Wanting to create a more atmospheric video to promote the novel, a couple of weeks ago I arranged to film in a remarkable location - a perfectly preserved nuclear bunker high in the Cotswolds, next to Broadway Tower. The bunker is part of the much-loved, ridiculously photogenic National Trust property - the highest point of the Cotswolds. It is one of a network of over a thousand monitoring stations, decommissioned in 1991 as the Cold War gave way to Glasnost (how times change!). They were designed to monitor the impact of a nuclear explosion and its after-effects and were manned by a 3-man or woman team from the Royal Observer Corps. We had the privilege to be shown around by a former member of the Corps, John, who very generously gave his time to show us around and to give us an insight into a chilling episode of recent history. The wall calendar, the Quatermass Experiment-style equipment, even the games to pass the time (vintage sets of Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, packs of cards and jigsaw puzzles)- were all preserved in Marie Celeste fashion. A recording evoked the crackly radio comms -- the fragile vestiges of civilisation. After 3 weeks, the teams were expected to exit their bunkers - water and rations only lasted that long. What they would discover, and if they would survive, seems beyond the bunker's instruction manual and basic training to envision. It crosses over into the realm of the post-apocalyptic. But that is where science fiction comes into its own - imagining possible futures, worst (and best) case scenarios, and offering sober warnings and thrill-rides to the far edges of the universe.
Black Box does not hesitate to gaze into the abyss of humanity's possible extinction - but offers a gleam of hope, and a dark streak of humour, an essential for lfie on Earth (and beyond).
The filming was an intense experience and evoked the claustrophobia of the novel's main settings - a submersible exploring sixty-mile-deep oceans beneath the frozen surface of one of Jupiter's moons millions of miles from Earth; a tugship hauling a vast ice-shelf through deep space; a white cell in the Europa Survey Base... and strangely, the climb back into the daylight (and the stunning views over the Cotswolds) mirrored another aesthetic of the novel - the breath-taking biomes of the arkship, Ithaka, where the remains of our planet's ecosystems are preserved.
It was a fascinating, unforgettable afternoon - one that we hope conjures up some of the goldendark magic of the book.
With many thanks to Chantelle Smith and Broadway Tower, especially David Walton and John Less.
To visit go to: https://broadwaytower.co.uk/
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