s not exactly hot off the presses news any more, but Tom Baker (the 4th Doctor) is back as our favourite Time Lord, in a new 5 CD audio drama being released by BBC Audiobooks between Sept and Dec 2009, called “Doctor Who – Hornet’s Nest”.  This is no mere audiobook, nor is it a traditional radio play…it’s a chimera, a beast of many parts…with narration, conversation, action scenes, dramatic vignettes, and of course, music and SFX…this is a whole new way of bringing the Doctor to life.

Tom does some 'acting'!

Tom does some 'acting'!

So why am I blogging about it?  Because I am not just a fan (Tom is very much MY Doctor, in the same way Roger Moore was MY James Bond – I’m a 70’s/80’s boy!), but I have been responsible for the recording of all the audio, and the editing together of the adventures.  Although (unusually for me nowadays) I am not the named producer/director (that is the gorgeous and uber-talented Kate Thomas), I am bringing my producer/director experience to the editing and mastering of the series, helping to mix the usual BBC audiobooks format with a more radio/audio play style.

Tom, me and Richard making faces...well, why not?

Tom, me and Richard making faces...well, why not?

Imagine my squeel of fanboy joy when I was asked to get involved in this project.  Months ago, when we first talked about it, the whole thing was super hush-hush and I couldn’t tell anyone what I was doing.  But now, the news is out, the interviews are being done, the articles are being released, and the first CD is due out in shops in a month and a half!

Over the past 2 months we’ve spent around 10 days in a radio drama studio in Swiss Cottage, London, and a radio voice-over studio in Central London, recording Tom and the wonderful Richard Franklin (he was Captain Yates back in the day, alongside the Brigadier!), as well as the likes of Rula Lenska, Daniel Hill and Susan Jameson.

In the drama studio

In the drama studio

That first recording session, we all got a thrill down our spines as Tom launched in to the full-on Doctor lines, bringing the character back to life as though the last 25 years had never happened.  He was back!  Doctor Who sounded (and looked) like he should again.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked Peter’s Doctor, and Colin was OK, Sylvestor had the added bonus of Ace, Chris Ecclestone was a breath of freshness, and David, well, what can we say about the superb Mr Tennent?!  But for me, a wee young thing of a lad in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Doctor Who always wears a long scarf, eats jelly babies, is very tall, has piercing eyes and an ever-so sharp and slightly naughty wit…in short (or tall in this case!), Tom Baker!

It’s a been a real pleasure of a job recording and editing this series.  It’s also been, and continues to be, a lot of hard work, long hours and faffing around finding SFX and music and making things balance.  But a boyhood dream has come true…I’ve met Doctor Who, and it was MY Doctor Who, and I haven’t just met him, I’ve worked with him, produced and directed him, and helped create a whole new chapter in the Doctor Who chronicles.

The infamous jelly babies!

The infamous jelly babies!

Boy oh boy I am in geeky fanboy nerd heaven.  I really hope you enjoy the series when it is released.  As I understand it there should be ample opportunities to meet Tom and the cast and get the CDs signed…and you never know, you may just meet me there too!

Hope you like the pictures as well…come on, I HAD to get a few, didn’t I?!? 🙂

Hurrah For A New Publisher

Champagne?!  Wheres the cake?!!!

Champagne?! Where's the cake?!!!

Hearty congratulations from me to Lee Harris and all the team at the fantastically titled ANGRY ROBOT BOOKS, which officially launched in the UK and Australia today (apparently there was cake!)

Here’s what they say about themselves:

Angry Robot ™ is a new imprint from Harper Collins dedicated to the best in modern adult science fiction, fantasy and everything inbetween. Its book line will launch in July 2009, with both physical books across a wide variety of formats, and online versions, both e-books and audio.

British-based but selling worldwide, its mission is to produce books that appeal to everyone, from post-Dr Who and Xbox fans to long-time genre enthusiasts.

So I say a resounding hurrah for Angry Robot and Harper Collins from bringing something new to the market, for supporting new writing, and for taking a chance of genre writing at a time when so many other publishers are ‘back-sliding’!

If you wanna learn more about the company, the peeps involved and even the books (!) pop over to their website by clicking here

Now…I wonder if they’ll publish some of my sci-fi flavoured poetry?!? 🙂

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