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Seven sci-fi links in Norfolk and Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 15:22 20 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 September 2018

Ian Nettleton. Photo: Steve Adams

Ian Nettleton. Photo: Steve Adams

A science fiction writer and tutor picks some inspirational East Anglian sci-fi people and places

A shingle spit cordoned off for military research, strange bright lights hovering over dark forests, deserted villages, fields and factories fertile with innovation and invention, hundreds of miles of shifting shoreline at the edge of a region where storytellers and scientists mingle –no wonder that East Anglia inspires science fiction.

A new online science fiction course begins at the National Centre for Writing, in Norwich, on September 24.

Course leader Ian Nettleton picked seven people and places with a starring role in sci-fi in East Anglia.

Sci fi writer Brian Aldiss, who died last year, was born above his grandfather’s drapers shop in Dereham. His books includes Non-Stop and Hothouse and he won the Nebula and the Hugo awards for his fiction. The 2001 Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg film A.I. was based on his story Super-toys Last All Summer Long.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go is partially set in Norfolk. Ian said: “Norfolk is described as the place where all the lost things go. It becomes a wistful representation of all the losses the characters experience through the novel.” Ishiguro studied an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

Ian McEwan was the first student to do the UEA creative writing masters. His second collection of fiction has a post-apocalyptic story called Two Fragments: March 199-. “Also, oddly enough, Atonement began as a science fiction tale,” said Ian.

Television sci-fi drama The Uninvited was shot in Norwich, with the Magistrate’s Court, Orford Place and the Golden Star Pub all featuring.

A four-part series of Doctor Who was filmed in Norfolk. In The Power of Kroll the TARDIS arrives in the marshes of the third moon of a planet Delta Magna and the doctor (Tom Baker) faces the Swampies.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron was partially shot at the University of East Anglia, with the Sainsbury Centre becoming the Avengers’ headquarters.

On Boxing Day 1980 members of a United States Air Force patrol had one of the best known UFO experiences ever reported, in Rendlesham Forest, near Woodbridge. Ian recounted how they reported seeing strange lights in the sky and something like a ball of light that hovered or stood on legs in the forest. “It’s been described as the UK’s equivalent of the USA’s Roswell,” said Ian. “What I love about this story is that it is much more Quatermass than Star Wars – a very British science fiction tale.”

The Forestry Commission has created a woodland walk at Rendlesham called The UFO Trail.

Ian’s writing has been inspired by the landscape of East Anglia. He has written of aliens landing in Cromer and created a post-apocalyptic world on the coast. “Cromer has a wonderful, downbeat atmosphere, with its narrow lanes and clifftops and pier, and seemed a perfect place to set an alien visitation,” said Ian, adding: “My intention is to see how ordinary people live through world-changing events.”

His favourite science fiction novels include Solaris by Stanislav Lem (about an intelligent oceanic planet), The Drowned World by J.G.Ballard (London under water, with men and women reverting to a primal state) and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (the last man on earth barricades himself in every night as the undead roam the streets). “What I love about these stories is that they are as much about the human mind as they are about the extreme dramatic situations,” said Ian.

He has taught a science fiction course at the University of East Anglia and creative writing for the Open University and his new course at the National Centre for Writing is for people wanting to write sci-fi short stories. “We’ll be looking at everything from creating a plausible science fiction world to the importance of strong, distinct characters,” said Ian.

It includes creating a plausible world and strong, distinct characters, and the chance to analyse science fiction, keep a dream diary and write an original sci-fi short story.


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