John Richards is a television writer, Doctor Who fan and a regular co-host on the popular TV podcast Boxcutters. With Josh Kinal, he won a Chronos Award for their Aussiecon IV presentation: a live recorded interview with Doctor Who writers Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman. You can find John (occasionally) at The Outland Institute. His 2012 ABC TV sitcom, “Outland,” about five gay science fiction fans (and packed with Dalek jokes) is available now on DVD.
1. Outland, your long awaited TV series about Australian gay SF fans, finally screened this year. What was the reception to the show like, from a mainstream audience, from the queer community, and from science fiction fans? Is there going to be a Season 2?
The reception was both amazing and bewildering. I thought we would have a general ABC comedy reaction, a “well-that-was-nice” sort of thing, but we polarised audiences and press. Reviews were about 80% raves and 20% hated us; audiences broke down into either hardcore groups that watched every week or people who had never heard of us. Non-mainstream gay groups loved it, the Commercial Road mainstream gays didn’t; we had amazing reception from comedy nerds, teenage girls, writers, SF fans and mums. But it was like a heat-seeking missile. Of comedy! Either everyone you knew was watching, or no-one was. The main feedback was of gratitude – so many people were thrilled to finally see themselves on Australian TV. And by themselves I don’t mean gay, or even fans, but people who could see themselves more in Max or Rae than they could in Packed To The Rafters, for example. TV Week had us as pick of the week for episode 4, which was something I never would’ve expected.
2. Outland began as an indie film, and it was the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival that first screened episodes of the series itself. Do you see yourself writing more work aimed at a film festival audience in the future?
I don’t really think of writing for a specified audience, if I’m honest. I just try to write good. Or at the very least, gooderer. My ideas always seem to have a certain left-of-fieldness to them, though, so I imagine that’s more my world than Channel 9 would be, for example. At the moment I’m trying to work on a one-act play, which I have no idea what I’ll do with when it’s finished.
3. What would be your dream Australian Science Fiction TV show, as a writer or indeed as a viewer?
My dream is that we would make any science fiction for adults at all. I had a meeting with a TV executive recently who seemed terrfied I was going to mention spaceships. He kept saying “no spaceships!”. So obviously now I want to make something about spaceships. I’ve always been interested in doing a Star Trek style thing cast entirely with Indigenous actors – to have some great Aboriginal heroes on screen for kids to look up to. But I’d love to see us do a great Buffy/Almighty Johnsons style series. I think we could do that and get away with it. And I really enjoyed Spirited.
4. What Australian speculative fiction have you loved recently?
I know this is SO out of date, but after years of people telling me I needed to read Peter M. Ball’s “Horn” because it is super-awesome, I finally read Peter M. Ball’s “Horn”. And it was super-awesome. I thought his piece in Sprawl was amazing but hadn’t read Horn until I flew to Sydney a few weeks back – it’s an excellent flight-length. I thought Anywhere But Earth was a great collection, and I loved Narrelle M Harris’s Showtime (but in full disclosure I share a relative with Narrelle so I might be biased).
5. Boxcutters won the Chronos award last year for Best Fan Publication, for the (awesome) special live episode in which you and Josh Kinal interviewed Paul Cornell and Rob Shearman. Will there be a Boxcutters (or indeed, a John Richards) presence at this year’s Continuum?
Yes! Josh and I will be doing a one-on-one debate on the subject that “All Science Fiction Television Is Rubbish”. Josh is the affirmative. He’s clearly going to lose. And Adam and I will be doing a Q&A about Outland which I’m really looking forward to. And I’m doing the Spicks & Speckulations event with George Ivanoff and Narrelle M Harris on Friday night. I’m playing Myf Warhurst.