“The world seems caught between a misty shape in the shadowed ruins of an old church and the ghostly blips on a radar screen, each summoning their own form of existential dread.” (Mark Chadbourn)
Edited by Neil Snowdon, We Are the Martians has been a long time coming. The project endured a series of frustrating setbacks a year or two back which were beyond the control of the editor. Thankfully for us Snowdon’s ambition and determination to get the book into the marketplace has paid off, and the results are pretty spectacular. Published by PS Publishing, We Are the Martians is everything we hoped it would be and possibly even more.
The book opens with Tim Lucas’s obituary of Kneale, and represents a clear indicator of the esteem with which this most special of scriptwriters was held. Lucas demonstrates an enormous amount of love and respect for Kneale’s oeuvre, and his words sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the book. The foreword comes from Mark Gattis. in which he talks briefly of an afternoon spent in the company of Kneale and his wife Judith and of the projects that most greatly affected him during his formative years. Again, one is instantly struck by the reverence afforded to Kneale by a man whose own television career relies so heavily upon the groundwork put in by Kneale and a handful of other revolutionaries who made the 1960s and 70s such an amazing, and creative time. Either way Gattis knows a thing or two about what constitutes good television, his own work with Pemberton, Sheersmith and Dyson draws influence from those televisual pioneers and of course Dyson also features in this volume.
Mark Chadbourn’s chapter on the hauntological aspect of Kneale’s life and times is a fascinating document destined to be read repeatedly by aficionados of such works. The aforementioned Tim Lucas guides us through his captivating insight into the written works of Kneale and further chapters from Kim Newman, Stephen Volk, Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris and Jonathan Rigby to name but a few of those involved, show the great importance and diversity of the work done during the decades by Kneale. Newman’s chapter about some of Kneale’s less well-known work is a personal highlight for me specifically as I am less acquainted with the works in question, Newman’s knowledge of film and his fondness for these stories is infectious and the chapter leaves the reader hankering for a viewing. Maura McHugh’s chapter on the influence of Kneale’s writing is interesting and well considered, and provides many interesting talking points. Beyond that, there are a number of chapters offering up the interpretations of the different writers on Kneale classics, Stephen Volk, Jeremy Dyson and Kim Newman are among those happy to unpack Kneale’s work for the readers. In amongst all of this there are a series of interviews conducted by editor Snowdon, which add something more personal to the proceedings, the interview with Kneale’s wife Judith Kerr is a personal favourite.
Overall the book is a joy to behold, well written and featuring a succession of interesting articles across the board, Snowdon has taken the works by some of the most eloquent commentators in film and television and created an astonishing look at one of the most under-appreciated giants of modern screenwriting. As a huge fan of Nigel Kneale myself I am delighted to have this wonderful volume at my disposal and will be dipping into it time and again over the coming years. If like me you are a fan of Kneale’s work, this volume is essential and works as a wonderful companion piece to Andy Murray’s biography Into the Unknown. We Are the Martians is available as a limited edition deluxe signed edition featuring an additional book containing the script for The Big, Big Giggle as well as being available in a standard edition from the PS Publishing website.