WE ARE THE MARTIANS: THE NIGEL KNEALE LEGACY

PrintE-mail Written by Jon Towlson

In his 2006 obituary to Nigel Kneale, which opens this fascinating new book on the work of one of Britain’s finest screenwriters, Tim Lucas remarks that Kneale was one of science fiction’s most illuminating humanists, a confrontational writer who painted dystopian pictures of the future, a masterful satirist ‘whose tweaks at Mankind’s expense proved just as prophetic as his works undertaken in a more somber mood’. Kneale’s legacy includes some of the most memorable and chilling images ever to grace the big screen and television alike; from his celebrated BBC adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) to Hammer’s The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), from The Stone Tape (1972) to his lesser-known TV series Beasts (1976), the presence of Kneale’s name as screenwriter is, as Lucas puts it, ‘indicative of a quality…that could supersede even indifferent direction’ in terms of the sheer power of Kneale’s ideas and vision.

 

Edited by Neil Snowdon, We are the Martians is a finely detailed appreciation of Kneale’s work by some of the best critics, authors and screenwriters today. Mark Chadbourne kicks off proceedings with a poetic account of Kneale’s life as seen through the places in England that have been haunted his stories. Lucas provides a comprehensive overview of Kneale’s literary career from his early collection Tomato Cain and Other Stories (1949) onwards that, on its own, is worth the cover price. Stephen R. Bissette presents an in-depth look at Kneale’s most famous teleplay, The Quatermass Experiment (1953); authors Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Laws, David Pirie and Stephen Volk offer personal reflections on Kneale and the ways in which he has inspired their own work (‘juxtapositions of the alien with the familiar may have influenced my stuff’, Campbell notes; whilst Volk ponders the mix of ‘science and superstition’ that informs both Kneale’s writing and his own). Meanwhile, film critics Kim Newman and Jonathan Rigby cover some of Kneale’s lesser-known TV works, such as Wuthering Heights, The Crunch and The Road; Mark Morris and Jeremy Dyson provide a detailed account of Beasts; and interviews with Kneale and his collaborators are furnished by David Sutton, Tony Earnshaw and Snowdon.

 

With further contributions by Kier-La Janisse, Jez Winship, Lynda E. Rucker, Thana Niveau, Richard Harland Smith, Joe Dante, Maura McHugh, and Mark Gatiss, We are the Martians - at a whopping 500 pages - is an exhaustive and highly enjoyable study of a true giant of British science-fiction. Essential reading for SF fans.

 

WE ARE THE MARTIANS: THE NIGEL KNEALE LEGACY / EDITOR: NEIL SNOWDON / PUBLISHER: PS PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW




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