LINKING in with the British Film Institute’s national Sci-Fi Days Of Fear And Wonder programme, CineCity 2014 features a strong science-fiction strand. Below Duncan Hall talks to writer Graham Duff about a novella which screams out to be captured on celluloid, and previews other out-of-this world movies coming to the festival.

They: A Sequence Of Unease, Foredown Tower, Portslade, Saturday, December 6

WHEN writer Graham Duff moved into his first Brighton flat in 1991 he was warned about the woman in the basement.

“The landlord said she was a nice woman who got very irritated by people,” he remembers of his six months in Arundel Terrace.

“I said: ‘I’m going to be on the third floor – I won’t have the chance to irritate her!’”

Little did he know the woman he was being warned about was fellow writer Kay Dick, whose 2001 obituary in The Guardian was dominated by the many literary vendettas she embarked upon rather than her published work.

Dick, who died aged 86, penned both novels and non-fiction, the most celebrated being 1953’s An Affair Of Love, 1958’s Solitaire and her 1960 study of Commedia Dell’Arte: Perriot.

But for CineCity Duff will be introducing audiences to her lesser-known work of science fiction They – a 96-page dystopian view of the future set in the South Downs, where marauding bands of modern-day cultural Luddites break into houses and destroy art, musical instruments and books.

“I wasn’t really aware of the book until three or four months ago when Tim Brown [CineCity director] gave me a copy,” admits Duff, who penned the cult comedy Ideal and has written his own sci-fi radio serials Dr Who and Nebulous.

“I’d tried to read one of Kay Dick’s books before, but it wasn’t my kind of thing – it was like a florid romance.

“Before I read They I almost wanted to dislike it, but it’s a really excellent book. It’s an incredibly mature and vivid bit of prose – one of those things you come across and wonder why it isn’t better known as it is so strong.”

That urge to dislike Dick’s work came from Duff’s own experiences with her.

“Not long after I first moved in I was reframing a picture and cut my hand on the glass,” recalls Duff of their first meeting. “It was quite a big cut, there was blood everywhere, and I was on my own without any plasters. I went downstairs to see if I could get any from a neighbour, and ended up working my way down to the basement.”

Dick helped him with his cut and the pair had a chat about writing.

“I felt like we had bonded as fellow writers,” says Duff. “About a week later I was outside waiting for a lift, and she came out of her basement flat in a dressing gown saying I had been watching her get undressed through the window – when I’d been looking out to sea.

“She was really volatile. Another time a friend had come around and chained his bike to the railings – she came out with half a loaf of bread in one hand, and a bread knife in the other, totally outraged!

“I don’t know if she was ever diagnosed but she either had a persecution complex or paranoia issues. I only lived there for six months, but she made a real impression on me.”

For this CineCity event Duff will be talking about his memories of the writer, alongside readings from They and a demonstration of the Camera Obscura at Foredown Tower by local historian Frank Gray.

The event is designed to showcase a cinematic book which has never been turned into a film. The festival has also created a film set for the Ann Quin book Berg at the University Of Brighton in Grand Parade for a movie which was never made, and on Friday, December 5, is hosting a live radio-style version of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos at Duke Of York’s Picturehouse in contrast to the 1960 movie Village Of The Damned.

Duff feels They reflects Dick’s own struggles with her creativity.

A lot of literary work about her says she was a gifted writer who squandered her talents getting involved in vendettas and arguments with people,” he says. “Much of her work was destroyed by her anger, bitterness and misunderstandings, struggles with publishers and publishing houses. In the book if people continue to create after their artwork, books and musical instruments are destroyed they are given further punishments – blinded if they’re artists, or deafened if they’re musicians. We are never told if it’s a government-sanctioned or religious movement.”

The acts of the marauders also reflect the acts frequently carried out by dictatorships, or those trying to control the population.

“Art is one of the first forms of expression, and most open to interpretation,” says Duff. “Really repressive regimes don’t like interpretation, as it leads to them being questioned.

“So often performing arts can be seen as frivolous, but all new art is about pushing forward and taking things beyond expectations, bucking the status quo.”