Nicol Williamson

I'm breaking my recent blog-silence to note the sad news of the death of Nicol Williamson, a great British actor on both stage and screen.  He'll be remembered for numerous roles - in Tony Richardson's Hamlet, in a legendary TV adaptation of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, and as Sherlock Holmes in The Seven Per Cent Solution.  (He also crops up in the dual role of the sinister alienist and the wicked Nome King in the surpisingly dark 1985 Disney movie Return to Oz). But for me he was always Merlin, the role he played in John Boorman's Excalibur, the 1981 movie which pretty much defined my early teens and which has influenced much of what I've gone on to write - most obviously, of course, Here Lies Arthur.

A lot of the decisions I made when writing that book were designed to move my version of the legends out of the long shadow cast by earlier re-tellings, and by Excalibur in particular.  As a sort of homage I opened and closed the books with images loosely based on the opening and closing moments of the film, but I tried to make everything in between as different as I could: there's no shining armour, no mediaeval trappings, no magic.  But I suspect that my Merlin, the consummate story-teller and political trickster, still inevitably carries an echo of Nicol Williamson's Merlin.  Younger than your average screen wizard, his head encased in a peculiar silver skull cap, ageing not a bit while Uther's generation gives way to Arthur's, swerving from stern sub-Shakespearian declamations to crap jokes and wobbly slapstick, his presence dominates the film.  It divides critics too: half the people I know think it's one of the maddest performances ever to grace a major movie, while the other half think it's genius.  Personally, I reckon it's both.

Here are links to the obituary on the Empire website, and to an announcement by Nicol Williamson's son Luke on his own site.  Thanks to the Irish film maker Frank Kelly for drawing my attention to this news.


On the 25th and 26th February I'll be attending Microcon, the South West's longest-running Science Fiction and Fantasy convention.  It's organised by the University of Exeter Science Fiction Society, and has been going since 1982.

Speakers this year will include:

Jasper Fforde, author of the award winning Thursday Next novels

David A Hardy, Britain's longest-established space artist.

Anneke Wills, actor and former Doctor Who companion (Saturday only)

Richard Freeman, cryptozoologist and hunter of legendary creatures from the Mongolian Death Worm to gigantic anacondas.

Steve Green, Sci Fi journalist who will be screening some of the latest short films entered for the fantasy Delta Film Awards.

Nick Walters, Doctor Who author.

And yours truly, of course: I'll be giving a talk about my books on the Saturday, and probably appearing on a panel on the Sunday; the rest of the time I'll be hanging around listening to the other speakers and generally enjoying myself, so it would be good to see you there if you're within reach of Exeter.

Entry £12 public, £10 students, £8 members

Location: JCR, Devonshire House (Saturday), Pippa Langston Suite Cornwall House (Sunday), University of Exeter, Streatham Campus.

2012: The Year of the Goblins

I've been keeping the computer switched off over Christmas, and feeling rather better for it, so this is probably my last blog post for a while.  I have a lot of writing to do, and that will be easier without the endless distractions of Twitter, Reddit and the rest.  All this blogging and social networking is very enjoyable and feels quite productive, but it doesn't produce books.  So my New Year's Resolution is to pull the plug on this box of tricks and fetch out notebooks and pencils.  Some time in the next month or so my blog and website will be having an overhaul, and I may have a couple of school events and some other news to report, but otherwise I shall be keeping quiet until late March or early April, when my new book GOBLINS is released (you can pre-order it here).

By that time, if all goes to plan, GOBLINS 2: The Sequel will be finished, and I'll be able to take time off to blog a bit about the goblins and their world before I dive into my next writing project, Fever Crumb 4,  which I made a start on some months ago and am itching to get back to.

In the summer, the original Mortal Engines quartet will finally be published again in the USA, with some snazzy new covers, and there will be new covers for the UK editions, too.

Thank you for reading this blog, and for following it if you have been.  I'll still be checking my Facebook page regularly, and I'll try to reply promptly to e-mails sent to

2011 has been one of the most roller-coaster-y and least popular years I can remember.  Here's hoping that 2012 will be an improvement in every way!