Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Sunday, 22 June 2008 16:40 UK

How little green man is my valley

By Nick Dermody
BBC News website

Poster for Monkeys with Machineguns
Readers and writers checked out Wales' latest sci-fi, fantasy and horror

Science fiction has taken root in the south Wales valleys and is beaming its messages of space, time, machines and monsters to the rest of the world.

That comes not just from the BBC studios at Treforest where Doctor Who and Torchwood are filmed, however.

The town's University of Glamorgan has staged its own event for wordsmiths of shocking, scary and futuristic tales.

Organisers hope it will propel Welsh sci-fi on its mission towards world - and interplanetary - domination.

The success of the BBC's revived Doctor Who, along with its spin-offs, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, have given sci-fi a new popular credibility.

But who would have known that experts see it as only the latest incarnation of a shape that shifted into view in 1638 when Bishop of Cardiff Francis Godwin penned what is thought to be the first tale in English about alien contact?

Rev Neil Hook

Could it be that Wales is losing touch with the Mabinogion and the myths of the past and, just later than everybody else, embracing what is going on?

The Reverend Neil Hook

His space yarn, Man on the Moone, (sic) recounted how a man travelled from earth to encounter the residents of its rocky satellite.

But, according to the Reverend Neil Hook, a Church in Wales cleric who is also a lecturer in science fiction and astrobiology at the university, like much other Wales-based sci-fi, the good bishop's outlandish tale fell victim to his country's rich literary tradition.

This was already loaded with fantastical stories typified by the Mabinogion's stories of heroes, magic and the supernatural.

The result was that when other Celtic nations turned to sci-fi as a way of making sense of their industrialised present and future, Welsh writers instead harked back to a pastoral past.

"But that's all changed in the last decade, and suddenly Wales has become far more aware of science fiction," he said.

"Could it be that Wales is losing touch with the Mabinogion and the myths of the past and, just later than everybody else, embracing what is going on?

"Now we're starting to recognise that there is a distinctive Welsh contribution.

Sci-fi books by Pendragon Press
Wales' tradition of the fantastic can be traced back to the Maginogion
"Because of Doctor Who and Russell T Davies, we're starting to look back and identify those Welsh people and Welsh figures that were largely ignored."

One example might be Cardiff-born Terry Nation, the man who created the Doctor's greatest enemy, the Daleks.

There is plenty of new talent out there waiting for their tales of monsters from the id to be read, heard and watched, according to Louise Richards, south Wales valley literature development officer for Academi, Wales' literature body.

More than 100 people attended the conference, which had a punctuation-heavy theme of Space. Time. Machine. Monster.

She said: "We have two specialist publishers just in the valleys, who do science fiction and fantasy and horror-type writing.

"It's not just Doctor Who, there are an awful lot of other science fiction and fantasy writers out there who also deserve to be recognised."

UFO reported

Rhymney Valley-based Steve Upham's Screaming Dreams website promotes local authors of sci-fi, fantasy and horror and used the conference to launch print books by two of his authors.

Readers wanted the "adrenaline rush" of being scared, he said.

"It's something to heighten the senses. It's the same as going on the rollercoaster in the fun fair, you just like that feeling in your stomach, the chill down your spine."

Cardiff-born Chris Lynch is one half of the horror comic book studio Monkeys with Machineguns, with artist Stuart Tipples, with titles such as Hammer of Time and Wrathbones.

He said: "I think it's better to get this stuff out, on paper, and sell it for a pittance than leaving it rattling around inside my head. It's a much better way of dealing with it."

A UFO was reported over the south Wales coast the day before the conference but no-one could confirm the two events were connected.

If it was a portent, it was best summed up Mr Hook.

He said: "Let's hope that science fiction can grow and live long and prosper in this land of Wales."

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