We met in Greenock High School. Ken was joint editor of the school magazine and
had heard I wrote stories (through Les, I've always suspected). My version is that I was
at school enjoying a free period, lying on the grass slope overlooking the school playing
fields watching the sixth-year girls playing tennis, when MacLeod suddenly appeared in
front of me, his feet encased by big tackety boots and his thick tweed trousers held up by
a leather belt that looked like it had come off a diving suit. I put my shades down, raised
my eyebrows and said, 'Hmm?'
'I hear you write stories,' he said in a sing-song voice.
'Yeah, I suppose,' I said, very coolly (while thinking, What's that bastard McFarlane
dropped me in now?).
'Would you like to write one for the school magazine?'
'Yeah, sure, man,' I said. I put my shades down and leant to one side, trying to see
round him or at least give the impression that the sixth-year girls required my full atten-
I did write the story but it had mild swearing in it and Ken's coeditor, a teacher,
wanted the swearing taken out, so it never appeared in the magazine. I was still in my
full-on pun period, so this was no great loss.
(Ken's version of how we met is entirely different and possesses the additional merit
of being true. However I don't come out of it nearly so coolly so I haven't thought to
trouble you with it here.)
Ken and I became good friends, discovering a mutual love of both science fiction
and writing. We developed a relationship that revolved around swapping short stories
and ideas for novels, and which included me, on a Friday morning, telling Ken about
the previous evening's Monty Python , because Ken's home had no television. The small
Calvinist sect Ken's dad was a minister within was and is eye-wateringly strict. I've un-
consciously caricatured its outlook in the past as a blanket belief that theatre, cinema and
television were all regarded as evil in themselves, but it's not as simple as that.
It boils down to a Puritan objection to drama, which is associated in the Free Presby-
terian mind with lasciviousness, and it's lasciviousness which is A Really Bad Thing (this
goes back to the fairly bawdy theatre that existed in Britain between the reigns of James
VI and Charles II). Exceptions are made for the classics, though whether this includes
Shakespeare on a close reading - the phrase 'country matters' and the like - appears to be
moot. Factual stuff of a non-prurient nature is okay, though given that you don't see many
documentaries on stage and precious few on general release in the cinema, both media are
largely shunned. Radio is mostly all right but television is suspect (I can't help wondering
if TV is slightly more okay in theory nowadays given that a quick blip on the remote is all
it takes to remove something unsavoury from the screen; at the time we're talking about
here the only way to change channels was to leap across the room and twist the tuning