Endings are hard. Doesn’t matter if it’s a novel or short story, TV series or film. How the audience is left depends on whether the story will live on, whether the readers or viewers will pick up more of the creator’s work, often whether the project gets published/made in the first place. It’s critical.

There are a couple of simple rules. The payoff must be better/bigger/more surprising than the set up (so not The Village which did the opposite just to get a twist). And it’s not good enough for the end to be logically right or arrive at the right place. It has to be satisfying for those who’ve invested their time and money (so not Dexter which arrived at the right place but without earning it).

So no to House of Cards, no to Game of Thrones. Yes to The Sopranos, yes to Six Feet Under.

And yes to Billions, which has been a fantastic series from start to finish, even surviving the loss of a star for a season after the tragic death of his wife. Shakespearean in tone, it gets to the heart of today’s struggle between vast wealth and fairness and the law and all the messy compromises involved in that battle, including the personal toll.

Huge characters, twisty-turny plots, unashamedly clever and with two amazing performances among many from Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. The ending landed, was satisfying and stayed true to the themes. Such a success for Showtime, four spinoffs are in the works.

The First And Only Rule Of Creativity

There are some truly bad takes on what it takes to be a successful creative. On one of my Facebook posts someone suggested the worst: don’t say anything controversial if you want to “make fans” or sell work.

That view will kill any hope you have for a career.

Nobody buys anything bland. Nobody wants things that don’t leave any mark on the surface of humanity. If they stumble across one by accident, they won’t buy any more. Why would you want any grey in your life?

The creator’s character is infused into their work and that’s what people buy into. A voice. An opinion on the human condition. A stand. It will repel some people and that’s how it should be because no creative work is for everybody. But some people will connect and when they do they’ll stay with you forever because they sense a bond deeper than words or pictures.

A characterless work is for nobody.

So be authentic. Speak your mind. Kick over statues, upset people. Accept some are going to hate you, then ignore them – they’re not good enough for your work.

Be you.

That’s the only way to make something that lasts. And that’s the only way to live with yourself.

The New Age


Applicants per student place in 2023:

University of Cambridge 6
RADA (BA Acting) 121

This comes from a Financial Times piece on The Economics of Acting. You might think this merely points out how many dreamers there are. I think it shows something deeper.

The world is changing fast, as anyone can see. Values are changing, beliefs are altering. That’s leaving some, generally older, people bewildered.

One of the big transformations is in the world of work. People no longer feel they have to devote the precious years of their lives to becoming a cog in the great machine, existing in dull offices because that’s how things have always been done.

They want something better, some kind of fulfilment, and they don’t want to play the old game any more. Particularly when it benefits others and not them.

Economic necessity will always force some down hard roads. But they will still dream in the way they might not have done in the last century.

You can see it in the powerful work from home movement, with many under 35 refusing to take jobs that force them to grind unnecessarily in the office for five days a week.

They’re turning down higher pay, ignoring the fury of politicians and company bosses, demanding a new of operating that benefits them.

Recognising the creativity that burns inside and refusing to have it squashed is an act of rebellion against a broken system.

Change can’t come fast enough.

The First Monster

One of the weirdest animals ever to live on the earth has just been discovered…and it’s also the heaviest creature the planet has supported, beating out the blue whale which we always presumed was the heaviest thing that existed.

It’s also a mystery.

Perucetus Colossus swam in the shallow coastal waters of Peru 39 million years ago…and perhaps elsewhere, who knows? This is the first sign we’ve found of a monster that was the length of an articulated bus, just a few bones. Bizarre bones.

Though this monster was shorter than the blue whale, its bones were extremely dense, contributing to its great weight. There are some suggestions why the bones were so dense, but no one is wholly sure.

“The estimated skeletal mass of P. colossus exceeds that of any known mammal or aquatic vertebrate,” says a new study by an international team of scientists, led by Giovanni Bianucci of the University of Pisa. That’s a surprise. Whales were supposed to have evolved to their current size and no modern whales show any of the strange adaptations that this prehistoric one did.

A recreation from those bones shows the beast was huge, round, with tiny hind limbs, short webbed paws, a tiny, flat, pointed snout, and a round tail.

Eli Amson, curator of fossil mammals at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, and co-author of the paper, says, “Actually the drawing is quite conservative in its depiction of the animal. The truth is, it probably was something even weirder, but difficult for us to picture.”

That we are only now stumbling across a creature so vast tells us all we need to know about the deep past. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what existed and the picture we do have is made up of fragments. There are mysteries still to be uncovered.

The Bear

I thought when I’d watched the final season of Succession I’d already seen the best TV of the year, but The Bear season two surpassed it.

The story of a chef at one of the world’s best restaurants returning to take over the run-down family restaurant in Chicago is filled with so much heart it makes your head spin. The characters and their relationships are all finely drawn, their pasts, their fears, their hopes, all slowly unfolding.

Every episode of season two swells with emotion; it builds you up and breaks your heart, sometimes in the same episode.

This run also has several classy guest stars, including Jaime Lee Curtis with a performance far beyond the one that won her an Oscar.

A masterpiece.

Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny

Indiana Jones Film Poster

With a long running film series, it’s almost impossible to disentangle it from the weft and weave of your life.

The emotions felt in distant days, rich memories, that bittersweet awareness of the person you once were when you started watching, and of time passing, and change, all of it colours the present and strips away an objective view.

I’ve had a long, personal relationship with Indiana Jones. When I first saw Raiders of the Ark, it instantly chimed with a deep and long-developed part of me, particularly that sense of numinous mystery that lies behind the patina of everyday life, something that Spielberg always did so well.

Technically Raiders is a brilliantly constructed movie, the pacing, the lightness of touch, the humour, the clearly and powerfully defined characters and that old-fashioned sense of adventure stitched through with romanticism that you wouldn’t – couldn’t – get in today’s more cynical age.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a strong ending to a forty-two year old story. And it is an ending, a proper wrap-up of the themes and character stories of the previous four movies. If you’re engaged with the characters, the final scene will bring a tear to your eye.

The film has its flaws – it’s too long, the chase sequences seem to go on forever, there’s no humour and no lightness of touch. Director James Mangold does a fair job of aping Spielberg, but there’s a heaviness to his work that drags where it should fly. As much as I love Fleabag, I found Phoebe Waller-Bridge a tad irritating and there was zero chemistry between the two leads.

And yet it was still a great instalment in the series and far, far better than the previous entry. The World War II opening with a young Harrison Ford, his unlined face pulled together from off-cuts and unused scenes from Raiders, captures the essence of the old movies. A sequence set at a ticker tape parade for the returning astronauts in the sixties works well and Mads Mikkelson makes a good villain. Let’s face it, Indiana Jones was made to fight Nazis, as indeed are we all.

But it’s the character stuff that really sings, an ageing, bereft Indy, detached from the things he loves, desperately trying to find meaning in a world that’s leaving him behind. We’re all going to experience that at some point.

Harrison Ford is great, as always, and this is a fitting send-off to a man who defined a certain kind of heroism.

Ex Machina

Ex Machina

I’ve seen Ex Machina four times now and each time I’ve had a different response, which is the mark of a good, complex movie.

The first time I was disappointed because it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know. But that was more about me than the film and as such a poor judgment.

For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a three-way chamber piece about a tech billionaire, the artificial intelligence he’s invented and shaped in the form of an attractive woman, and the naive young man invited into their world to see if the AI passes the Turing Test and is to all intents and purposes a functional human.

The AI, played by Alicia Vikander, connects with the new guy as any young heterosexual couple would, playing on the subtle connections of attraction, the eye contact, the body language, the shared moments.

It becomes a thousand times more terrifying when you imagine the AI as a lawnmower, which is what it essentially is. A cold, impersonal machine that is very good at understanding what it takes to lure lovelorn, desperate humans.

Prescient. And right now, perfectly summing up the world we’re entering where all the rules are changed and you can no longer trust your own eyes.

But this time I saw it less about technology and more about simple human relationships. None of us can tell the true nature of the people we’re interacting with. If they’re good at putting on masks, understanding our psychology, pulling our strings, we are all potentially someone’s plaything. If they’re worming their way into our emotional lives for their own ends, we may end up defenceless.

Human beings can often be as terrifying as impersonal computer intelligence.

Good film.

Blue Sky Social – The Best Twitter Rival

Blue Sky Social App

You will want to check this out. I was invited to be one of the first 20k users on Blue Sky Social, the new Twitter competitor, and have had the chance to test it out during its beta mode.

Though it’s still an invite-only walled garden with just 50k users it’s easy to see even at this stage that it’s going to have a huge impact when it finally goes public.

It looks like Twitter, it acts like Twitter, it just doesn’t have that toxic taste and the unpleasant reek of White Nationalism and Anti-Semitism, or indeed the Putin cheerleading.

Blue Sky was actually developed within Twitter by that company’s founder Jack Dorsey as the future of social media, a federated system of independent islands in the turbulent ocean of the internet which could never be bought by any billionaire.

When Elon Musk took over Twitter, Dorsey took Blue Sky Social with him when he exited. Dorsey is now an investor but the company is run by CEO Jay Graber who’s done remarkable work with a small team laying the tracks as the engine rolls.

There are plenty of big ideas under the deceptively Twitterish paint job. Not the least that users will own their profile and content and be able to move it to any other social media network.

The team is currently building strong moderation to eliminate the kind of abuse that has become part of the scenery on Twitter and it won’t launch publicly till that’s ready.

I love it there. The conversations are great and I’ve made lots of new friends. As you would expect, the early user base is very tech heavy, but that’s changing fast. More writers, journalists, artists and musicians have signed up over the last few days.

And perhaps the biggest seal of approval is how many heavy hitters have now made it their home: Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, James Gunn, Rian Johnson, Neil Gaiman and more…

When it does finally launch I can see Blue Sky Social being the key social media app for many users. I’ll post more here when a public launch is imminent.

The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke

The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke by Richard Dadd

For those who missed it first time, here’s Neil Gaiman’s introduction to my novella The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke, which picked up the British Fantasy Award. Posted here because I’ll be getting the story back into print shortly, after multiple requests (it was a limited edition collectors’ book) and once again to thank Neil for taking the time to write it.

Read it here.

Twice Cursed – New Story

Twice Cursed

I have a new short story in this anthology which should be in bookshops soon, one of my rare fantasy tales (or rare for the moment).

Twice Cursed, with the strapline Unhappily Ever After, features some of the leading writers of the imagination conjuring up stories about curses, both modern day and in the traditional fairytale style.

Here you’ll find work by Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill and more. It’s been put together by expert editors Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane and is published by Titan Books.

My contribution wins the unnecessarily long title award: The Old Stories Hide Secrets Deep Inside Them and concerns a modern day archaeological dig on an isolated Scottish island.