Me? On TV?

Posted on December 4th, 2007 in news

So, you’re never going to believe this, right, but I was interviewed for a TV show the other day. No, not as an eyewitness to/perpetrator of violent crime, but as a bonafide EXPERT on the field of FANTASY WRITING. I know what you’re all thinking, but wait, wait, it gets worse.

Contributors to the series include:

Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Guillermo del Toro, China Mieville…

And, among many eminent others, me.

I know.

Someone made a big mistake, right? Surely it was more of a vox pops, happened to catch me on the street with a camcorder sort of thing, right? NO. It was a full-on four-person-crew properly-lit and located hour-long interview. It was like WELL high-brow, and I used some of my best long and complex words like EXHAUSTIVE, ALLEGORY and IDEALISED.

As a video editor myself, and one who’s done a lot of documentary work, you’d have thought I’d have been expert at this, but it’s surprisingly different on the other side of the camera, I can tell you. It becomes strangely difficult to concentrate and articulate, or, at times, to come up with anything of value. It’s very hard to talk naturally, and you kind of drift into a parallel “serious pundit” personality. I’m not sure how much I like my “serious pundit” self. He’s a little bit of a pompous windbag, if I’m honest. It was not necessarily a performance replete with wit and humour. Of course, I know well from my own experience that of this hour it would be surprising if any more than a minute actually got used in various pithy soundbites, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it was less than that (or, perhaps, none at all). I’m counting on their editor to hone my bloated wafflings to razor-like insights and make me look like a fucking GOD.

Anyway, it’s a three-part series about Fantasy, and I’m going to be contributing (provided I don’t hit the cutting room floor, and HARD) to an episode about the creation of fantasy worlds. That’s right. Me, the anti-worldbuilding, non-map including, character-focused guy. Questions ran to Tolkein’s approach to worldbuilding and his influence within the genre and outside of it. Peake’s approach to worldbuilding and his influence on the genre. The New Weird and fantasy as a means of investigating the real world. Why authors feel moved to invent imagined worlds and the effect these efforts have on their lives. I know. Like I know SHIT about any of that, right?

Well, you shall find out, shan’t you?

The series will be airing some time in February/March on BBC4, which is a UK, cable or satellite based additional channel which carries a lot of high-brow artsy gear. I’ve been watching a very nicely made series about photography on there, in fact. Judging by the quality of interviewees (other than me) that they’ve got on there, it should be a fascinating watch for any well-cultivated fantasy fan. I’ll keep y’all updated as to exactly when it might be on as soon as I know myself, so you can tune in and wonder, when it’s just one massive Pullman interview with a bit of Pratchett spotted around and one quote from Mieville, “Hey, why wasn’t Joe Abercrombie in that documentary like he said he’d be?”

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  1. Hey! Excellent stuff, Joe. Getting your fizog on the gogglebox as a bone fide writerly expert!

    And it’ll be interesting to have a fantasy focus (rather than an Science fictiony focus) and may well raise the ‘respect due’ attitude for fantasy fiction writers.

    Of course, it could just as easily bury them! But looking forward to watching the show!

  2. *Looks around for cheque-book*
    Now that is almost worth paying my tv licence for! :)
    I hope you’ve at least had a shave, Joe, or are you going down the Pratchett road, don’t tell me you’re going to start wearing a hat!

  3. Cool beans, I shall endeavour to watch it :-)

  4. Superb! Something to look forward to there.

    Any idea what slant they are taking?

  5. Ady,
    Well, there’s always been respect for Tolkein, especially since the movies. Then there’s respect for JK Rowling for sheer quantity of sales. There seems to be plenty of respect for Pullman. There’s even a fair bit for writers like China Mieville and Jeff Vandermeer. For the more dyed-in-the-wool epic fantasy writers like me? Not so much…

    Bob,
    I shave for no man, but if I get much balder I might have to consider a hat.

    Disrepdog,
    Do so.

    Beefeater,
    Slant wise, not sure. I know from long experience that any documentary has to have a pretty simplified thesis – I think what they’re going for is to contrast Tolkein and Peake’s approaches to worldbuilding (academic exhaustively detailed versus artisitic creation of mood) and how they’ve influenced writers since. That was kind of the slant to the questions they asked me, but that’s probably just one part of what they’re up to.

  6. That’s fantastic! Hope we can catch over here in our little tropical island (or, if we’re really desperate, someone will youtube it).

    I’m glad someone’s doing a documentary on fantasy.

  7. I think I might have to commandeer my girlfriend’s TV for this… Luckily, she like fantasy, too.

    You mentioned that you were a documentary film editor/maker person. How’d you get into it? My sister’s been trying to get into the documentary-making game for years, but is having difficulty (she’s working in a Nigerian bank, at the moment – doesn’t provide the right sort of experience…).

    Also (sorry for going on) – I’ve noticed that a lot of the best authors all have some form of background in journalism. Do you think it’s a natural progression from writing about the real world to writing made-up stuff? (Admittedly, some journalists write made up stuff anyway…)

  8. Teresa,
    You have an island? Which one?

    Stefan,
    I got into documentaries mostly by making tea, then by being an assistant editor, then by being a freelance editor. I don’t do so much documentary these days though – mostly music tv.

    And aside from the editing, I don’t have any background in journalism – not written journalism, anyway. It think the video editing is definitely an influence on the way I write, but I don’t know if there’s any such thing as a natural progression when it comes to writing fiction.

  9. Yes. The island of Luzon, in the Philippine archipelago. ;)

    (I don’t own it thoyugh, and there about several million of us living there…)

    Just curious, what music Tv have you done lately?

  10. Music TV?
    Well, I’m in the midst of doing a load of work for Iron Maiden – two concerts from their most recent tour and a documentary about their Powerslave tour in the 80s. I’m also doing a DVD of a charity gig for Warchild, with Keane, Lily Allen, and others. Then I work on the Brit Awards every year, and the MOBOs as well, if that means anything to you. Before that the V-festival, where the Foo Fighters and the Killers were headlining. So it’s mostly live stuff, with a bit of documentary on the side.

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