Just before Christmas my childhood arrived packed in 3 boxes. They contained DVD sets of Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett. Sadly, shortly after Christmas their creator, Gerry Anderson departed. These three series of Supermarionation were probably one of the greatest influences on my developing an interest in science fiction. It seems I am not alone in this, as I have heard them mentioned by several notable British SF writers, e.g. Stephen Baxter, Peter Hamilton & Ian MacDonald.
I fairly quickly watched the pilots of all three. There is a jump of sophistication from Stingray through to Captain Scarlett, but my favourite vehicle is still Stingray, followed by Thunderbird 2 and the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (SPV). Most revealing was the added commentary by Gerry himself.
Iain M. Banks
An unfolding tragedy is the terminal cancer announced by Scottish SF and literary author Iain Banks.
I was introduced to him by a friend when we found we shared a mutual interest in SF. In exchange, he learned all about Gene Wolfe, my particular favourite. Through this interest in Bank's work I later discovered the British wave of the New Space Opera, adding Stephen Baxter, Peter Hamilton and then Alastair Reynolds (and most recently John Meaney ;)) to my reading lists .
I have never been tempted to read his literary works after a plot summary and some selective reading on the radio of 'The Wasp Factory'. Although when you read 'The Use of Weapons', you can see that he's that same guy. Personal favourites are the Culture books ' Player of Games' and 'Excession'and the non-Culture books: 'Feersum Endjinn' and 'The Algebraist'. The last few of his books have been all bought in hardback as I couldn't wait for the paper back... I haven't yet read my copy of 'The Hydrogen Sonata' so, uncomfortably, the last book I read was 'Surface Detail' with its focus on a rather grim afterlife. This accentuated for me the feeling of loss and tragedy on hearing his recent anouncement. His literary weight is probably also responsible for showing that Space Opera was cool again and made me realise that the SF I could write people might be interested in ...
The death of a classic British character actor, Keith Marsh in January got flagged on a SF website because of his role in a Dr. Who spinoff film starring Peter Cushing: ´Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.' He also had a small part in the orignal Quatermass and the Pit. However, he is most famous for his recurrent role in the seventies sit-com ´Love Thy Neighbour´ where he played Jacko- the permanent feature of the local pub- whose catch phrase was "I'll 'ave half". He was also the gardener in the late-sixities Sid James/ Peggy Mount sit-com ´George and the Dragon´ as well as bit parts in several other Britsh sit-coms, dramas and many, many TV adverts. I know about most of them because Uncle Keith (as we knew him) sent his Aunt (my Gran) advance notice of all his appearences so she could watch him. He also faithfully sent flowers on her birthday, no mean feat since she lived to 98.
The big surprise, when meeting him in the flesh, was that his normal speaking voice wasn't the perenial Northern accent he used in much of his acting career, but a refined BBC English, gained presumably in Drama school...A fuller list of his appearances in many classic British TV series can be found here http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0550595/?ref_=tt_cl_t4Interestingly, in a short story I'm developing at the moment, I will feature a set of events he was involved in depicting as an actor-forgotten until I checked the list above. Watch this space!