31 December, 2005

With Thanks

I'm dotting about a bit, but I've just remembered that I forwarded this email to myself the week I left Sony. I sent this email to a few sympathetic workfriends around the 9th or 10th of May 1997.

Subject: Observation on the death of Terry Nation

When I was about four, I met this lad called John. He watched Doctor Who and we used to play "Time Lords" all the time. When we were fourteen we went to our first convention together and subsequently joined a "local group" in Liverpool. While I was there, I met a few more fans who I kept in touch with for a few years until me and John
[actually a different John, I was obviously simplifying matters for the tale.] decided to run our own group with a wider remit (Gerry Anderson, Blake's 7 etc). During that time I got to know a few people in a group in Blackpool. Then I started work and John started his resits for his A-levels and we both left the groups and the fans behind.

John introduced me to a lad off his course who later became my best friend. Passionate about films and cinema history. He also liked Doctor Who. He gave me a miuch wider social group and led me into loads of adventures, going to parties full of people I didn't know where we pretended to be off-duty policemen. Haha!

I started University and met [my pal] Russell who was/is a fan and who organised the college sci-fi society. When he left college, he handed it over to me and we kept in touch. I, meanwhile, got back in touch with the group I first went to all those years ago. Some of the faces were the same, many were different, and I ended up becoming involved in what would become the biggest, most successful charity Doctor Who convention team IN THE WORLD!

Russell Coburn got me the job at Sony QA. He was also the one who told me that [SCEE copywriter] Martin Pond was leaving and that I should go for his job. I now live in a house where one of the other four people is someone I knew when I first joined the Liverpool Local group. Another writes Doctor Who novels and works at Coronation Street. Another is the ex-girlfriend of another Who novelist mate of ours. The other one's learning slowly ...

It was a cheaply-made, on the whole badly-acted and scripted embarassment for the BBC who resented spending "Drama" budgets on what they saw to be a children's programme. But it's something that has affected my life to such an extent that I can't help but feel slightly saddened at the death of an old, greedy hack writer who, in desperation for work, came up with an idea that saved the show that made the way I enjoy my life possible.

Now, I wrote that back in 1997, when Paul McGann's TV movie was a year old and had failed to resurrect Doctor Who into a new series. It was dead then, but I was still very much a fan. Now, in 2005, it's back, one of the BBC's biggest drama productions of the year and the second-most-watched TV show in Christmas Day (it beat Coronation Street of all things!). Now, everyone's a fan!

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from an old mate from secondary school. We were friends mainly because he was the only person at the school that I'd met before (he'd been in the Cubs at the same place I was in Scouts, for a very short time when I was 10). But we stayed friends because we both liked Doctor Who. It's his birthday on Monday, so I hope I can remember to give him a call then.

Doctor Who's no longer a thrown-together TV show, but I still like it - and in fact I'm watching the old stuff a lot more now and learning more about it all the time. It's still big in my life. It's still important.

Tonight, I'm spending New Year's Eve with a few friends who are witty, generous and incredibly good company. That they might have become like this as a consequence of watching Warriors of the Deep or Paradise Towers, I can't say. But I won't discount the possibility. Just in case...

An Author Writes

This from May 24, 1999 2:27pm

Subject: Hitchcock's birthday

Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, London, on 13 August, 1899, and to celebrate, the London Borough of Waltham Forest, containing Leytonstone, is planning an exhibition at the Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow, called 'Hitchcock - From Leytonstone to Hollywood'. As part of this celebration, Paul Condon and I have been invited to give a "talk" on Thursday August 12 from 6.30 to about 8-ish, discussing our book, "The Complete Hitchcock" and making as many slanderous and ill-informed comments as we possibly can.

Personally, the whole idea fills me with dread, so I'd love it if some of you sexy people could join us for what will be our unofficial book launch. It'll be a tiny affair, only about 40 people can fit in there apparently, but for those that are interested, there'll be a bag of crisps, a can of flat diet coke and a handi-wipe to pass round between the lot of yer. We can go for a drink afterwards and you lot can take the piss out of me ('cos Paul will be fab as ever).

More news nearer the time,

Jim Sangster
...who only realised this morning that Hitch's 100th anniversary falls on Friday 13th!!!

I can't actually remember why we didn't end up having this booklaunch, whether I bottled out as usual or whether they cancelled. But it didn't happen anyway.

Oh, I Get it...

This from Monday, May 24, 1999 2:21pm, provoked by an email from Paully detailing a horrific encounter with a cabbie who supported the nail bomber's intentions:

Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against cab drivers. Just wouldn't let one of them near me kids, that's all. No, really, some of my best friends are cab drivers. Don't mind those mini-cabs, but those BlackCab drivers should be strung up, driving round like they're from round here - they should all be sent back where they come from - the taxi-rank.

My First Trip to LA

It's time for another fake-diary entry. This one comes was sent to the mailing list on Tue May 18, 1999 at 1:27pm.

Subject: I'm back Jim_Sangster@xxxxxxxxxxx.xxxx.xxx

Well, I'm back from L.A., which is like Alton Towers at dawn - all facade and no-one about. Really, for a busy city I was really thrown by the lack of pedestrians (they all drive about in cars - flash bastards).

I was at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) which saw PlayStation out in force sandwiched between Nintendo (who, as was evident by the presence of Darth Maul, has aligned itself with the Dark Side) and Sega. Nothing really impressive to write home about, with all the titles being either sequels or clones of other games - with one exception.

Sega Dreamcast has a microphone peripheral and software that allows you to talk to a computer-generated character. Now the implementation wasn't that good (the character looked like one of the fish from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life) but the idea was cool; if you use a selection of commands you can converse with a "sea-man" (snigger) who tells you all about what it's like to permenantly stink of fish (snigger 2).

PlayStation America threw a party and Beck played an hour-long set... which was nice.

Any fans of Abe's Oddysee or Abe's Exoddus will be pleased to hear a new Oddworld project, called Munch's Oddysee will appear on PlayStation 2 next year - you play a Glukkon who's playing with the DNA of people, getting them addicted
to milk (to improve sales), exploiting lesser species and basically being a capitalist opposite of cute likkle Abe. Sounds dead good.

Anyway, I'm off "No-Mail" now and have already received ten e-mails in the duration of writing this.

So, that wasn't my first trip to the States - that happened the year before when I went to Atlanta. But i thought it was fun how fascinated I was by a peripheral that allows you to talk to a computer interface. I'm currently typing this via my Mac, which you can talk to and it answers back. It can even tell you jokes. When windows pop up in other programs it tells you 'Safari needs your attention'. It's a bit spooky really. Now if only they could invent robots that do the washing up...

Oh, and Munch's Oddysee never came to PlayStation 2. Weep!

30 December, 2005

I am the God of all Erics!

originally uploaded by jim_sangster.
And this is Eric, a dalek mutant. he marks a shift away from plasticine to scultping in latex, which stinks and is very messy but the results are quite nice.


originally uploaded by jim_sangster.
In 2005, there was a bit of a competition from Doctor Who fans on Outpost Gallifrey to redesign the Cybermen, so I thought I'd have a go. I had a think about why the later cyberhelmets became so over-designed, and thought it might have been to do with where the scars might have formed on the flesh of the original people who became early Cybermen (this is all desperately sad, but sod it).

Underneath all that plasticine is the head of a baby doll, which makes it all that little bit creepier...

Working in the Lab

originally uploaded by jim_sangster.
This one's from about 2001, a bust of Frankenstein's monster, again made in plasticine.

Lizard Men

originally uploaded by jim_sangster.
This is when i started to get a bit ambitious. Having made the monster for Lanyon Moor, I wanted to completely reimagine an existing Doctor Who monster and chose the Silurians. I was keen to make them look a little less like men in masks and more like the Raptors from Jurassic Park, so I changed the shape of the head a little and added a lizard tongue just flicking out of the mouth.

Playing in the Sandpit

originally uploaded by jim_sangster.
So, a few years down the line (early 2000) and I've rediscovered a love for mucking about with plasticine. My mates at Big Finish are making Doctor Who audio CDs and it occurs to me that I might be able to sculpt monsters for the covers. When I mention this to Gary Russell, he thinks I'm taking the piss, so I have a chat with his cover designer, Clay Hickman, find out which plays are coming up and go away to sculpt this fella, a space imp.

Well, Gary liked it, Nick Pegg (author of the play) liked it and offered a few suggestions for improvements, which I made then and there, and away it went, to appear on the cover thanks to some nice Photoshopping from Clay.

It also marked my first chance to be allowed to play in the same sandpit as everyone else, doing my bit for Doctor Who. When I was a kid, I wanted to make Doctor Who monsters when I grew up. While it's not exactly a living, I at least achieved a quite daft childhood ambition - not many people can say that.

Early Works

originally uploaded by jim_sangster.
So, why did I call this blog Monster Maker?

When I was a kid, we didn't have a lot of money (cue violins) and I was an olnly child so I was encouraged to use my imagination and my craft skills to make toys. I had, over the years, some rather nice monsters for my Doctor Who doll to fight against on the surface of the planet Mybedroom. I don't have (m)any pictures of them any more, but I did find this one, a model of the Malus from 'The Awakening'. It's amazing what plasticine sculpted onto a sheet of wood and propped in front of a polystyrene sheet can achieve, isn't it.


Places Like That

So, this mailing list was created at the end of April 1999. On Friday 30 April, 1999 I invited everyone to meet us in the Fitzroy Tavern for drinks. Lots of us had been having lousy weeks so I thought it would cheer people up.

That evening i popped home to change and just as I was about to leave I got a phone call from Julia up in Manchester asking if I was alright. Turns out some nutter had let off a nail bomb in Soho, at the Admiral Duncan pub. I remember that when I finally got to the Tavern, everyone was either a bit hyper (with nerves because we were only a few streets away from where it happened) or else completely unaware of the situation until they actually got to the pub.

Looking through the mailing list backlog, I'd forgotten that we'd ended up going clubbing - a big gang of us went to Popstarz and then spent hours queueing to get in because of heightened security. Paully didn't show up because he'd been out with workmates and by the time he'd got home the world had gone into panic aboutg a possible second bomb. I got back home to find answerphone messages from everyone - except my mum.

The next morning, I called my Mum to let her know I was okay. 'I thought you would be,' she said. 'You don't go to places like that.' 'What, Soho?' I replied, explaining that I worked just round the corner from there and often used that exact route to meet my mates at the Retro near Charing Cross.

'Places like that,' eh? Not so much a question as an instruction.

Back to the Mailing List. Russell T Davies was there then, although he left a week or so later being unable to cope with the volume of distractions. But his comments about the bombing were fun, starting off with 'Bastards, bastards, bastards' and then describing how the Village in Manchester was businer than ever because everyone treated the situation with a 'fuck you, you're not spoiling our fun' attitude. It shows that people were considering the bombings to be the work of an organisation, as opposed to one man.

Faking a Diary...

I've often regretted the fact that I never managed to keep a diary. Not that much has happened that might justify the need for one, but reading Kenneth Williams' diary recently made me realise how it'd be good to be able to go back and look up when the first time I realised things, began to hate jobs, fell in and out of love etc might have been.

I first started using online forums in around 1997, but it wasn't until a friend created a mailing list in 1999 that I had what I might consider an online 'home' to go to. looking back through the archives, I've found a few posts from the very first day of that group that provide me with an anchor to start faking up a diary of sorts. This is how I introduced myself back then:

Date: Wed Apr 28, 1999 11:08am

I'm a copywriter for PlayStation, which means instead of bemoaning the quality of the latest coal, the new engines in the factory or the state of the floors outside the school gym, I don't actually do any manual labour - I just labour over manuals (haha - copywriter humour). I also overeat on a dangerous level and tend to spoil stretches of alcohol-free nights with almighty binges.

So, now I work for the BBC, writing web pages, but not much else has changed. Except, as Baz Lurmann noted in his 'Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen', I was not as fat as I thought, if today's bloated frame is anything to go by...

Okay, here goes... publish!