The Quanderhorn Xpaperback

The first part of Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall's saga now smaller and softer.

5 June, 2020

When Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall's sci-fi comedy The Quanderhorn Xperimentations landed on BBC Radio 4 in 2018, it was pleasingly accompanied immediately by an expanded version of the story, in the form of a novel adaptation. And now that Quanderhorn 2 has popped up on the airwaves - well, it's not quite time for a whole second Quanderhorn novel yet, but what there is is the opportunity to get the book read if you're the sort of person who prefers to wait for the paperback.

The Quanderhorn Xpaperback

The smaller, softer, cheaper edition of The Quanderhorn Xperimentations is available now from wherever you're able to get your books - and to tell you a little more about it, here are Rob and Andrew (or possibly Andrew and Rob) themselves...

What made you decide to do Quanderhorn as both a radio series and a book to start with? Which of the two (if either) was it originally conceived as?

Well, it began as a radio series. Originally, we went in to see Sioned Wiliam at the BBC to sell a sort of fantasy parody - Throne of Forks, which we decided, once we started work on it, that it was more of a sketch idea. And, indeed, it later became a sketch in [2019 radio series] The Nether Regions.

We were both tremendous fans of Saturday Matinee shows when we were kids - it was where you got sent so your parents could have sex, we later discovered. We loved the swashbuckling adventures - The Mark of Zorro and other incredibly cheap C movie serials - Flash Gordon and its ilk. We also shared a fondness for old Sci Fi horror movies which were making their way onto TV at just the right time for us, like Quatermass and the Pit, the Incredible Shrinking Man and the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (though, scandalously, the 50 foot woman got paid less than the shrinking man, even in those days).

In a weird way, more was possible in Science Fiction in the 50s - because there was less science. There were Martians and Moon Men and Morlocks and strange rays from outer space that turned people into hideous monsters and suchlike. We thought it would be excellent fun to recapture that halcyon period, with a modern twist. We also wanted to make something that used all the potential of radio and its interactive quality: instead of CGI, you have BGI - Brain Generated Imagery. And from all that, Quanderhorn was born.

We did a lot of work - months! - developing the characters and the universe they inhabit and the interweaving plot lines, and we began to see there was potential for a lot more depth, and perhaps we could develop the concept as a novel. And so we began writing the novel simultaneously with the radio series - we'd pretty much done a first draft of the radio scripts, but the extra depth and richness that the novel produced was fed back into them, as part of the process. Plato suggested that there is an imaginary ideal table, of which all tables, however different, are a shadow.

Somewhere in the ether of the imagination, there is a perfect Quanderhorn, of which the novel, radio, TV series, movie and T shirts are all different iterations.

What was your process for collaborating on the prose?

Rob would eat enormous numbers of Kit Kat Chunkies, while Andrew pretended not to nibble on biscuits and talked about the gym a lot. We worked the way we always do, chat on Skype and share the screen (and the typing) via Zoom. Yes, we were using Zoom years ago! We both have to approve every bloody word. But there are remarkably few arguments, and, to date, only one knife fight.

Was there anything you were particularly pleased to be able to do, or just approach differently, in the novel that couldn't be done on the radio?

Well, it's easier in a novel to get into people's heads and winkle out their thoughts. The journals in the radio series help that a bit, but they have to be fairly short on the whole, whereas in the book, they can be as long as you like. You can also explore the differences between what characters are saying and what they're actually doing. And we thoroughly enjoyed the novel's footnotes. Best bit of the book.

Is Quanderhorn 2 going to make its way into book form? And how far do you have the Quanderhorn saga envisaged? Is it something you could see running and running or do you have a definite endpoint for it in mind?

We have the next season mapped out, which is hilariously meaningless. We never stick to it. We'd like to see a TV version, too. Preferably made in black and white, with utterly appalling special FX and Venusian women in unfeasibly pointy bras.

We're working on the Q2 novel now. Just waiting to see if there'll be a book industry left to publish it.

Get hold of The Quanderhorn Xperimentations in paperback now, and catch both series of the radio show on BBC Sounds!

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