Saturday, 4 April 2009

My Literary Hero: JOHN CHRISTOPHER


I've been enjoying a John Christopher month these past thirty days. Two items worthy of mention were released in quick succession.

One was a book entitled The Death of Grass, a re-issue of John Christopher's 1950s dystopia novel where all grass based foods die out, leaving the world half starved and the populace desperate. I'm half way through it and held captive by it (though, it's not for children).

The other was a DVD entitled The Tripods, a BBC television adaptation of John Christopher's trilogy of novels for young people where the world a hundred years from now has been stripped of its technological advances and people live in quaint villages under the rule of alien Tripod machines. Sadly, because of the BBC's attitude (in particular the attitudes of BBC1 controller Michael Grade and Head of Series and Serials, Jonathan Powell) towards science-fiction in the 1980s and a need to save money, the final book of the trilogy was never filmed.

I was introduced to the Tripods trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire, published in 1967/8) through the BBC series in 1984. I fell in love with the books and obsessed about meeting Mr. Christopher many times over the years that followed.

I'd heard about The Death of Grass, and saw it praised by author Brian Aldiss on a BBC4 science-fiction documentary in 2006. I'm so pleased that Penguin have re-issued it as a "Penguin Modern Classic" after all this time. It certainly deserves it.

I was astonished when John Christopher - real name Sam Youd - endorsed my autobiographical book The Feeling's Unmutual in 2004, and felt deeply honoured when he later invited me to visit him at his home in Rye, East Sussex.

Sam signed a deal with Disney's more adult film making arm Touchstone a few years ago with a view to turning his Tripods trilogy into a series of movies. Director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Knowing) is now attached to the project, and I can't wait to see the end result.

As I write, I'm doing the rounds with the literary agents. To date, three British agents have turned down my Anne Droyd books (one saying, "it is indeed a very enjoyable series, but I don't have any contacts that would be interested in it"), and an agent in the United States has yet to respond.

It has occurred to me that America might be the place where Anne succeeds. They would be less concerned about the real life issues in the stories (in fact, they would likely embrace them) and less bothered by the brief questions about God therein. Time will tell. If they do get in touch, it might mean transposing the characters and stories to the U.S., something I would have to weigh up when the time comes.

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