TONY TALKS: Happy 2021 + Update

Greetings, dear readers!

And goodbye 2020 you complete and utter bastard of a year. We all hope 2021 will be an improvement and while no doubt a tough year lies ahead, points of hope exist around the corner – vaccines! Biden/Harris! Movies! (hopefully!).

A big thank you from me if across 2020, whether locked down, well or unwell, or whatever your circumstance, you’ve found time to read this blog. I never take it for granted but if any of the writing on here has appealed, terrific. Readership is the cherry on top and it’s appreciated.

I thought I would take the time to reflect on the year, on my writing, on my blog and where this all might go as we enter the most uncertain of years in living memory…

Obviously, thanks to lockdown, I managed to get quite a lot done across the summer period of the year.

My second book, tentatively titled Star Trek, History and Us (but that will almost certainly change), was completed during the period I was at home working from March through to September, with the odd few days here and there at work in June/July. On reflection, this time was a godsend. The writing of my first book (more on that in a minute) was scattershot and a bit chaotic across 2018 and into 2019, but I didn’t truly work enough on Book II after it was commissioned in the autumn on 2019 and then found myself slaloming toward a swift deadline in 2020. Were it not for lockdown, I really have no idea when it would have been finished.

I am excited for you to read it, however. It takes a cue from the podcast I co-founded and appear on, Trek FM’s Primitive Culture (which just reached a landmark 100 episodes), and delves into how history and culture have been reflected in Star Trek from 1966 through to early 2020. It was completed before Lower Decks or Discovery S3 aired, so they won’t be included, but the first season of Picard will and, who knows, maybe my publisher McFarland might entertain a second volume a few years down the line as the modern TrekVerse expands. We’ll see. For now, I think particularly Trek fans and those interested in wider intersections of history, culture and entertainment will enjoy this one. It was tough but a blast to write. It’ll hopefully be out sometime in 2021.

Book III is all about the work of J. J. Abrams and is due in the summer, so work has begun there. This very much takes a cue from Darren Mooney’s book on Christopher Nolan from 2017 and is less a biography of Abrams as it is a critical dissection of his films and TV shows, from early screenwriting efforts such as Regarding Henry right through to The Rise of Skywalker (which means I have to, unfortunately, watch it a third time at least…). I think Abrams is a sorely underestimated creative so delving into his work, finding commonalities and themes, and picking out where he sits in the cinematic & cultural landscape, has so far been terrific fun and, as ever, I’m grateful to McFarland for the continued publishing opportunity.

I even have an idea what Book IV will concern, which will hopefully be pitched this summer. There might be a clue or tw00 lurking in this sentence as to what it might concern…

A little earlier, I mentioned Book I, aka Myth-Building in Modern Media: The Rise of the Mytharc in Imagined Worlds, which came out in June of this year after a long gestation process. I’m really proud of this achievement and it’s been nice to hear from people who have enjoyed the book, such as Harley of The Fandomentals podcast who I discussed it with earlier this year (great show, check it out). It’s not perfect, and some sections of it I feel are stronger than others, but as a marker of my knowledge and understanding of culture & entertainment, and how it intersects with myth, I think it stands up. I would like to revisit some of the ideas in it and expand them in a future book one day, but we’ll see. If you are tempted to give it a look, here’s a handy link to where you can buy it.

Beyond the book achievements, what about the blog?

You may have noticed I’ve gone through a few changes and tweaks here and there with Cultural Conversation this year. The web address has changed a couple of times, as has the layout. I have, at points, not quite settled on what I want the site to be and, in truth, I still don’t 100% know. I have a notion that it could serve as a place for up and coming writers to ply their trade before seeking paid work, and indeed I have been very happy to publish some quality scribes recently in Eric Gilliland, Craig McKenzie & Jeff Fountain, all of whom have written great pieces and reviews of subjects they’re interested in. This I would hope to do more of, so if you’d like a place to write (or know anyone who would), do get in touch via the contact form on the site and lets talk.

For now, the site remains a place in which I can write about primarily film and television, and promote podcast appearances, without too much structure. I lack the time to write advance press reviews of everything, nor do I feel this makes Cultural Conversation all that unique. There are thousands of fine writers doing this every day you can read. Equally, nor do I really have the energy to chase paid writing or opportunities on other sites, for the most part. If any opportunities came along, I would take them, but in 2021 it is not a going concern of mine, beyond a few exceptions. Horrified, in particular, is a great new British horror website where I have published some pieces I have been the most proud of this year, and I look forward to that continuing this year. There is another film site I am hopeful to contribute to next year. Beyond that, I’ll write on here primarily, and focus on books and podcasts.

Podcasts-wise, last year was a boon year. I wasn’t on all of them but I produced 255 episodes across nine different shows in 2020. A lot of work but very enjoyable. This will likely scale back in 2021 for real life reason and time commitments but I still hope to develop more episodes of Motion Pictures, Between the Notes, Blair Witch Minute and The X-Cast. I am also toying with the idea of a proper Cultural Conversation podcast but I don’t yet know the shape of it. This may or may not happen.

In terms of this blog, what can you expect going forward?

I will be continuing the first of my Series Retrospective long term projects and wrap up Alias Season 3. My intention is to cover the three major ‘Abramsverse’ produced shows – Alias, Lost and Fringe, and cover them in airdate order. So my detailed explorations of Lost Season 1 will begin later this year in tandem with Alias Season 4, and I cannot wait to get stuck into that show. I also hope to return and cover Season 2 of One Foot in the Grave, but that’s a maybe. I still feel there is lots to examine and discuss with that show but it’s not a priority.

After the 2000 in Film pieces last year, I will not be doing the same for 2001, and rather parlay this into a Movieversary series of occasional movie anniversaries for films I will cover, be they 10 or 20 or 30 etc… years old. My new sub-project, Partisan Cinema, will look at films and TV from a political slant, and it’s been huge fun doing these so far – indeed it was briefly a blog of its own before I decided to amalgamate. There will also be more Scene by Scene examinations, soon of Skyfall once we have a definite airdate for No Time to Die. I will also be reviving my From the Vault posts which bring back writing about cinema from before the foundation of this blog, and naturally I’ll be covering whatever new TV or cinema I see and want to write about, whether that’s season reviews or maybe even episodic ones. We’ll see what time allows.

That’s roughly the game plan going forward. 2021 could be an unexpected year and much has changed in my personal life, in terms of living and working, so as I write I do not yet know the shape of what time will allow and, inevitably, best laid plans seldom work perfectly. Whatever happens, whatever Cultural Conversation produces, my thanks to anyone who follows this blog and reads, and I would love to hear more from you in comments or via social media and discuss the content.

Here’s to, hopefully, a better 2021 than last year and lots of great entertainment.

All my best to you and yours,

T

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