Mission Completed

Well, then. Here we are. Our mission has successfully been completed and we’re returning to Cloudbase. After what feels like countless hours refreshing the book’s product page, Spectrum Is Indestructible has finally sold out.

With the physical edition of the book written, published and bought, I felt compelled to write this reflective piece that may offer a final word on the making of the book and my feelings at reaching this stage. First, and most importantly, thank you so much to everyone who’s ever shown any interest in the book. From those who’ve shared updates on the book on social media to people who bought a copy, it’s a tremendous rush to have seen Spectrum Is Indestructible gain such a warm welcome after a long, weary but exciting journey from its inception to its end.

I’ve been scouring through the book’s files to try and recall exactly when work on the book properly started. The closest thing I can find is my original pitch that I wrote and sent out to various publishers, which I wrote back in February of 2016. I’m now writing this reflective piece in May of 2020, over 4 years later. Given that the book’s inception clearly happened before I was brave enough to put something together for a potential publisher to cast their eye over, this book has then consumed my life for a solid half-decade. This is most likely water off a duck’s back for experienced authors, but for a novice like me, it’s surreal.

How did this all start then? This crazy, indestructible journey about writing a book about an old puppet show some people only have the faintest memory of? The least surprising thing you’ll read here is how much of a fan I am of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s output of Supermarionation TV shows and films from the 1960s. I always knew and loved Stingray, but once the Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet revivals arrived in the early 2000s, that was it. I was hooked. Towards the end of my time at university in 2014, I found a passion for what I now describe as pop culture journalism, i.e. writing about films, television series, comic books and more for various print and digital publications Writing about Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray and more was a no-brainer, especially when Anderson content is poorly underserved in pop culture discourse. You can’t move for blogs, podcasts and more about Doctor Who, Star Trek or The Prisoner and yet so little of that amount of that content is out there for Anderson productions. You could say this was something I wanted to take advantage of in my own writing.

This came to a climax in September of 2015, when Thunderbirds celebrated its 50th anniversary. I was in overdrive writing articles for fanzines, websites and more, all celebrating the series. Once the dust had settled and the anniversary celebrations had subsided, my mind turned to how I’d celebrate Captain Scarlet. The idea of doing another one-off article that somehow encapsulated absolutely everything about the franchise that I could think of didn’t feel enough to me. I felt there was an opportunity here to do something more, something larger, something not attempted before – a book!

How would my book be different to the few Captain Scarlet books already out there, then? Very quickly, I determined that mine wouldn’t be a series biography or a production history, like most of the other Anderson texts already out there. My book would ‘review’ the Captain Scarlet franchise. The spin-off media would be treated with the same level of intrigue and discussion as the TV show itself. I would find the balance between thoughtful analyser and die-hard Anderson fan. All I needed was a publisher, and to this day, and most likely for the rest of my life, I’ll forever be in debt to Barnaby Eaton-Jones and his publishing company, Chinbeard Books, for taking a chance on a new writer attempting to do something no-one else had done before with a Gerry Anderson show. I take the book’s eventual co-production between Chinbeard Books and Spiteful Puppet as a further sign that people were invested in this book, that they believed in it as much as I did.

To say the book took half a decade is, in reality, modest. Spectrum Is Indestructible contains musings, thoughts and perspectives I’ve had on the franchise since I jointly fell in love with it/was terrified of it when I first saw “The Mysterons”. It was a gargantuan creative release to commit all of my analysis of the episodes, the comics, the novels, the annuals, the story books and the audio dramas to paper, again, doing so in a way no other publication had done. I soon realised that I was writing the sort of Captain Scarlet book I wanted to read. I had grown tired of books that regurgitate the same behind-the-scenes stories of Anderson shows and books that simply write out scene-by-scene accounts of what happens in each episode. No analysis, no judgement, no comment, just passive, bland description. I knew throughout this entire process that Spectrum Is Indestructible would give Captain Scarlet the critical kick up the backside it so very well lent itself to.

The icing on the cake in being given creative freedom to rattle through the Captain Scarlet franchise like this was being able to interview those who actually worked on the show and incorporate their thoughts in the book. Mike Trim, Alan Shubrook, Leo Eaton and Shane Rimmer’s (in what’s proven to be his final written interview) answers to my questions gave my perspectives some welcome legitimacy, I think.

After (I think…!) nearly 3 years of writing, I presented a finished manuscript to Barnaby, who again must be praised for his endless understanding and patience when I kept promising to deliver a finished book to him to deadlines that barely stopped to say hello. The editing process proved to be an arduous one. Even when the book was made available to pre-order and a release date set (which was ultimately pushed back), we were up to our eyeballs in tweaking just about every aspect of the book. I don’t really recall much of my Christmas of 2019, as it seemed to consist mostly of editing, more editing, even further editing and then some extra editing for good luck. However, as the New Year dawned and we reached February, the book was done. Finally done. I’ve since wondered that, if I knew just how much work this book would consist of, whether or not I’d still have gone through with it. That’s my naivety for you, something which I’m glad to say I’ve since matured from. I’m equally glad, if not more-so, that I stuck it out with Spectrum Is Indestructible and ended up producing a book I’m incredibly proud of.

If working on Spectrum Is Indestructible has taught me anything, it’s that the fun doesn’t stop once the book is written. As mentioned, the joy in seeing the book get snapped up once the pre-order was launched was incredibly flattering. I imagine this is a common feeling amongst writers, but to have worked so solitarily on your project and to then see other people take such an interest in that work is wonderfully humbling. Spectrum Is Indestructible has been produced as a strictly limited edition paperback, meaning that only a certain amount of copies were available to buy. In a savvy move from my publisher, rather than dump the whole lot in one go, it was done in stages, a fresh batch being made available once the previous lot had all been ordered. This results in the technicality that my book sold out multiple times, but I’m not one to boast…

So why *were* we only ever allowed to sell a limited number of copies? For a variety of reasons I’m not sure I can go too deeply into at this stage, it all falls back to that dratted word ‘copyright’ and the fact that this book is a totally unofficial/unlicensed venture. The knock-on effect of this is that some people may just be discovering the book and are unable to get it. The flipside of this is that a totally, utterly, unofficial Gerry Anderson product has been allowed to have a generous lifespan (in fact, any life at all), which I’m eternally grateful for.

The process wasn’t without its downsides, though. During the editorial stage, when we thought we had a cover finalised and ready to show off to the world, it was met with a polarising reaction and the powers that be requested that we devise a new cover, which the book was ultimately sent out into the world in. I class that as the low-point in the book’s making, as it showed up the sadly all too common toxic side of fandom that the Gerry Anderson community is by no means immune to. Much of the negative reaction came from a popular Facebook group for a Gerry Anderson fan club. Such was the vitriol that the first cover received, I ultimately opted to eject myself from the group, having spent many years being a member. One well-known Anderson artist in particular, who also voiced their displeasure at the original cover, seemed to take great offence that their services weren’t employed to produce the cover.

This brings to mind the notion of the dangers one faces when daring to produce something outside of the fandom bubble. The Gerry Anderson fandom is no stranger to toxic individuals and attitudes that infect otherwise positive and welcoming vibes and certain cliques within the fandom aired their displeasure at the book’s very existence. Another high-ranking member of this fan club made the derisory comment of “I don’t see the point of this book”. I don’t see the point of this fan club in question releasing the same soundtracks over and over again with minimal differences, but there ya go! Other social media groups in the worlds of Anderson suffer from similar levels of antagonism. I’ve made great friends and even greater enemies with Spectrum Is Indestructible, it seems.

The flipside of this has been seeing the other side of the fandom’s response to this book. During the writing process, I was donated several archive interviews from Chris Drake and Graeme Bassett, a pair of writers who’ve worked on numerous official and fan-produced Anderson projects throughout the 80s and 90s. They proved to be a delightfully unexpected treasure trove of recollections from Anderson alumni, many of who sadly aren’t with us anymore, and I was able to incorporate some of the most suitable into the book, giving it extra substance. As mentioned, the general reception of the book has been so lovely to see, but one particular receptive act sticks out in my mind. As orders of the book began being dispatched, people were tagging me on social media with pictures of their book arriving. Some friends, some mutual acquaintances, some total strangers, all so, so cool to see. One person who tagged me with a snapshot of their book’s arrival tagged me in another post the day after with a review of Spectrum Is Indestructible they’d written on their blog. Something that took me years to produce had been consumed, processed and judged within 24 hours of them getting it. That felt weird. That still feels weird.

It’s impossible to neatly summarise how it’s felt producing Spectrum Is Indestructible and to describe how it feels having the book finished. Something that had become a regular part of my life is now detached, unplugged, untangled. As far as people who’ve bought the book are concerned, their enjoyment of it is just beginning, I guess (and I hope!). But for me, it’s all over. Again, another weird juxtaposition that I suppose is common amongst creators. To have gone from being utterly horrified by the sight of the Mysteronised Captain Scarlet being shot and falling to his “death” from the London Car-Vu by Captain Blue when I was 7/8 years old, to having written a book that thoroughly reviews, dissects and celebrates the entire Captain Scarlet franchise some 20 years later is a leap I’ll likely never make again in any other project I do. I’m sat here now, typing this out and spotting my copy of the book on my Thunderbird 1 bookshelf to my left (why yes, I have a Thunderbird 1 bookshelf. What? You don’t have one too?) where most of my Gerry Anderson literature resides. My book is there, nestled in-between various TV21 collections and history books. Surreal. Just surreal.

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Here feels like a suitable time to wrap things up and perhaps put to bed a few common questions I’m being asked of the book. First up, will there be more physical copies of Spectrum Is Indestructible available? The best answer I can give right now is a firm ‘no’. Who knows what the future may hold on that score, but for now, the hard copy is all gone. Will there be another book? Again, a solid ‘no’ on that. Once again, copyright rears its head as to why another book tackling another Anderson property won’t be coming along, that and the general feeling of creative exhaustion I already sense when thinking about pursuing another book-length project.

However, it feels only appropriate that I tell you about all the other things I’m currently working on, some of which may tickle your fancy. The main project I’m working on is Sequential 21: A Gerry Anderson Comic Book Fanzine. As the title implies, it’s a publication that celebrates Gerry Anderson comics from across the years, with an inevitable focus on TV21. It’ll be jam-packed with reviews of key story-arcs, retrospectives of entire strip runs, fan comics, interviews and more. I’ve also been producing digital-only Anderson fanzines under the moniker of Unity City Press. They’re a mixture of non-fiction and fanfic and can be downloaded and enjoyed entirely for free. Also avaliable to read are The Scarlet Files, a quartet of Captain Scarlet essays published on We Are Cult, originally written for the book but have since found a new home on the popular cult entertainment website.

Beyond that, 2020 promises to be a busy year for me, writing-wise. The current issue of Starburst Magazine, #471, contains my review of Thunderbirds Are Go’s 3rd and final season. More Anderson articles will be appearing in future Starburst issues later in the year and you can also catch more of my Anderson scribbles in forthcoming issues of Andersonic and Chromakey. This year also sees the publication of ComicScene’s State of the Independents 2020 Yearbook, which features some of my writings on independent and small press comic books, my other obsession! Speaking of comic books, later this month sees the Kickstarter campaign launch for a comic I actually worked on with Reanimator Incorporated’s debut issue. I’m flattered to have been asked to join the comic’s creative team as one of Reanimator Incorporated’s story editors, a new role for me that’s proven to be huge fun. This is all in addition to my regular role as senior editor for A Place To Hang Your Cape, where we write about superhero media in all its forms and support independent comic book creators.

I think that’s everything for now – phew! Am I just full of good ideas? I’m full of something, certainly… Once again, thank you so much to everyone who has bought and hopefully enjoyed Spectrum Is Indestructible. As I finish this reflective piece and move on to new and exciting projects, I can only marvel at the dizzying heights and nerve-wracking lows bringing Spectrum Is Indestructible to life brought with its making and reception. I do wonder if Gerry and/or Sylvia would have enjoyed this book, given that they perhaps never expected for their productions to be discussed like this. I hope they would have and I hope you all enjoy something that’s had an incredible amount of heart and soul poured into it from everyone involved.

S.I.G.

(P.S., despite all of the above, this still may not entirely be the end of the book. I’d recommend following Chinbeard Books and Spiteful Puppet on their social media channels for incoming updates.)

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