Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: sci fi

Writing for charidee with Jon Hartless: Blakes 7

Writing for charidee.

The above may take you back a bit. To the 1990s, to be exact, when Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield dominated the airwaves with their comedy sketch shows featuring dinosaur-tastic DJs Smashie and Nicey, a couple of characters inspired by several BBC DJs of that time who had been spinning disks, and the same tired old patter, since the year dot.

Nostalgia is, of course, big business. There has always been a yearning for the past, which is regularly seen as a better, simpler time. Quite often, in my view, this is absolute hogwash, as many view the openly racist, sexist, homophobic, disease-dominated, comfort-lite times through rose-tinted glasses. Or, in many cases, through goggles which have been painted completely red.

Not all nostalgia is bad, however, as long as you try and keep an open mind about the era you’re reminiscing over. And nostalgia can indeed be a positive thing, on occasion, as this blog will hopefully show as I finally get to the point and talk about the television of yesteryear.

TV has long been an area of warmth, comfort, and fun for hordes of fans who fondly remember a childhood spent watching such shows as Doctor Who, The Prisoner, The Avengers and so on. Indeed, our own Jenny Kane has a side-line going in producing stories within the framework of the beloved 1980s telefantasy Robin of Sherwood.

These old shows still hold a substantial fanbase of original and new viewers, with those who watched as kids often sharing their fan passions with their own children, meaning that TV is now something straddling, and joining together, the generations.

Of course, on the downside, the toxicity of some fans is truly horrendous, with gatekeeping being a common issue across many fandoms. See the rampant misogyny over the casting of Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who as one prime example.

But at its best, you can find the fans combining to create new content, be it books, audio dramas, documentaries, and even new filmed episodes, all inspired by their beloved shows. And as they can’t (usually) do any of this for profit as they don’t hold the required licenses, they instead often do it to raise money for charity. (Thus finally tying in with the title of this blog. Bet you thought I’d forgotten that, didn’t you?)

One recent example I was lucky enough to be involved in was a new collection of fan-created content set around the final series of Blake’s 7. For those who don’t know, Blakes 7 (minus the apostrophe) was a low-budget BBC science fiction show that ran for four seasons from 1977-1981, and followed a small band of freedom fighters in their battle against the evil Federation.

The budget for this epic space opera was non-existent. Sets wobbled, spaceships flipped between models and cardboard cut-outs, robots were extras sprayed silver, and aliens were… what you’d expect on a 1970s BBC budget. Only slightly worse.

What saved the show was a dedicated cast and crew overcoming the budgetary issues to take on a heady brew of great concepts, great characters, and (occasional) great writing. The freedom fighters, for example, weren’t the young innocent heroes of typical pop culture fare, but were instead a mixed bag of idealists, criminals, and extremists – some of whom didn’t even want to be in the revolution. The totalitarian Federation, meanwhile, was headed up by the glam diva, Servalan, who wore long frocks and high heels no matter what the situation or environment, and who quite often ended the episode by killing her underlings. And the final episode still stands, for me, as one of the best of any TV show, regardless of genre.

Merchandise was a given, including toys, jigsaws, novel tie-ins, and – crucially – annuals. Three of these were produced, as a tie-in with seasons 1-3, while a fourth was planned but for some reason never saw the light of the day. And this is where modern-day fandom comes in.

Fast forward to now(ish) and dedicated fan Grahame Robertson decided to create an annual for the final season of Blakes 7, a substitute for the official book that never appeared. To do that he needed stories, artwork, and articles. He put a call out on social media and had an immediate, positive response. Indeed, the response was so positive, he had too many stories for the project, despite expanding it exponentially until it resembled something not unlike an encyclopedia in terms of girth.

Grahame’s response to this was very sensible. He decided to do an extra anthology for all the stories that wouldn’t fit into the annual. The result? The Blakes 7 Annual 1982, and the Scorpio Tales anthology. Two beautiful books stuffed full of fan enthusiasm, skill, and dedication. And this also means twice the money for charity; at the time of writing, the annual alone has raised over £2000 for both Axminster and Lyme Cancer Support, and Save the Children UK.

Unfortunately, not every fan project moves forward. I also contributed to a non-profit Doctor Who anthology entitled We Are The Master, but the editor seems to have run foul of BBC lawyers, (despite all funds raised going to mental health charities), and hence the whole project has been derailed. I hope this is only a temporary setback, but there seems to be no trace of it anywhere online, so this may, alas, be permanent.

But at least we have something out there made by a few of the fans, for the enjoyment of everyone, and the benefit of those who need it. Which is a nice way to go into 2022.

The Blakes 7 annual can be found at:

The Blakes 7 anthology, Scorpio Tales, can be found at:


Jon Hartless was born back in the 1970s, and feels very old. He contributed the short story “Space Rats in the Maze” to the Scorpio Tales anthology. He is also the author of the Poppy Orpington Chronicles, a Steampunk motor racing series which can be found at:

Many thanks Jon. Got to love Blakes 7!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny. x

Meet Richard Dee

Today I’m delighted to be handing over my blog to a fellow Devon based writer, Richard Dee. Why not go and grab a cuppa, and then come and get acquainted?

Over to you Richard…

Hello everyone and my thanks to Jenny for the spot today. Let me introduce myself.

I’m Richard Dee and I write mainly Science Fiction and Steampunk style stories. If that means space shenanigans, fantastic planets, and Queen Victoria on steroids to you, well that’s a pretty fair guide to some of what I do. If you don’t know what I mean, just take a look at the covers. And before you double take, yes that is a medieval helmet in one of the pictures.

I was actually asked to do a story for the 1066 Turned Upside Down project by the wonderful Helen Hollick.

For those who don’t know about 1066 TUD, it’s a collection of short stories offering an alternative take on the events surrounding the Battle of Hastings and what might have been. For my contribution, I chose to write about the butterfly effect and… well, you’ll just have to read it to find out. The book contains eleven stories from nine authors.

I did wonder if Sci-fi was a good fit for historical fiction but judging by these review comments that I found; I seem to have fitted in nicely.

“I found the inclusion of a story from Richard Dee, of the science fiction genre, a masterstroke and a worthy contribution.”

“One of my favourite stories had to be the tale by Richard Dee, the perfect mix of science fiction and historical fiction.”

“Richard Dee was another new author for me, but his submission stood out for a couple of reasons. Unlike his fellows, Dee put a bit of a sci-fi twist on 1066 and wrote a story that is set largely in the modern world. It was a dramatic shift and it threw me at first, but looking back I think the submission one of the strongest pieces in the anthology. I thought it was fun, I thought it was creative, and I liked how it allowed the reader a unique vantage point and perspective.”

To be honest, I’ve never really liked the idea of genres and stereotypes. When it comes right down to it, it’s all fiction and as well as the science mine all contain elements of every other genre, history, crime, war, fantasy and even a little romance. In fact, they’re populated by ordinary people; they have the same emotions and the same motivation as we all do as they go about the tasks I’ve set them.

The universes that they inhabit may be strange to us, but they’re natural to them. Science fiction is such a broad platform; mine is just as concerned with the triumphs of people as it is with the wonders of the science. To me, the science is just another character, it can have emotion and a voice, in the same way that any person or setting can.

I like to think of the words of Captain James T Kirk; when he was asked if he was from outer space. He simply replied. “No. I’m from Iowa; I just work in Outer Space.”

I hope that my stories work as stories and not just as “sci-fi.” That might make you wonder why I chose sci-fi as a vehicle for them. And the answer might not be what you would think.

When I first started writing, I thought that sci-fi would be easy to write, after all; how could you research the future? I could just drop my plot and characters into the future somewhere – easy! And that was mistake number one! I’m sure I do at least as much research as everyone else, just to make sure that all my settings have a basis in fact. And that at least part of it sounds true, or at least sounds possible based on what we know today.

The consequence of that is that on the way I’ve made up more back stories than I could shake a stick at. They form the basis of my Short story collection Flash Fiction and have given me short stories in abundance, enough for Flash Fiction 2 in fact. And the more novels I write, the more back stories I need.

As well as the usual creation of worlds, spaceships and technology; I’ve invented the inventor of faster-than-light travel and told everyone how he did it (The tale of Christopher Padgett), explored the dichotomy of time dilation (Tales from the Sleepers), and wondered how the future will see history (Looking back at our Future). I even invented a magazine to print the articles of future history that form the backdrop to my adventures (Galactographic!).

And in the new collection will be farming in Space (The Orbital Livestock Company), The Grandfather paradox (It works both ways), and much more, including several Steampunk vignettes from my world of Norlandia.

And now that I’ve invented these things, I can use them in all my universes. Nothing is ever wasted, and crossovers abound. And thanks to my loyal readers, what were originally intended to be stand-alone stories are becoming series.

My debut novel, Freefall, is a tale of loss, loneliness and the biggest story ever kept from us by an authoritarian government.

The second, Ribbonworld, features corporate espionage and conspiracy set on a planet that we have no right to exist on.

The third, The Rocks of Aserol, takes place in an alternative Victorian society where oil and electricity have never had a chance to shape the lives of the inhabitants.

Incidentally, until I started this one, I never realised what you could make of a world without the things we all take for granted. Never mind warp drive and photon torpedoes, in the Steampunk universe; the possibilities are as endless as they are ten thousand years from now!

And thanks to my readers Freefall now has a prequel. Myra will be published in about six weeks. And I’ve got enough ideas for a third story in the series as well.

Ribbonworld has a sequel called Jungle Green, which is destined to see the light of day soon and The Rocks of Aserol has a sequel in development. All these are the direct result of feedback. But they haven’t stopped me writing anything new.

One of my short stories has spawned a book, featuring a new heroine. Andorra Pett first made her appearance in a short story last year in my collection Flash Fiction.

After much encouragement, she is set for a full novel soon, it’s just about written, in the queue for editing and beta reading (if you’re interested, let me know), and the cover is done, now all I have to do is find the time to publish it.

Going back to Myra, to give you a small taste of what’s to come, the story is titled for the heroine in Freefall.

It was written to explain a remark our hero, Dave Travise, makes when he is continually reminded of the fact that Myra isn’t around anymore.  Here’s the quote from Freefall.

No matter how many times I hear the voice – it’s Myra by the way, it reminds me of the happy times. When she had put her voice print on the computer she said it was so she could order me around. It must be fifteen years ago but I sometimes look over my shoulder expecting to see her in the hatchway. You can still see the faint dent in the panel if you look closely, I try not to. The paint was worn there; I rubbed it every time I passed.”

A lot of people asked me what the significance of that dent was; rather than keep explaining, I wrote a book as an explanation. If you want to know more about the dent, and what happened to cause it, Freefall is available now and Myra will be published on March 15th 2017 in all the usual places. But here’s a clue.

“I turned, and even though I didn’t immediately realise it, it was then that I fell in love.”

Meet Dave Travise, at least that’s who his identity chip says he is. An ex-navy man on the run; somehow he’s ended up in a dead man’s shoes; on a new ship and on the wrong side of the law.

With no way to prove his innocence, he’s just got to play along and keep his head down if he’s going to survive. As if he doesn’t have enough problems, now he’s fallen for Myra, the engineer on his new home.

Pursued by criminal gangs and keeping one jump ahead of everyone, Dave and his new shipmates are going to need all the luck in the Galaxy just to stay alive.

Myra tells the story of how Finn Douglas, Naval Officer; became Dave Travise, Galactic trader. And what happened before Freefall.

And what do my readers say; well here are a couple of examples,

“I’m not usually a fan of Science Fiction but Ribbonworld is a thriller that would work in any genre.”

“FREEFALL is a rattling good adventure story, with a few unexpected twists, good characters and plenty of action.”

“There’s something of a ripping yarn about this excellent tale of adventure. False accusations, discoveries kept secret, villains who murder to get their way, and the whiff of requited love – it’s all here in this classic steampunk saga.”


So where does all this come from, where does a man who failed English at O level way back in 1974 get his motivation.

For me, it all starts with a film I saw way back when I was an apprentice in the Merchant Navy. We were in New York in 1977 and the locals were all raving about a new film called Star Wars. I went to see it and it blew my mind. The technology was understated, it was greasy and it was prone to breaking down, that made it more believable to me than any shiny gadget from the future that I had seen before.

This was the kind of future I wanted to write about, the kind where the hero’s in trouble and he pushes a button in the hope that something will actually happen. Where mankind has spread among the stars and bought all his Earthly vices with him. Or an alternative reality; where mighty machines powered by Steam and Clockwork drive a society that’s uneasy with the price of progress.

There was a pause while life got in the way, I got married, got qualified (Master Mariner, BSc, First Class Thames Pilot) and survived (just) having three daughters. Writing was way down on my list. Then I retired and with the time to think, the creativity really started. And once I got started then the ideas flooded in and the work poured out. Freefall was published in 2013 (34 years after I had the first idea), Ribbonworld in 2015 and The Rocks of Aserol last year. I have three novels currently in the final stages of publication, Myra will come out in March 2017, as for the others; I’m not sure about them yet.

And that brings me to the last part of my story, I self-publish. I own a publishing imprint, 4Star Scifi, and in that respect, I’m my own boss.

I don’t set myself deadlines and I don’t take a percentage. What I have is control and a marvelous, hand-picked team behind me. Without my editor, my cover designer and everyone else, the person who formats my work, the beta readers, and my fiercest critic; my ideas would be just that.

Of course, emotion is important in all my work, where would we be without it? Why would you mount a white charger if you didn’t want to rescue the maiden? Why would you caress a dent in the panel if you hadn’t loved and lost?

My website says “Welcome to my Worlds,” but they aren’t just mine; they’re the worlds that I think we all want to inhabit.


And now, some advertising

You can find me at, there’s all my news and lots of free content for you to enjoy, I try to post a new short story every month or so. You’ll also find details of my novels and works in progress.

I’m on Facebook at @RichardDeeAuthor

Amazon links to my books



The Rocks of Aserol:

1066 Turned Upside Down:

Flash Fiction:

To finish up, here’s a quick Flash Fiction from my website, my thanks to Jenny for the platform and to you for making it this far. I hope you enjoy it.

Man of Mystery.

The plastic bag lay on the bed where it had fallen from the package. This was it; the final piece of the plan had arrived. I was ready to begin.

I looked around the bedroom; it was a wreck, the doors had been ripped off the wardrobe and hung by the bottom hinges, the drawers were all tipped on the floor, contents strewn. The bed was unmade; quilt heaped. The heavy curtains were making the room dark; the window faced east and the room was normally filled with morning light. Not today.

It had taken me a while to achieve the look of a robbery and I had enjoyed every minute of it. I felt like I was starting to get my power back, that I was no longer at the bottom, a victim of events.

I picked up the bag; it was cool to the touch, a faint sweat on it from the cool poly-box it had arrived in, the box now in the back of my car.

Red Blood Cells it proclaimed in large letters; O Rh Positive, with a barcode. The contents felt thick and glutinous as they moved around under my fingers. It was my blood in there, taken a week ago at a special session. That was important. There were two tubes leading from the bag, one with a small tap arrangement. Taking a last look at the bedroom I opened it and squirted about half of the blood onto the bed, making a large irregular stain.

It’s true what they say, a little blood makes a lot of mess, the dark red liquid pooled on the bedding and sank into the mattress. Moving backwards I let the blood drip from the tube in a rough line toward the door. Moving quickly I dripped and splashed blood all the way down the stairs and to the front door.

As I passed each room along the stone hallway I saw that they had all been ransacked, I grinned, that had been more enjoyment, a primeval feeling of exultation in destruction, part of all of us. Even though it was my stuff; my memories I had really let myself go. There were no neighbours to hear and I had made a lot of noise.

By the time I had backed out of the porch and onto the gravel there was little of the liquid left in the bag. I squeezed the last of it out and took the bag to my car, putting it into the poly-box in the trunk.

Now I just had to finish scene-setting.

I went back upstairs and into the bedroom. I grabbed a towel from the en-suite bathroom and making sure I stood in the blood splashes I roughly wiped the blood on the floor. I made it look like a body had been dragged from the bed and bumped down the stairs. There was even the odd bloody footprint and I made sure that some smears made it onto the walls. It took a few minutes and the blood was starting to congeal by the time I had made it to the front door.

Back outside I pulled off my shoes, the ones with the distinctive tread and bagged them next to the poly-box. There was a pair of trainers on the back seat and I hopped around while I put them on, gravel stuck to one sock and made me wince when I put weight on the foot, I sorted that out and took a last look around.

My home for the past year looked serene in the early morning light, the door was ajar and the trail of red led inside. I glimpsed my face in the mirror as I settled into the driving seat, I was smiling, part one had been completed; I was dead and horribly so. I just had to dispose of a few things and part two could begin. I started the engine and drove away.

© Richard Dee 2016


Thanks for such a generous blog Richard! Fabulous stuff. Thank you for taking the time to put it together for us.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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