Tag Archives: john ainsworth

Space 1889 – Looking Back, part 2

In the second part of my look back at the Space: 1889 audio series, I talk to Richard Dinnick, my co-author on the final release from Noise Monster Productions, The Lunar Inheritance.

1) What interested you in Space: 1889 in the first place?

I am a complete sucker for “what if” scenarios and Space: 1889 slotted into that very well. The moment you and I got the gig from John, we ran all over the internet (metaphorically of course) seeking out information about the franchise. What we found really spurred us on: a fascinating environment with some wonderfully colourful characters and a huge scope for expansion. What else does a creative person need?
2) What difficulties did you face in converting a Role-playing Game scenario into a fully-fledged audio drama?

As John has said, he used the role-playing game books as a series bible. He sent this to us and we took a look. Remember, this isn’t a case of adaptation, this was merely a case of coming up with a story within the confines of someone else’s universe. In that respect it is just like writing for Doctor Who or Stargate with all the brilliant possibilities and sometimes limiting factors that come with that.

The one thing I was keen to do – having played a few role playing games myself – was keep that element of “how do we get out of this one?” or “in what way are they going to pull the rug from under us?” that embodies that relationship between player and games master. I guess I saw us as games masters and hopefully we managed to pull the rug by revealing that the Selenites were the Silanteans’ (the moon men) modems.

3) Who are your favourite characters?

It must be said that Frank Chadwick has done a superb job in fleshing out his vision of a Victorian Space Opera with very three-dimensional characters. This made our job a great deal easier. Annabelle was great; she’s feisty and well-capable of handling herself. Helen Goldwyn brought her to life splendidly. Her uncle – who was played by Garrick Hagon- wasn’t in our story very much but Doctor Cyrus Grant had a key role to play and you – who wrote the prison cell scene – brought him to life magnificently.

Of course, I suppose I am bound to say that I liked the characters that we came up with best because we had created them and fleshed them out. If I remember things correctly, you were behind the creation of William Brooker while I handled Captain Nathaniel Blake. Originally the Naval officer commanding Indomitable was going to be James Carter played by Anthony Daniels from the first Space: 1889 (Jonathan Clements’ Red Devils) audio drama! Alas, his schedule meant we had to create our own officer, which was a boon because I think he’s a great character. Yes, Blake is my favourite.

4) Your three favourite moments in The Lunar Inheritance are…?

I don’t think I will ever forget the email that said we had got the job. This was my first audio commission and I was extremely excited! So that has to be highlight number one.

The actual writing of the play took an age. We had a first draft and then a second (with changed and new characters to slot in and a new sub-plot to add) and then we had notes on that which had to be incorporated. It took a while, but it was an invaluable learning process and John was incredibly supportive, nurturing and positive.

There was one scene in the great elevator where I wrote a stage direction saying that there was balalaika music playing in the background. John said, “I’m not sure we’ll be able to get that, Richard!”, and that was when I realised that all the sound effects and music would have to be sourced and the job involved in that. It made me think about the ensemble team a lot more and served me well when I went on to write for Big Finish’s Sapphire & Steel range. So, the second highlight? When I got the CD and sat down to listen to the finished version, there was the balalaika playing in the background as Blake and K’chuk try to bluff Colonel Molatov. Simon Robinson had come up trumps! I was stupidly happy about that!

Finally, being in studio for the recording was a massive buzz. I will never tire of hearing a script brought to life by a talented group of artists marshalled by an equally gifted director. That recording was great for so many reasons. It cemented my friendship with John and he introduced me to Nick Briggs, who has become a great friend and person to work for.

5) What’s coming next from you?

I am beavering away at so many things right now. I was a finalist in a BBC Writers’ Room opportunity to create a TV Show for CBeebies and I have been asked to deliver a revised script and tone document. I have a script and a book to write as well as a graphic novel idea and a drama series idea to pitch to the right people! And this is all by the end of November!

In terms of releases: The Big Finish Companion is out and we’re launching it at the Dimensions convention in Newcastle before flying off to Chicago. Also before the end of November! The tour continues at the Gallifrey One convention in LA come February and thence at Big Finish Day 2, Invasion and Regenerations.

December sees my adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles released in the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes range. That’s followed by my adaption of David Stuart Davies’s The Tangled Skein. I am very proud of this series as I was also assistant producer on them under Nick.

Then I’ve got my First Doctor Companion Chronicle due in May – The Wanderer. At some point next year my Stargate audio will see the light of day along with three unannounced projects I am working on or will be working on soon!

Thanks to Richard for his time, and if you’re curious about his latest work, why not pop over to the Sci-Fi Bulletin and check out their review of The Big Finish Companion.

Space: 1889 – Looking Back

In the first of a two-part article, I shall be speaking to the creative minds behind Noise Monster Productions’ audio series of Space: 1889, the inspiration for the series that eventually became Space: 1889 & Beyond.

Noise Monster, a fledgling production company, was set up by John Ainsworth in 2004. Ainsworth was well versed in audio production, having worked as director and producer for Big Finish Productions official range of Doctor Who audio dramas. The first property he decided to go for was Frank Chadwick’s Space: 1889 in 2005. I spoke to him recently and asked him what it was that brought him to Space: 1889 in the first place…

  • JA: I think I was aware of Space: 1889 when it first came out. I was big Dungeons and Dragons player in my teens and, although I stopped playing regularly when I moved to London in my late teens, I did keep an eye on what was being published. Many years later I produced the Judge Dredd audio dramas for Big Finish and became aware that the authors were using the Judge Dredd role playing game books as their reference material for writing the scripts, rather than having to plough through thirty years worth of comic strips. This made realise that all RPG’s were ready-made ‘bibles’ for telling stories of any kind, and not just for gaming.

And so he approached Frank, and a licence was worked out. As I’ve discovered myself while developing the eBook series, turning a role playing game into an ongoing fictional narrative has proven an interesting task. So I asked how he approached developing a RPG into a series of audio dramas…

  • JA: It was easy really. I bought multiple copies of the main Space: 1889 gaming book and gave one to each of my authors. I told them to write a story set in this universe. I wanted a large cast of characters that would populate the world. The intention was that they wouldn’t all be in every story, or wouldn’t always have a major role, but they would keep on cropping up as we progressed from adventure to adventure.

This principle is evident in the Mars Trilogy, but unfortunately the forth release proved to be the last. Was that always the intention?

  • JA: The intention was for the series to be an ongoing one, exploring the whole of the Space: 1889 universe with stories set on Mars, Venus, Luna, Earth and in space. I had a vague notion of bringing Queen Victoria to Mars on a Royal visit and was thinking of asking Pauline Collins to play the role. I was later amused to discover that she was subsequently cast in exactly this role for an episode of Doctor Who. So, someone was thinking along the same lines as I was!

Talking of the end of the series, I asked John what he felt contributed to its demise.

  • JA: Poor sales, plain and simple. It was quite a learning curve. I discovered that each time I released a new CD, the previous ones would sell as well. If that trend had continued, it would have begun to break even after around twelve releases. Unfortunately though, I didn’t have the funds to keep the series going that long without seeing any return.

At this point I wondered, what with the growing popularity of steampunk and Space: 1889, would now be a good time to return to making audio dramas based on the property?

  • JA: Possibly. To be honest though, I think you’re only going to get really healthy sales from audio dramas that are based on popular, existing franchises that already have a large fan following like Doctor Who, Star Trek or Star Wars. However, if I was to produce further Space: 1889 audios (although I have no plans to do so), I would release them as download only titles. This would greatly reduced the production costs as pressing CDs, printing covers and postage and packing is a very costly part of the business.

Looking back then, five years on, I wondered what John would consider his proudest moments as producer of Space: 1889.

  • JA: To be honest, I was proud to have done it at all. I thought all four titles were really good and Alex Mallinson’s graphics and art were exactly what I wanted. I was particularly pleased with the casts who I thought were excellent and did some really good work.

Now we turn to the author of the very first Space: 1889 audio, Jonathan Clements. Like Ainsworth, Clements was no stranger to audio work, having written for Big Finish. I started out by asking him what interested him in Space: 1889 in the first place…

  • JC: I think it’s the sense that the Victorian period is *already* science fiction. There isn’t all that much difference between Mars and Africa or India for the Victorians, and there is this incredible sense of progress and adventure. It’s fashionable now to regard the Victorian era as one of exploitation, folly and imperialism, and even in my script, there were elements of doubt about the justification for expansion and colonialism, but Chadwick’s original has a sense of exuberance, a sense of fun about it.

And what difficulties did he face converting the RPG into a script?

  •  JC: Bottom line: sentences are longer. Victorian speech patterns are entirely different to our own. Only the servants talk remotely like we do. The upper classes have a literate, sedate, loquacious consideration to their speech, which made my script 10% too long on the first draft. But I came to love the luxury of being able to think aloud in speech. You can’t do that with modern manners — everyone always interrupts each other.

As authors we all have favourite characters, so when asked who were his, Clements was quick and to the point.

  •  JC: The Professor and his daughter Georgina.

 Fair enough, and I have to agree. So, just to task him a little more, what would be his three favourite moments from Red Devils…?

  •  JC: Georgina rustling around the Professor’s cabin and asking him if he’s awake. And then there’s a pause…. which turns into silence… and then he says “No”. Ian Brooker’s finest moment, not for what he says, but for how long he waits to say it.
  •  Georgina kicking off the resistance by slapping the pirate leader. It harkens back to an observation I made about Viking sagas, when if you actually look at the original text, you see that a lot of battles begin when women goad their menfolk into action.
  •  Williams’ final speech to his executioners, a message from our century to that of the Victorians: “Your enemies are within, parasites that feed on your goodwill as gentlemen. Your enemy is Empire itself, and the evils it engenders in men of all races! Rise up, before your masters’ intrigues send you to fight a raging storm of red dust! You are not servants of Britannia, you are her slaves, and Mars shall bury you!”

In ending this first part, then, I ask Clements what’s coming up for him, for I know he’s a very busy chap.

  •  I’ve written the first of the novel spin-offs from the TV series Spartacus: Blood & Sand. It’s called Spartacus: Swords & Ashes, and it will be published in January 2012. A very different kind of speech pattern from the Victorian age, but just as intricate and just as much fun to work with.

You can discover more about Jonathan Clements from his website, www.schoolgirlmilkycrisis.com

And so, one final thing for Mr Ainsworth. When I told him that the Mars Trilogy has been acknowledged as running con-currently with the first series of Space: 1889 & Beyond, he had this to say…

  •  Well, that’s great! I’m glad it’s considered part of the wider Space: 1889 universe.

Many thanks to John Ainsworth and Jonathan Clements for their time.