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Interview: Bristol Science Fiction Writer, Tim Maughan

I arrive at the Watershed, armed with a notepad full of questions for local science fiction writer, Tim Maughan. His work – principally the short story collection, Paintwork, but also Limited Edition, written for New Scientist’s Arc magazine and shortlisted for a British Science Fiction Association award – is a glimpse into a possible future, mixing the concerns of today with the technology of tomorrow.

Tim Maughan

His writing is inspired by some of the sci-fi greats, including Neuromancer’s William Gibson, Fahrenheit-451 writer, Ray Bradbury, and J. G. Ballard, most famous for Crash. A copy of Ballard’s High-Rise waits for me at home.

I’ve prepared some less-probing questions, ready to ease Tim into the interview; everyday trivia that’s never going to make it into the final article, but nonetheless breaks the ice and allows us both to get to know each other. Standard stuff. But when we sit down on the balcony overlooking Bristol Harbour, I realise I don’t need that notepad. Tim’s enthusiasm is there from the get-go, and we’re discussing the merits of those classic science fiction authors straight away.

I quickly put the Dictaphone on and, an hour-and-a-half or so later, realise that this interview is something special: certainly the most extensive I’ve ever had the pleasure of conducting.
I touch upon Paintwork’s main character, 3Cube, whose art – graffiti utilising QR Codes – pulls Bristolians of tomorrow back to a more innocent time. I tell Tim I felt somewhat nostalgic at this prospect – but was this his intention?

“I guess nostalgia’s applicable,” he replies, mulling it over. “I think the idea there was that 3Cube’s artwork is maybe too optimistic or naive. He’s told that by one of the other characters in the story. I was really trying to write about authenticity in that story and about wanting to define what authenticity was. There was a review – it was on Good Reads, I think – of someone who really hated that story; they accused me of being a hipster, that I was saying it was only authentic if it wasn’t digital and it was analogue… and that wasn’t it at all. I was suggesting some people feel like that but I wasn’t trying to say that that’s how I felt at all.”

Paintwork 1

This brings me onto an idea that fascinates me: that once your writing is read by other people, it’s no longer yours. Everybody puts their own stamp on it; everyone brings something to it. No text is created in a vacuum – and no text is read in one either.

“It’s something that, as writer, you have zero control over,” Tim concedes. “You don’t. And I’ve seen really positive reviews of my stuff where people have come away with things that I didn’t think were in the story, as well as negative reviews. There was a really good review of Limited Edition a few months ago… I was kind of pleased actually because [the reviewer] came away thinking at times he was rooting for the characters and then he had to shake himself and realise that he shouldn’t be! And I like that. I like that he felt like that. You should be rooting for the characters, but at the same time, you shouldn’t. But it’s not their fault that they’re like that – and that’s the situation they’re in… So you have no control over that and I also like to deliberately be very ambiguous, especially about moral issues and issues like authenticity.”

Limited Edition tells the story of the Bristol riots from a looter’s viewpoint. It also raises an important question about if main characters have to be likeable – and even about whether the reader can be won over. I’m reading Neil Cross’ Burial at the moment, which examines an accidental murder. You disagree with what Nathan, the central protagonist, has done, but due to Cross’ sterling narrative, you root for him regardless. It’s an odd situation to be in. Similarly, I was disgusted at the riots a few years ago, believing that peaceful protest is the way forward. But listening to Tim talk so passionately about consumerism and expectations, and reading his short story, I can now sympathise with Limited Edition’s main character.

Art by Robert Carter

Art by Robert Carter

“I think if readers aren’t coming up with their own takes on my stuff, then I’m probably not being ambiguous enough. And it’s tough in science fiction, because I found a lot of readers and some critics don’t like ambiguity. They’re not interested in it. They want everything to be framed ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ They want heroes,” he explains. “There was a review a few months ago of Paintwork and one of the reviewers wasn’t happy with how I portrayed Paul in Havana Augmented as a hero. And I didn’t know that I had. I hadn’t set out to portray him as a hero. They were unhappy with the ending; he goes into this re-education camp, he’s treated well… But what about all the other people in the camp? It was a fair point, but I didn’t think that I was saying he should’ve been treated well. He was treated well in the camp because he was seen as this national hero – was that right? Have his actions damaged Cuba? But I don’t want to ram points home to people; I want people to come away with their own opinions. That’s fine.”

He argues that this definite line between hero and villain is linked to comic book culture, but says that he’s got used to dealing with what readers bring to his own writing. “It’s always interesting to me to hear what people think about your own stuff [but] I had to come to terms with it a bit,” Tim says, and recalls his main concern initially: “Does this mean I’m not getting my point across or does it mean that I can’t get my point across without ramming it home to people? And I don’t ever want to ram anything home to anyone. I sometimes joke about it with a friend of mine; sometimes, it feels like you can only be ambiguous if you spell out that you’re being ambiguous! I write the stuff, chuck it out there, people like it, don’t like it, have their own opinions on it – I have to learn to live with that. And that’s fine; I’m quite happy with that.”

Paintwork 2

Still, this ambiguity can be an issue when it comes to offending others.

“I got some probably fair criticism for not including female characters enough in my stories, but part of what I was trying to write about was male pride, and the role of young men in urban society; how they struggle with having significance and standing out and making their mark on things,” he says. “It goes back to this idea of showing who you are in a society where consumerism is more important than self-expression.”

The fact is, readers will always bring themselves to a text – and that’s not really a bad thing. “If people are talking about it, then it’s worked,” he concludes.

You can read my full three-part interview with Tim over at Guide2Bristol. In Part One, we discuss his sci-fi influences, most notably Ballard, while in Part Two, we talk about what it means to be Cyberpunk and how celebrity culture has affected his work. And, in Part Three, we conclude by mulling over the relevance of 1980s ideals, if the landscape of Paintwork is the future he wants to live in, and what’s next for Tim.

And you can read Limited Edition here and watch the short film based on Paintwork here.

(Thanks to Tim Maughan and Guide2Bristol’s Rudy Millard.)

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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Books, Interview, Published work

 

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Tim Maughan’s Paintwork Film

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to catch up with local science-fiction writer, Tim Maughan, for Guide2Bristol.

Tim’s the author of a short story collection, Paintwork, which has recently been turned into a brief film, as well as the critically-acclaimed Limited Edition.

Tim is a really nice guy and I thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour chat we had at Bristol’s Watershed. Expect to see the finished article soon on Guide2Bristol.

Meanwhile, you can check out Bristol Evening Post’s interview with the man himself here, or visit his official blog here.

I wholeheartedly recommend picking up Paintwork, described by many as ‘cyberpunk,’ envisioning a disturbing future – that lurks just around the corner. Whether it’s cyberpunk or not is pure conjecture, of course, but it’s a bold, thought-provoking and clever science-fiction collection that honours the work of greats like William Gibson (Necromancer) and J.G. Ballard (Crash).

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Books

 

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100th Post: Reflecting on Nearly 3 Years

It’s really surprising to see that I started this blog nearly three years ago. And to find that this is my 100th post. Have I really had that many interesting things to say?! Excuse the self-indulgence here, then, as I look back at what’s changed since my very first blog post on 30th April 2010. (In no particular order…)

1. I’m now a freelance writer.
2. I’ve interviewed Matt Smith. (I know; I haven’t said anything about this massive event on this blog yet. But stay tuned!)

Matt and Moffat

3. I launched the Make Mine A Marvel Omnibus site in October 2010.
4. I had my first article printed in Real Travel magazine.
5. I work for the Doctor Who site, Kasterborous.
6. Amy and Rory left the TARDIS last year. (Don’t press me on the matter; I’m still a bit teary.)
7. I have an FdA in Professional Writing. (You can read more about that course here.)
8. Spooks has finished. (Thank God for DVDs!)
9. I’ve started my first novel.
10. I’ve written for the Weston College Higher Education Prospectus.
11. I did the web copy for Lovarzi’s Fourth Doctor Scarf for both their own website and Amazon.

doctor-who-scarf-4

12. As well as doing the official press release!
13. I’ve started my first children’s book.
14. The Amazing Spider-Man reached #700.
15. I’ve worked for Kasterborous’ sister site, CultBritannia (and you can read my first article here.)
16. I’ve learnt how to add videos to my blog!
17. I wrote The British Comedy Guide’s 10th anniversary celebratory article of The Office.
18. I’ve started a few scripts…
19. … And am searching for an agent.

Armstrong and Miller Guide2Bristol review

Armstrong and Miller Guide2Bristol review

20. I reviewed the Armstrong and Miller Tour for Bristol247
21. … And for Guide2Bristol.
22. The latter of which has been quoted on the official A&M website!
23. I copy-edit regularly for Kasterborous.
24. I reviewed the Day of the Daleks: Special Edition DVD for Kasterborous in two parts (here and here).
25. Then reviewed it for ItchyBristol here.
26. I’ve ran two blog advents across December 2011 and 2012.
27. I’ve worked on four Doctor Who ReKapped articles (learn more about that here), with another one in the works.

A Town Called Mercy 3

28. Clara Oswin Oswald has joined the TARDIS (sort of).
29. Neil Armstrong has passed away.
30. And so has Sir Patrick Moore.
31. The Killers have released a new album, Battle Born (and you can read a review of their single, Runaways here).
32. Avengers Assemble! has been released.
33. My review of the Doctor Who graphic novel, The Dalek Project went online here.
34. I’ve contributed two features to the upcoming Kasterborous Magazine (stay tuned for that).
35. Ray Bradbury has died.

The Illustrated Man

36. I’ve joined Twitter!
37. I’ve reviewed the last episode of Sherlock, The Reichenbach Fall, for Cult Britannia.
38. I have worked in a shop, Giggs, during the Christmas 2011 period – a shop which has since gone bust! (Nothing to do with me, I might add.)
39. I’ve read countless books – and you can see my top 10 reads of 2012 here.
40. Two episodes of 1960s Doctor Who have been found!
41. I reviewed Mission to the Unknown for Kasterborous’ Doctor Who@50.
42. The Gunfighters too! (And that’s certainly not the last of my involvement in the project.)
43. I created the Introducing: Doctor Who series for Kasterborous.

The Gunfighters 4

44. Doctor Who Confidential has been axed. (And was voted the best show ever on BBC3. Typical.)
45. I previewed Forbidden Planet’s Doctor Who Fun Day for ItchyBristol.
46. And in a short piece for The Mercury.
47. And finally for Bristol 247.
48. … For whom I also reviewed it.
49. The price of a 1st class stamp has increased to 60p.
50. I reviewed Lovarzi’s Fourth Doctor Scarf.
51. I write a regular column, Bristol Comics Corner, for Guide2Bristol.
52. Death in Paradise debuted on BBCOne.
53. Tuition fees increased, with a cap at £9,000.
54. … Something which I argued against in this Bristol247 article.
55. Brandon Flowers released his first solo album, Flamingo, and I reviewed it here.
56. I was thanked for my article about Jack Vettriano’s Bristol exhibition.

Vettriano on the Bristol247 homepage

Vettriano on the Bristol247 homepage

57. I previewed the Slapstick Festival in 2011.
58. I created my own website, using Moonfruit…
59. Then deleted it, as I wasn’t happy with the inability to update.
60. The Dandy ceased publication. (Read my article on that here.)
61. I’ve submitted an article to the Doctor Who book, Celebrate, Regenerate.
62. The Doctor Who Experience opened in London –
63. – Then moved to Cardiff.

JLC dress and Dalek

64. I reviewed Mack the Life, Lee Mack’s autobiography, for The British Comedy Guide.
65. I interviewed comic writer and artist, Jerry Holliday.
66. The Ice Warriors have been confirmed to return in the second half of Doctor Who, Series 7.
67. The world didn’t end on 21st December 2012. (Always a good thing, I find.)
68. The Bristol Comic Expo returned to Brunel’s Old Station.
69. I previewed the 2012 Expo here.
70. And reviewed it here.
71. The James Bond film franchise hit the big 5-0.
72. My former tutor, Marc Leverton, who’s a freelance writer, has written a guest blog post about his experience of publishers.

How To - Journalism

73. A review of his book, How to work as a Freelance Journalist, can be read here.
74. Steven Moffat has left Twitter. (Again, nothing to do with me!)
75. I’ve seen Steven Moffat at the Doctor Who Experience!
76. Sherlock burst onto television in July 2010.
77. I’ve helped Kasterborous begin their 50th anniversary celebrations with monthly Introduction articles.
78. January’s was Frontier in Space.
79. And this month’s is Vengeance on Varos.

Frontier 3

80. Tying into this, my editor called a second Frontier in Space piece I wrote one of the best articles the site has ever published. A massive compliment. You can read The World Behind: Frontier in Space here.
81. I reviewed Lee Mack’s Going Out live tour for Guide2Bristol
82. … And Bristol247!
83. I’ve visited the National History Museum for the first time.
84. Colin Baker appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
85. My article, Room with a View?, was the most-viewed article on Kasterborous in 2012!
86. I’ve begun work on a number of non-fiction books – but researching is a long task!
87. I reminisced on the anniversary of Matt Smith’s debut as the Doctor, Karen Gillan as Amy and Arthur Darvill as Rory here.
88. And celebrated Matt’s Doctor here.

The 11th Doctor

89. I’ve started a short story collection.
90. My jewellery article, With This (Time) Ring…, was surprisingly popular, making the Kasterborous top 10 list of the most-viewed articles of 2012.
91. I looked at the top 10 guest stars in the Tenth Doctor era here and here.
92. I’ve started reading the Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
93. T4 On The Beach (held in my hometown) has been cancelled.

David Tennant

94. I’m working on a particularly-exciting documentary idea – though it’s only in development in my head at the minute!
95. I’ve seen Peter Kay live at Manchester’s M.E.N. Arena.
96. Parts of Doctor Who: The Snowmen were filmed in Bristol, as were bits of Night Terrors.
97. I previewed tours by Micky Flanagan, Ed Byrne and Stewart Francis for my local newspaper, The Weston and Worle Mercury.

Micky Flanagan Mercury preview

Micky Flanagan Mercury preview

98. I’ve seen the asteroid, 2012 DA14!
99. I’ve added a new section to my blog: Testimonials.
100. I’ve written 100 posts!

But don’t go anywhere. This is just the start.

Thanks for sticking with me this long.

 
 

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Two new Bristol247 articles

Bristol247 celebrates its 2nd Anniversary this year, and I’m proud to be a contributor to the site. While my other articles can be seen by clicking on the links in previous blog posts or my online portfolio, I have also had two further pieces published on the site of late.

£9000 university tuition fees will make the common student an endangered species

Students take their protest to the Bristol247 homepage!

Like many, I feel very strongly about the increased student tuition fees, though I am lucky enough not to be directly affected, so I want to thank the editor, Christopher Brown, for the opportunity to air these views. I also want to thank my interviewees, Chris Brownett and Barry Creswell. I’m pleased to see a couple of comments from like-minded individuals too; any further opinions are very much welcomed.

http://www.bristol247.com/2011/05/17/your-say-9000-university-tuition-fees-will-make-the-common-student-an-endangered-species/

Jack Vettriano celebration comes to the RWA, Bristol

Vettriano on the Bristol247 homepage

Jack Vettriano’s one of my favourite artists – in fact, you’ve probably got a print of his art, perhaps on a card or something – and I’m glad he’s being recognised at the RWA. It’s unusual to have something like this in the South West – I’m still trying to get to The Doctor Who Experience in London, although obviously, it’s moving to Cardiff next year – so I hope to show my support and go to the exhibition soon.

http://www.bristol247.com/2011/07/01/jack-vettriano-celebration-comes-to-the-rwa-bristol/

There’s some comments on that too; this time, some more, uhm, opinionated ones. Ah well, love a good debate (as long as I win). Personally, I really like this quote from Vettriano: “The whole debate between the public loving it and critics hating it made it controversial and I’ve benefitted from that. I don’t mind it at all; I’ve always wanted to be a bit of a maverick.”

And finally, here’s my contributor’s page:

http://www.bristol247.com/author/philip-bates/

Hopefully, this’ll be growing, ‘long as Mr. Brown is happy with what I do!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Published work

 

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Doctor Who Fun Day Round-up (2011)

Doctor Who is back.

I’m a big fan of the Time Lord, and so, as part of the build-up to the new series, I headed over to Forbidden Planet in Bristol on their Doctor Who Fun Day.

http://www.thewestonmercury.co.uk/what-s-on/exterminate_1_855825

http://www.bristol247.com/2011/04/06/bristol-fans-expected-to-converge-on-doctor-who-fun-day/

Like anything with the TARDIS stamp of approval, the day was great… but then, I always enjoy a trip to Forbidden Planet!

Exterminate!

It was the perfect subject for a review.

http://www.bristol247.com/2011/04/11/doctor-who-fun-day-packs-out-bristol-forbidden-planet/

… Or two…

http://www.itchybristol.co.uk/article.cfm/4/9059/Bristol-City-Guide/article/Doctor-Who-Fun-Day–Forbidden-Planet

Oh, and it’s great to be quoted by a site I visit frequently:

http://www.kasterborous.com/2011/04/events-galore-2/

Thank you, Kasterborous!

So far, the series has been excellent; Steven Moffat didn’t need to prove himself to anyone, and yet he has, again and again. His wibbly-wobbly plots, tiny-but-important character pieces and incredible epic scale show how much he loves the show.

Stay tuned for more Who-goodness!

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in Published work

 

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Forklift Inspections (South West)

Hey everyone!

Whoa. March. Where has this year gone?

I’ve been working on website copy for Forklift Inspections (South West) recently, alongside its design etc. Here’s some sample text from their homepage:

“FORKLIFT INSPECTIONS (SOUTH WEST)

Hire, Repair, Sales and Service.

F.L.I. is a family-run business in Weston-super-Mare, with local engineers covering an area from Bristol to Cornwall, Swindon to South Wales.

We repair, hire, sell and service forklifts, with no affiliations, allowing us to do the best for you and your business.

All calls and enquiries are answered by our experienced engineers to give you reliable advice to help you get your forklift truck back on the road then and there.

We respond to breakdowns within four hours, with a maximum travel charge of one hour (and no call-out fee).”

The full website can be found here:

F.L.I. Homepage

http://fli-sw.moonfruit.com/

Take a look sometime! I have some more copy to produce for them soon, but there are a couple of other bits needing finishing at the moment. I’ll keep you updated.

Thanks for checking back on this blog. I’m always open to new suggestions, comments on my work (constructive criticism, please) or just a new contact. Just email me on:

prbates36@hotmail.co.uk

Oh, and please put “NEW PROJECT” as the subject so it doesn’t get sent to the trash!

Thanks!

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Published work

 

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Mack A-Mania

Well, it’s been a while. But I have been busy. Promise.

I went to see my favourite comedian, Lee Mack, in November, and loved every second. So I quickly knocked out a couple of reviews and the kind folks at Bristol247 and Guide2Bristol deemed them suitable for publication! You can find them here:

http://www.bristol247.com/2010/11/23/lee-mack-full-of-enthusiasm-energy-and-cheeky-charm/

Lee Mack Bristol247 Review

And here:

http://www.guide2bristol.com/news/1028/Bristol-comedy-review-Lee-Mack-Going-Out-Tour-Colston-Hall

Lee Mack Guide2Bristol Review

But that’s not all. I seem to have fallen into a comedy niche; quite accidental, but very enjoyable anyway. I found myself previewing the Slapstick Festival in Bristol, which can be found at:

http://www.bristol247.com/2011/01/24/bristol-slapstick-festival-returns-with-tribute-to-chaplin/

Slapstick Festival Bristol247 preview

Plus, I’ve been lucky enough to have a preview of Micky Flanagan’s new tour – ‘Out Out’ – printed in last week’s Weston Mercury (dated 10th February 2011). Here’s a photocopy of the article, which can be found on page 47:

Micky Flanagan Mercury preview

I have a couple of other comedy-related articles in the mix at the minute, so I’ll keep you updated on that.

Come back soon for more updates on a few websites and a bit of social networking!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Published work

 

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