This week my DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS retrospective reaches peak point. If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know that a). TRIFFIDS is my favourite book and it’s had an enormous influence on my writing and b). I’m currently working my way through the various film and TV adaptations. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d love to write the screenplay for a Triffids movie/miniseries, so I’ve been looking at the pluses and minuses of each version to try and understand why they’ve succeeded or failed. Today we get to the 1981 BBC TV version which is, without question, the most faithful adaptation of John Wyndham’s story yet produced.
Back in the day, when there were only three UK TV channels and we were on the cusp of the home video revolution, this adaptation of TRIFFIDS occupied the primetime. It faired pretty well, with decent viewing figures, favourable reviews and plenty of media coverage. Following the release of the novel in 1951, the name Triffid came to be used to describe any over-sized or vaguely menacing-looking plant, and the beautiful design of the 1981 creature (for want of a better word) also became unexpectedly iconic. I wrote previously about how hard it must be to visualise a genuinely threatening, seven-foot tall, walking carnivorous plant, and yet visual effects designer Steve Drewett did just that. Their vivid colouring, their stings dripping with poison, and their borderline flamboyant, quiff-like styling resulted in a realisation of the Triffids like nothing seen previously or since. There’s an arrogance to their appearance. It’s almost as if they want you to come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.
But before I get into the detail and explain why I think this adaptation works so well, let’s watch the title sequence and enjoy the theme music by Christopher Gunning. I say enjoy, but if I’m honest, at the tender age of eleven, these titles scared me just about as much as the Triffids themselves!
Well that was interesting! A few weeks ago I asked an obvious question on my website, Facebook and Twitter. I wanted to know which side you’d choose: HATER or UNCHANGED. The results are in.
I thought it would be interesting to just ask the one question with no follow-ups. I could have asked whereabouts in the world you live or any number of other questions to see if what factors affected your allegiance, but I didn’t. In the HATER books, the Hate ignores all our existing differences, so it made sense for this very unscientific poll to do the same.
369 people voted across this website, Facebook and Twitter, with 59% of people picking Haters over Unchanged. Interestingly, this varied between platform. On my website the split was 49% Hater, 51% Unchanged, on Facebook it was 62% Hater, 38% Unchanged, and on Twitter it was 58% Hater and 42% Unchanged. Does that mean people feel more Hate on social media sites than here on my warm and welcoming website? I don’t know, maybe they do. Interestingly, Haters were far more vocal, with around 60% of comments being from Haters and only 40% Unchanged.
So there you have it. Totally unscientific and little more than a ‘finger in the wind’ exercise. Still, if you’re in the UK like me, I hope this has taken your mind off the other votes we’re currently having to contend with for a couple of blissful minutes!
One last thing. I was interested to read a comment on this poll where the commenter said their allegiance had switched now they’re reading the second HATER trilogy because it tells the story from the Unchanged perspective. If I’m honest, the same thing happened to me while I was writing the books. As I worked my way through HATER, DOG BLOOD and THEM OR US I was Hater all the way. But having spent the last few years writing ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING, ALL ROADS END HERE and CHOKEHOLD, my loyalties seemed to switch. I wonder if, by the time you’ve read CHOKEHOLD, you’ll have come to the same conclusions about the state of the human race as I did…
I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil things for those who haven’t yet read the other novels, but CHOKEHOLD deals with a whole new chapter in the overall HATER story. It takes place in the aftermath of DOG BLOOD and ALL ROADS END HERE and, in many ways, is also a prequel to THEM OR US. More familiar characters will be returning, and I think you’re really going to like it. Especially the fact that this is the first time… No. Shut up, Moody. I’m not saying anything else. You’ll just have to wait and see.
Really pleased to have a (very) short story in this collection. Editor Kevin Kennedy has assembled seventy micro-stories, each no longer than one hundred words, and has bound them up in this fine looking volume. It’s available now in paperback and ebook from Amazon and all the other usual online places. Great to see some familiar names in the table of contents, including Shaun Hutson, Richard Chizmar and Paul Kane. And if you’re wondering how long a one hundred word story is, here’s your answer: this blog post is exactly one hundred words. Not a lot of space, is it?
This week is READ AN EBOOK WEEK – a long-standing initiative that I’ve been pleased to support for a number of years. The debate over the merits of print books versus ebooks versus audiobooks will never be settled – I believe each format has its plusses and minuses, and what suits one reader (or listener) might not suit the next. I just try and make my books available in as many formats as I can, and I also try not to exploit my readers by asking them to buy the same book many times over. Never forget – if you buy a signed copy of a title published by Infected Books from www.infectedbooks.co.uk, you’ll immediately be able to download a complementary ebook version. Similarly, buy a print Infected Books title from Amazon, and you can claim a Kindle copy through the Kindle Matchbook programme.
My career was built on a foundation of ebooks. If I hadn’t been able to give so many copies of AUTUMN away (somewhere in the region of half a million by the time the free download disappeared in 2008), then I doubt anyone would have ever heard of me. So please, download and read an ebook this week. And when you’re done, please review and share. Recommendations are invaluable for authors and are always appreciated.
The first screen adaptation of John Wyndham’s DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS was released in 1963, was also known as INVASION OF THE TRIFFIDS, and was directed by Steve Sekely, a Hungarian-born director with very little else of note on his long filmography. Interestingly, Sekely was supported on TRIFFIDS by an uncredited Freddie Francis (more about this later). Francis, you might remember, was the director of a number of Hammer and Amicus horror films before going on to become an Oscar-winning cinematographer who worked on many films including CAPE FEAR, GLORY and THE ELEPHANT MAN.
Interestingly, the reviews of this adaptation of TRIFFIDS are split, with many people finding a lot to enjoy in here. As a huge admirer of the novel, I was disappointed. The film suffers greatly because of its age. Have a look at the trailer, click the link, and I’ll explain why.
All my recent talk of book launches and anniversaries has left me thinking about what I’ve achieved as a writer and what I still want to achieve. If I think of my career in terms of how a farmer manages their fields, then I’d say I’m currently in a fallow period after a couple of pretty decent harvests. I caught the crest of two waves originally when I a) started publishing independently before most others, and b) wrote about zombies just as the living dead became massively popular. And then, a few years later, I enjoyed another prolonged purple patch when Guillermo del Toro somehow stumbled on a copy of HATER and, for a time, everyone wanted a bit of me.
For those of us who just happen to love writing and who hate self-publicising with a passion, being an author is not the easiest of career choices. You keep doing it because you can’t stop, and with every page you write you convince yourself that this could be the next big thing, even though you know that competition to actually be the next big thing is impossibly fierce. And then when you’ve finished writing and you hand your work to someone else to read, all the confidence you’ve built up evaporates and turns to crippling self-doubt. Well it does for me, anyway.
A frustrating amount of this is completely out of the writer’s control. You don’t control the market, you have no influence on current trends, you can do little to make sure yours is the right book seen in the right place at the right time… and yet, we keep at it. Sometimes even the very thing you’re trying to write can conspire against you.
Time and time again, when I’ve been asked in interviews to name my favourite book, I always plump for John Wyndham’s 1951 classic, THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. As I started typing this piece, I’d literally just put the novel down after reading it for the first time in ten years or so, and it seemed that now would be an ideal time to write about it in more detail and explain why it’s been such an influence on me and my work. Similar to what I did with Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND a couple of years back, I also plan to re-watch and write about each of the film/TV adaptations of the story. I’ve always found this a really interesting thing to do – each adaptation has pluses and minuses (some many more minuses than pluses) and by analysing them it helps me appreciate the strengths of the source material even more.
So, what’s it about? I’m sure you know by now, but here’s a brief synopsis. A new breed of plant is discovered – the Triffid. It has some remarkable qualities. Not only are Triffids a rich source of a natural oil, they’re also incredibly dangerous: they’re mobile and are able to drag themselves around, they possess poisonous, whip-like stings which they deploy with deadly accuracy, allowing them to kill and feed off the remains. And they can communicate with each other. Great herds of them roam the countryside together, given half a chance.
Typically, the potential for profit outweighs risk, and soon huge numbers of Triffids are being farmed commercially. Bill Masen is a Triffid farmer. When the book begins he’s in hospital, recovering from a sting which has almost rendered him blind. His eyes are covered, which is particularly frustrating because the Earth is scheduled to pass through a cloud of comet debris, and the skies around the world will be lit up in a display of unparalleled magnificence.
Next morning, everyone who watched the comet display discovers they’ve been blinded, and the world descends into utter chaos.
It’s the synchronicity of this story that gets me every time. Two events – the arrival of the Triffids and the comet debris – are apparently unconnected (though there’s some question as to whether that actually is the case), but their combined impact is devastating. By stripping the vast majority of the human population of their sight, Wyndham skews the odds in favour of the Triffids.
I’ve been running polls on Facebook and Twitter recently to ask this most basic of questions that I’ve never asked before, but because it’s increasingly difficult to keep something visible on social media without paying through the nose, I’ve decided to ask the same question again here. I’ll keep this poll open for at least a week, then I’ll report back with the final summarised results.
The magnificent Gerard Doyle has narrated the audiobook adaptation of ALL ROADS END HERE, and it’s out now from Macmillan Audio. You can get it from Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Here’s a sample:
I’m getting a lot of queries from folks at the moment about audio versions of the first three HATER books. They are available, but only in the US at present. I’m currently asking questions to see if anything can be done to make them available elsewhere. Please bare with me.