The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Twelve! Twelve!

Hullo, anyone who’s about today! Merry Christmas! I got several Beatles CDs, amongst many other good things. In half an hour or so, I have to start peeling potatoes.

Okay, so you know our friend whose son's accident was what motivated me to write that Sunday Times Doctor Who story? He's set up an account so that anyone who wants to can donate money to the unit of the John Radcliffe hospital who took care of the little chap. They did a wonderful job, and if you liked the story, and are in a charitable mood this Christmas, here's an apt and useful place for your good wishes to make a difference:

The account is: Jacob Robinson PICU. Sort code: 20-90-91. Number: 50625752.

And if you tell your bank that, they can do the rest. If anyone would like to organise sponsored anythings towards that cause, I'd be happy to mention them here. And I should say, for form's sake, this is nothing to do with the BBC or The Sunday Times, this is just us. I knew I'd find a point to this Christmas blog eventually.

Last night, when we got to the Portwell Bar, Neil Dwerryhouse and some friends had got two guitars and were singing Christmas songs in the corner. ‘This is the Dickies’ version of “Silent Night”!’ The place was full of our friends, and a group of Dutch visitors. I learnt, with some surprise, that former Doctor Who Magazine comic strip artist Lee Sullivan had been part of a visiting band that I’d missed while we were over at our folks. He plays saxophone these days. He asked after me, and I’m sorry I wasn’t here. The last blog was accessed via handheld device, and Simon read out the bit about his Sambuca accident. Martin Phillips the landlord was shaking everyone’s hand even more than usual.

Around half eleven, a bunch of us trooped up the hill to All Saints, to join the usual packed church for Midnight Mass. The Reverend Charles Draper has done a great job this year. His Christmas sermon mentioned George W. Bush. It was typically precise, relevant, and honest. As he was speaking about listening to the voice of peace, the bells for midnight started ringing, and I was in floods of tears. The Creed was changed for the occasion. ‘Born into Palestine, A prophet of Israel, Born in a stable, A victim of Empire.’ There were intercessions that recognised the goodness of Atheists, and mentioned Richard Dawkins.

We even sang ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’. I may have been rather over-enthusiastic in the hugging of my neighbours at the moment of the Peace.

We went back to the bar afterwards. ‘How was God?’ asked Dave Curzon, coming out. I hugged him too. Which took him by surprise. ‘Goregous,’ I said.

I’m going to be away for a while, now. I’m going to take a long, serious rest, and appear again early in the New Year. But I reserve the right to pop up before that if I’m in the mood. I hope you and your families, be they the ones you were given or the ones you made, and the people you’ve found love with, whoever they may be, have a wonderful Christmas.

And finally, a prayer that myself and my Atheist friends can share: may whichever of us is wrong make sure we love the other lot in the meantime, and do no harm.

Note to self: less pompous in the New Year, Cornell. Less pompous. Cheerio!

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Eleven

Thank you everyone who’s sent me kind comments about the Sunday Times Doctor Who short story. I didn’t have time to tell you beforehand that it’s also available on their website:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2101-2515792,00.html

I think they did a lovely job with the layout and graphics in the newspaper. So flattering to have the front page of the section, and an ad on the front of the paper. We got some lovely calls and texts, including one from a friend of ours whose little boy got through a similar very difficult situation this summer and is now absolutely unscathed and back to normal. Said friend realised that I’d been thinking of him when I wrote that.

By the way, anyone who’s here because of that all ages story, do bear in mind that my comic, advertised above, is for Mature Readers. Just got worried about that on the way home.

We just got back from two advance Christmas dinners, at our parents’ homes. Tomorrow, we make Christmas lunch together with two other couples (I’m doing the veg, and have had the advice of three mothers already, thank you). Dad’s looking healthier, but fell asleep before the present swapping.

The day before all that, I texted Simon, web developer and computer fixer for Faringdon, with the simple message ‘early doors?’, which means does he want to meet for a pint as soon as the Portwell Bar opens. He replied that everyone was five pints down already. So I went to join him, Martin the landlord, bookmaker Guy, various Boogie Me members and notably builder Colin, who was buying shots and rounds for all his workers and, it turned out, us, in a spirit of deliberate and tremendous festive goodwill. Now, I am incapable of turning down a booze-related dare, so four pints and eight shots later, Flaming Sambucas it was. The Flaming Sambuca has a rep in this town. Roger Clarke of Booby Moore’s Shorts once ignited his stubble. And, indeed, Simon discovered that slowly and carefully is not the way to drink one. The smell of hair was in the air once again. But I threw mine back with speed and no harm done internally, or so I’m told.

I wrapped my gifts for Caroline, and continued conversations on Lou Anders’ blog, after that. So the former are rough and a little frazzled about the edges, and so are the latter.

Tonight, I believe some more merry quaffing is on the cards, indeed, necessary. Because one should arrive just a touch off stone cold sober, but absolutely not in any way actually sozzled, at Midnight Mass. Which I’ve been leading up to with all these blogs, and with the way my brain’s changed shape under the impact of the quality of light, the conversations, the rest and the sheer bloody consumption of the last few days. It’s like falling under the force of gravity, towards something.

Tomorrow’s blog on Christmas Day may be short and sweet, and I may have a handful of parsnips when I do it. But it will be the completion of something I’m very proud of. Thanks everyone for your part in it. Cheers!

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Ten

Previously, on Paul Cornell’s House of Awkwardness…

To mark this time of the year, I’ve been doing something different with my blog. It’s usually a series of articles, reviews and announcements, to keep those interested in touch with a career that covers novels, television and comics. Instead, I’m getting towards the end of The Twelve Blogs of Christmas, a commitment to write every day that naturally tends towards a more everyday journal of what I’m up to in the festive season, complete with occasional nods towards yuletide sentimentality and mysticism. I don’t honestly know if it’s going down better than the usual mixture, but it does seem to be getting responses.

Today, with those readers who might have popped over from the Sunday Times website in mind – hello, hope you liked the story, do take a look at the fine links to the right, oh, and there’s a banner for buying my comic up there, see? - I thought I’d write about not exactly moments (because my memories are all over the place), but pop cultural things in general that I’ve enjoyed over the last year. I exempt, as always, those items I’ve been involved with, because it’s not my place to comment. Except:

The fact that the playground is following Doctor Who again. I’m going to be watching the Christmas special with my God-daughter and her two brothers, and there’s nothing like the sheer terror of an eight year old to make you feel all festive. The pages of Doctor Who Magazine are full of drawings of… well, they’re of something anyway, and the children felt proud enough to send them in, so all is fine with the world. I don’t think Russell gets enough credit for making the show theirs again.

Lost. I’m going to review this at greater length next year, but suffice it to say that, having missed Season Two completely, Season Three is a different, better show. It’s like a New Wave of British SF take on The Prisoner. Like Thomas M. Disch was running that series. I am now hanging on this series’ writers’ every word. They have revealed enough of their plan, quickly enough, to convince me in the illusion. And the flashbacks do something which I think is perhaps the first new device of post-9/11 drama: they inform us of a back story which motivates the character, only for that motivation to be pushed immediately back down into the murk of why anyone does anything, as we cut back to the here and now. It’s like we’re given privileged information, and then denied it again, as their actions are not simply in reaction to the moment of history we assume they’re thinking about now. That unmasking and masking shows a concern for motivation that’s surely a response to the need to understand modern extremes of action. Any hey, Hurley rocks.

Battlestar Galactica. The bravest show on TV, it continues to make the hard choices. It’s not as loved in the SF community as it should be, despite being the TV show that said community has always wanted. That’s because instead of opting for a simple metaphor in response to the war in Iraq, it has instead decided to roundly discuss the concepts through stories about war, that is, to some critics’ discomfort, through war stories. The humans are the suicide bombers, the aliens the occupying forces. Is that a pro or anti, left or right wing position? I’d say it’s neither, it’s a dramatic position, and an SF one, in that we’re encouraged to feel the alienation amongst the familiarity. In comics, Mark Millar’s Civil War has similarly suffered at the hands of fan critics because it explores an allegory of a divided America, rather than just picking one side and damning the other. And hey, Starbuck, every old girlfriend of mine rolled into a fighter pilot, I love you.

Veronica Mars. The show I live by. What would Veronica do? Trap the bad guys, protect the weak, work past the living hell of high school and now university by being the great detective. The sheer moral outrage of this show at its best has all the purging relief of colonic irrigation. Except, you know, it’s also fun. (Every now and then I suspect I may never get a cover quote on a DVD.) And hey, Logan, the best acted best written grey area bad boy in telly ever.

Wired Magazine. Now that Fortean Times has retreated into itself, I like having a magazine that reflects my own aspirations and geeky confidence in the world. Wired loves people, individuals, groups, who express themselves through arty technology. It seems to be part of the new young tendency (see Lost above) to desire only to meet people, as deeply as possible, to hear about difference rather than to recruit. Thus MySpace, YouTube, etc.. In these pages you encounter many new folk, all of whom are living in the most modern possible ways. One comes away with the desire to conduct a five line interview with the chap sitting next to you on the bus. As long as he talks about his blog and it’s powered by hemp. And hey, this magazine thinks we can save the world. Because, unlike the religious right or the rump left, it thinks it’s both important to save it and that it’s worth saving rather than saying I Told You So about.

52. There’s something different and apart about this weekly comic set in DC’s superhero universe. For a start, it treats said universe as a place where many stories intertwine, and thus makes comics unlike TV show episodes: we might or might not check in with the same bunch of characters every week. (Again, Lost now has both created and employed comics writers with something very like this format.) Mainstream readers attracted in by the press stories about the new lesbian Batwoman seem to have stayed because of how much fun quick hits of superhero storytelling are. This is either the future of superhero comics, or a lovely diversion away from the task of reinventing them, as Civil War is doing. And hey, those old Shazam costumes now look so cool.

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. The book that got me acquainted with the current state of astrophysics. Greene is a master of metaphor, and, through apt comparison, and use of characters from The Simpsons, brings one basically up to speed on what the shape of the universe is meant to be right now. And, let me tell you, it’s one jaw dropping, oh my God, are we actually inside some sort of computer game, all bets are off, what the hell is that, common sense RIP, its not made for our benefit is it, I’ll be in my bunk, shape. The one vital book to read if you hope to be on top of any pub debate about the nature of reality ever again. And hey, membranes!

Aliens: Why They Are Here by Brian Appleyard. Similarly mind-expanding, a sober journalist comes to the cargo cult culture of UFOs and alien abductions and finds mythological truth that just about shades into yer actual truth on some occasions. He was convinced during the book and got unconvinced by the end of it. He brings no baggage and seeks not to persuade you, but leaves you with just a vague feeling that there might be shades to the world that you’re missing. And hey, he got hypnotically regressed!

Infoquake by David Louis Edelman. My favourite SF novel of the year. A future of business and competition that we can all identify with, which neatly avoids apocalyptic cliché, and thus the adoration of the British SF critics. I’ve blogged about it before, otherwise I’d say more. And hey, catchphrases you can use online: towards perfection!

The Week in Whedon Podcast. My favourite podcast, now unfortunately on a less than weekly schedule. It concerns the ongoing work of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon. It’s presented by a husband and wife team, and it’s their interaction, him always trying to see what he can get away with, her playfully pulling him back to respectability, that makes it. They’re great natural broadcasters, and I’d listen to them talking about anything. And hey, a musical number at the end every time.

The coastline south of Mendocino in California. Driving through the tiny town of Elk on the coast road, listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash with the roof down, late this summer. Just a lovely moment with my wife. And hey, I know I said I wouldn’t do moments, but, you know, there are some I remember pretty well.

Tomorrow: hey! It’s Christmas Eve! Have you been naughty or nice?

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Nine

Fog as far as the eye can see today. It makes the town muffled, and keeps our friend Julie, who’s flying off to Japan for the holiday, trapped at the airport. I have a pile of presents to wrap now, and the rather lovely duty of wandering around town with a pocket full of cards, filling in the gaps in those we’ve given them to. I rather suspect, after a night off, that strong dark ale is calling me back to the bar again this evening. Or, in a rather less macho way, perhaps a Baileys.

I’ve entered into a religious debate over on Lou’s blog. Being someone who straddles many different traditions, Lou always gets people to talk over the matters within and without the genre of which he is an editor. I’m having a good time, but feel the need to drop in one too many jokes. I suspect my public image within SF prose fandom is that of a good natured loon. I think I do that in the way that, when he first started out, black British comedian Lenny Henry used to make jokes about his ‘sun tan’. It’s a defensive gesture: we’re all friends here, I am nothing frightening, nothing you hate. It’s been kind of an effort to talk about religious sensations on this blog, even. This time of year is the only time I really allow myself to do it, chiefly because they’re more important to me when the quality of light is like this, but also because there’s a mental space around the winter solstice when the British feel able to let the mystical stuff out to play. Hence the strange alliances implicit in the ‘ghost story for Christmas’ tradition. (Can anyone think of any other situation where the beings of one pantheon are wheeled out regularly in celebration of an entirely different one?)

But if I’ve learnt one thing this year, it’s that it’s okay to express myself about all sorts of things. People dislike, I think, one keeping one’s trap shut, not saying the thing which feels urgent to say. True, I did bounce down the steps of a particular independent production company this year when the producer said they were going to put more sex in the next season of their series. Sounding rather like Lady Bracknell, I came out with a long low hoot of ‘mooorrrrrrre?!’ Because I didn’t actually think that there was enough sex in the universe to satisfy the implied levels of future demand. However, in general, I’ve found that if I’m honest about who I am and what I think, people in the media are generally much more willing to deal than I offhandedly expect them to be. I am sometimes adopted as a pet. ‘Look, I know a religious person! I’m that liberal! Isn’t he cute?!’ But more often, after people have done a little dance about how atheistic they are, and made sure that I’m all right with that, and no earnest saving of souls will be done as a result, they’re fine.

In my home town, it’s a lot easier, mainly because, thanks to the Hellmouth/temporal fissure under the place, the one that leads to there being two of every kind of shop and no greengrocer, church attendance here is vast. Truly huge compared to national levels. So quite a few of my peers down the bar are also, offhandedly, theists. As part of a healthy diet. And so nobody ever talks about it, thank God. And I’ve got Caroline there, my credential. She’s so obviously normal, what with the swordplay and the anime and all, right in the tradition of Anglican vicar eccentricity, that I’m obviously all right too.

All the same, writing a novel about how bullied kids become bullied adults, as I’m doing right now, reminds me every day I write it of how I dislike going out on a limb and revealing who I am. So I think in the New Year I’ll get back to reviewing (got loads to say about how good and different the new season of Lost is) and going on and on about comics and anime and SF. And maybe this time next year people can remember there’s another side to me also.

Oh, and I need to post some interesting mainstream stuff before Christmas Eve, because that’s when a link from the Sunday Times website kicks in, and I might be able to make regular readers of some of that lot. So… after nine days of blogging, erm… anyone got any ideas?

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Eight

It seems that on Christmas Eve, my Doctor Who story will be in the Arts and Books Section, rather than the Culture section, of the Sunday Times. And it’ll be on that section’s cover too! There’ll be an advertisement for it in The Times tomorrow.

Every year, Martin down the bar we frequent holds a Christmas pop music quiz in aid of charity. Every table has a team on it, and along the way every team tends to win a ‘spot prize’, which is Martin handing out a round of drinks when someone says something funny. Last night, the musical forces of Faringdon were out in strength, eyeing each other up from their different corners. Last year, I lost by half a point to the combined forces of Powertrain and Bobby Moore’s Shorts. This year, my team triumphed over the same lot by one and a half points! I did a little victory dance, and then I fell over. Because it was quite late by that point, and I’ve gone rather past hungover into a sort of continuing haze, a condition rather than an event, if you will.

These short days are shorter for us because we’ve become nocturnal, waking around eleven and going to bed at three. Hours of daylight for me today then: about four. Which feels wonderful. I’m fatter than at any other point this year, and I’m asleep a lot, and I’m waiting for the darkness to get to its deepest. All is as it should be.


I feel like Joss Ackland in The Hogfather (and what a great performance that was, he had me laughing at his mere presence almost all the time he was onscreen, through rather a choppy and just about there plot, I thought, although there were many good jokes along the way).

For the benefit of Martin the landlord, who said last night that he enjoyed these daily bits of everyday life, and then set us twenty questions on which celebrity he’d seen the other day in Oxford Street (we live in the Town of Organised Games), I thought I’d mention a few of the websites I visit every morning (apart from the porn, though it is said that simply using the words Rude Lesbian Nurses will raise this blog a couple of thousand places in the Technorati rankings, and I’ll let you know how that goes).

Obviously, I check out CricInfo, Outpost Gallifrey, Newsarama and Millarworld for my cricket, Doctor Who and comics gossip needs. I’m insanely attuned to comics gossip. I’ll call my wife in and reveal to her in hushed tones that someone she’s never heard of is going to be doing something of which she knows nothing. I think it’s because it’s such a pop medium. The only proper way to talk about it is by squealing.

Blogs I pop along to are editor Lou Anders’ ‘Bowing to the Future’ and author Chris Roberson’s ‘Interminable Ramble’, because Lou creates and runs wide-ranging SF discussions that tend to spread out into the wider internet, and Chris trawls for YouTube clips and mad pop culture links like nobody else, including, at the moment, Marvel supremo Stan Lee on a 1970s game show. And they both remind me of the good times I have with their Rat Pack in bars at conventions. I also love Fiona Avery’s Journal, especially around Christmas time, when she goes as festively mad as I do. Over there right now you can find a warming winter soup recipe. There are some friends’ locked Live Journals I check out as well.

I look up my name and 'Pete Wisdom' on Technorati, the blog search engine, and have started to follow with interest, therefore, the life of a Live Journal poster who calls himself Pete Wisdom. It’s harder than you might suppose, working out whether a blog is talking about him or the comics character. I like to see what the Television Without Pity boards are saying about Doctor Who, since they come to it with a purely American and new series slant. Fortean Times and The Anomalist give me my slice of the romance of the mysterious, and the ongoing humour masterpiece that is the Faringdon.org talking points forum delights me all the time. I think even those who don’t live here would be fascinated by the glimpses of town life and, well, sheer bloody conflict. One poster currently describes Faringdon as ‘bandit country’. He’s referring to the lack of local parking regulation enforcement. There are also always fun new reviews on My Science Fiction Life and that lovely chap who writes a definitive blog about every version of Robin Hood as if he were Robin himself. ‘Well, I don’t know what these kebabs you refer to might be, we in the forest eat mostly venison.’

Most of those have links on the right.

Tomorrow would now seem to be a good time for favourite moments of the year. And I’ve gone on too much today. Did I mention Rude Lesbian Nurses? It’s actually my favourite title for a porn video, in that, if the title catches you the wrong way, it seems far from enticing. Cheerio.


The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Seven

On Saturday 27th January, it turns out I’ll be doing a signing of my new Big Finish Doctor Who audio play Circular Time, with co-author Mike Maddox, sound designer David Darlington and the actor who plays Nyssa, Sarah Sutton, at the 10th Planet shop in Barking:

http://www.doctorwho.co.uk/drwho_main/bf091_circulartime.shtml

Do pop along if you can.

Got the lettering draft of issue two of Wisdom done and sent off this morning. Hopefully my only work this holiday. Lettering drafts for comics are difficult: it’s when you square up what the artist has drawn in response to your script with what your original script says. So if Trev’s changed the order of some panels, for instance, I have to change the words round too. And sometimes he’s come up with some brilliant improvisations of his own, and so I have to work with those. One lovely thing about Trev is that the facial expressions really suit the dialogue, so I rarely have to tweak that to match an expression.

Yesterday we went to a Christmas lunch held by SF writer and critic Kim Newman, and played Secret Santa. Caroline lucked out, getting the Darth Tater version of Mr. Potatohead. I got some lovely pens. It was good to catch up with old muckers like authors Pat Cadigan and Jon Courtenay Grimwood, both of whom were lovely to me when I first got into this business, and we sat at the same end of the table as Robert Holdstock, the writer of the wonderful Mythago Wood and many other novels. He turned out to be absolutely lovely, entertaining us with stories of novelising television shows in the 1970s. And we had the Dawkins/atheist/theist debate, but in a very civilised, merry way. I ventured that a majority of Christians, myself included, accept the concept of evolution entirely. It’s only the extremists (including some very nice ones, I’m sure) who fight on that front. I find my reading of physics and cosmology, however, reinforces my religious impulses. As Terry Pratchett, who’s a Humanist spokesman, put it in his BBC4 interview (and I’m paraphrasing here), he doesn’t believe in God, but ‘you read about quantum mechanics and you start to wonder’. If we live, as current physics maintains we do, in a universe that’s a projection of a higher dimensional reality, a membrane with hidden dimensions rolled up in the very small, at the most fundamental level of which the laws of physics vanish, and while we still don’t understand what minds are or what time is, I think it’s pretty hard to rule anything out. Pratchett was also delightfully respectful to those from the opposing camp, and so was Robert, in a way that Dawkins isn’t. When, in terms of the misery caused not by religion itself, but by the conflicts between those who believe all sorts of different things, I think that’s the least we can do.

Anyway, I went on to my Agent’s Christmas party, where I talked cricket, and met that lovely chap who writes the obituaries and SF reviews for the Telegraph, and had very much too much to drink. My Agent now knows I love him. I suspect he knew already.

I’m reminded of one lovely moment this year: hauling a bunch of folk out of the bar at a precise minute to watch the International Space Station, a point of light brighter than any star or planet, sail in an arc overhead and vanish into the shadow of the Earth. I ran up to a woman at the bus stop and told her what it was. One of our friends was sure he could see legs on it. You can check when it’s coming over for you here:

http://www.heavens-above.com/#

Tomorrow, as we reach the shortest day, other favourite people, websites and moments from the year.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Six

I heard from the publishers yesterday that the XTNCT collection is delayed until early in the New Year. That's the reason a couple of you have been having online ordering difficulties. I'll replace the Amazon link with one to Rebellion's own shop shortly.

Today is quite a rush, because we’re off to a Christmas lunch with a bunch of British SF writers, to which I’m honoured to have been invited for the first time, then while Caroline comes back home for her third choral concert, I’ll be going on to My Agent’s Christmas Drinks. Oh yes, it’s all very civilised until it gets late and the hidden bottles of wine appear from behind those large volumes of World Geopolitical Studies. This year an Actor’s Agency has moved in on the floor above. I’m hoping for joyous mayhem, but let’s see if I can make it past the lunch first.

I’m actually guesting at the British Science Fiction Association monthly meeting at the Star Tavern in Belgravia on January 24th., but that’s January, so is impossible to think about now:

http://www.bsfa.co.uk/index.cfm/section.events

Caroline’s concert with the Faringdon Singers and Louise Woodgate went down well last night. (Careful with the punctuation there.) They were playing to a corporate hospitality audience at Trinity College.

I wanted to say something about losing The Ashes. That is: we went down fighting. Barring one day when we were broken (when Gilchrist got his century off fifty eight balls) we pushed them neck and neck, and we came back the day after that as well. We were simply limited by not having our best team available. I found the selections generally uncontroversial. I’d have picked Giles too, though Monty did wonderfully when he got his chance. That’s not the story you get from the press, but the British press and public, as an Aussie mate of mine noted, want our team to lose and actively anticipate it, while the Aussies, wonderfully, haven’t lost until the moment they’re beaten. I think the reasons why this might be so are buried deep in the British psyche. The thought of winning is frightening, because it stirs up hope and the fear that next time we’ll be crushed through anticipating winning and then losing again. It’s something to do with being continually disappointed post-war, after Churchill elected to lose the prosperity of the Empire in order to defeat fascism. I think we should be proud of our subsequent poverty (we finished paying off our war loans last year, lest you think I overstate the cause), but instead we’re the nation of pub quiz teams who say ‘we’re playing to come last’. I am profoundly unlike that. I’m the one who walks off those pub teams. I like ‘this is a young country’. And I particularly like Kevin Petersen, undefeated, being gobby at Shane Warne until the last ball. He isn’t liked by the press either. Rather like David Beckham, they sneer that the off-field stories ‘distract from the game’. But that’s only up to them. What that off-field strut actually distracts from is the fear, that, from Nasser Hussain onwards, our cricket team have managed to shrug off. And that rather disturbs a press which live amongst and feed on it.

Finally, talking of My Agent, here’s his latest recipe to hack Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls, the Xbox 360 game which consumes our lives. In his own words:

‘I've invented the most marvelous spell that lets you kill everyone and never get in trouble! Basically you go to the Altar of Spellmaking and make a targeted fireball (for as much damage as you can muster) but leave a little room for an invisibility spell on 'self' that lasts for - ooh - let's say six seconds. You unleash the spell and kill your target whilst invisible! The game thinks it's impossible to attack someone whilst invisible, so you can lay waste an entire town whilst the guards and general public run around shrieking “There's a maniac on the loose!” whilst offering you broad smiles and asking for coins. (Take that, beggar!) I was going to call it “Bird of Prey” or “Fire Whilst Cloaked” but ended up with “Spree!”. Do you think I should get out more?”

Quoted with permission and delight.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Five

Last night’s Fifteen Minute Club was lovely to be a part of. Local author/actor/singer Dominic Bullock was a highlight. One of the few times I can recall when a somewhat ironic audience request shout ‘American Pie!’ was countered by the artist performing a complete rendition of said song, off the cuff. That showed ‘em.

The carol service at All Saints was lovely, a full house, and the choir performing some upbeat and serious songs. It left me conscience stricken, so I had to go and sort a few things out afterwards. One thing that concerns me a great deal at the moment, not that I can do anything about this, is that a single tree in the churchyard outside my window is blooming as we speak. It thinks its Spring.

And speaking of said churchyard, the lovely crew from BBC4 got in touch to say that there might not be much of the footage from there in the documentary. They’re mostly using the stuff I did at TV Centre. That’s kind of a pity, because I was a touch more erudite at home, and they went to such trouble to get out here.

In the post this morning, a card from the author Lloyd Rose, who includes a cutting, as she often does, concerning owls. I put them up on the mantelpiece. This time it’s about the artist Joseph Cornell. ‘I rejoice that there are owls,’ he said. Well, amen to that.

The first issue of Wisdom is at Number 140 in the November comics sales charts, with estimated (American only) sales of 20, 000 copies:

http://www.cbgxtra.com/Default.aspx?tabid=1800

I’m quite happy with that. I get nice contextual implications from the titles around it. Keeping that going next month will be the real test. (There are collectors who buy every first issue on an investment basis, and buyers who sampled the first one then decided against.)

I’ve been invited to the Regenerations convention in Swansea on 29th-30th September next year. I’m delighted to be going back. I like the attitude of the organisers, and their willingness to try new things. The presence of a male voice choir at the evening dinner is a real highlight.

http://www.regenerationsswansea.co.uk/what.html

I’ve heard from various folk that the XTNCT collection seems to be delayed. I’m checking that out. Anyway, I have some last minute present buying to do, so see you tomorrow. Cheerio.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Four (Anime)

I’ve just discovered that I did have the date of the documentary wrong. My Science Fiction Life goes out on BBC4 at 10pm on Friday December 29th. I’ve just rushed around telling everyone.

And also, thanks to those who reminded me, I missed out a major figure in Faringdon music in yesterday’s blog, singer/songwriter/voice coach Trev Williams:

http://www.trevwilliams.co.uk/

Whose new CD ‘Guiding Star’ is out now, and who’s played some stonking gigs in 2006.

Last night’s gig was great, all eighteen of Jon Lane’s Boogie Me filling up the stage. There was dancing. There was your actual jive, there was ‘Minnie the Moocher’. Caroline, like her fellow backing singers, had her nails painted uniform red. Afterwards, a whole bunch of us stumbled back to the bar and stayed up until three, like something out of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ video, except including a takeaway pizza. In support, Neil Dwerryhouse played ‘Tiger Feet’ for the first time and Acoustic Jukebox were plaintive, Anita well in charge of the vocals. As we speak she and Caroline are on the phone working out if they can organise some quick carols at the Fifteen Minute Club tonight, after we get back from the carol service at All Saints’.

We popped over to see Mum and Dad earlier. Dad’s doing a lot better these days. His life and health having influenced much of my work, I can’t help thinking that Doctor Who fans kind of know him at one remove through Pete Tyler. He’s just taken delivery of a cheap camcorder, and told Caroline that if she started making serious money from her music that she should make sure the contract’s right first. The solar power cells are keeping the place nice and warm. I can just see him onstage at a convention. He’d do his magic tricks.

I took him a copy of Wisdom, because he always used to buy me Marvel comics when I was a kid: the British Avengers Weekly (with Doctor Strange in the back) and sometimes Spider-Man, and approved of the literacy of the stories when all the other parents were warning against ‘horror comics’. But, and the may be the strangest thing I’ve ever done, I carefully bowdlerised the comic, tippexing out certain words and replacing them with Asterix-style swearing-symbols. He and Mum are very offended by swearing, and I know from previous things I’ve done that they actually feel a little afraid for me if my work contains that, that my audience might turn against me as a result, and considering they made that brave decision all those years ago that comics were good for me… There, I just realised why I did that.

So, I was going to do best anime of the year, but one hardly ever sees anime the year they come out, and I’ve only been into the medium for around eighteen months, so I just thought I’d do a quick list of my Ten Favourite Anime Series (because if it was a non-series list there’d be four Miyazaki movies in the ten). The tone of the reviews is, as always, like you’ve never seen these, because I know a lot of my readers won’t have. Sorry about the egg sucking lessons.

1: Fruits Basket. I have blogged previously about this. Not just the best anime, one of the best stories ever told, full stop. In modern day Japan, our heroine solves the traumas of the cursed clan she befriends by loving them until their heartfelt, ground in difficulties are melted away.

2: Planetes. The hard SF near-future story of the people who pick up space debris. It slowly evolves into our hero accepting that he wants to go on the first flight to Jupiter. It’s charmingly down to Earth about human relationships, with one of the most plausible troubled romances I’ve ever seen in the medium. And in its portrait of the political and social cost of outward expansion, it ticks every box on the Mundane SF Manifesto. Something of a masterpiece.

3: Haibane Renmei. Deep, serious fantasy about a commune of children who develop wings, and all remember some sort of trauma that might have been death. Miyazaki fans should check it out.

4: Azumanga Daioh. Charming comedy, based on a daily cartoon strip, about a group of high school girls through every year of their classes, and their extremely, shall we say, human, that is eccentric, selfish and often useless teacher, Miss Yukari. Touches on some deep stuff in a very gentle way, and there’s very little cheesecake.

5: Patlabor. A bit older than the others, this is the down to earth story of a police unit who use two operator-driven industrial robots to deal with crimes involving civilian robots. There’s a lot of ensemble character comedy and drama within the unit, and a charming care shown by our heroine to her robo, named after her pet dog. My favourite episode is entirely about our heroes’ desire to fish for their own food, because the nearest convenience store is too far away from their peninsular base. The small boat they use sinks, so before their chief gets back they scheme to use their very expensive robots to get it out of the water. A lovely J-Rock end theme too.

6: Rurouni Kenshin. This would be a good place for a movie fan to start on anime, the adventures of a former warrior in the historical era when Japan outlawed the samurai. He will not fight. But in the end havoc ensues. Depth, romance, tragedy, and a quiet, humble, deadly, hero. A genuine epic.

7: Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. A spin off from a relatively serious action series that puts its military hero in a high school, protecting a girl, and then proceeds to mercilessly take the piss out of his disciplined, action movie approach to life. ‘Die Hard in Grange Hill’ comes close to describing it. At its best it’s very, very funny. ‘Fumoffu’ is the only noise he can make while in disguise inside a giant amusement park figure.

8: Read or Die. Three sisters who can manipulate paper are hired to protect a struggling authoress. Lovely character comedy, the show is entirely about books. And the villains are the determined and evil agents of… The British Library!

9: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I’m not as impressed as some have been, but there’s no denying this series about solving the crimes of the future is serious cyberpunk SF. It’s coolness sometimes strikes me as just cold distance, though, and I’m mostly in it for the Tachikomas, heavily-armed police vehicles with the speech habits of giggly schoolchildren.

10: Excel Saga. Let’s just say this shouldn’t be your first anime, it’s kind of a cultural immersion. The Japanese answer to The Goodies, an entire re-imagining of a reasonably serious manga, in which the original author appears at the start of each episode to literally rubber-stamp his approval for the makers’ latest attempt to try his story in a different genre. It re-sets almost every week, and our heroine dies several times, being one of only two representatives of a group trying to take over the world. But there is no plot. There are just very funny takes on such genres as Power Rangers style shows and soap operas, and a hilarious visit to ‘anime America’, where everyone is a gangster and swears every third word.

And no, before anyone asks, I haven’t seen Bleach yet!

See you again tomorrow for more Christmas listy stuff. Cheerio.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Three

I lit lots of candles yesterday, and today the lounge is full of melted wax. On the carpet, on the sofa, on the answerphone… What I need now is a handy household hint as to how to get it out of fabric. And at one stage last night, my hair.

This morning, a lovely parcel of pencil artwork came, the first appearance of Clive Reston and Jack Tarr in Wisdom, courtesy of Trev Hairsine. If you’d like your own page of his original Wisdom artwork, check out the sales page here:

http://www.theartofcomics.com/wisdom1.htm

I think, given Trev’s generosity in donating me a page, a blurb like that is the least I can do.

Tonight is Caroline’s latest concert, this time as part of Jon Lane and Boogie Me. They’re vast now, I think she told me seventeen players, largely made up of a full brass section. Caroline’s a backing singer, who have matching dresses and rehearsed dance steps, and she absolutely can’t take her bass guitar with her. Caroline’s fellow band member (in the Magpies), Anita is in the first support act, Acoustic Jukebox, and the second is our friend Neil Dwerryhouse, who used to be in The Chameleons, and plays lively punk classics which make the audience sing a long, accompanied by his cardboard sign reading ‘Albert Tatlock’:

http://www.singalongpunk.co.uk/

We expect loads of our friends to be there, running the bar is Martin, our landlord from my local, it’s just the sort of cosy evening out that we have so often in this town, and that I don’t thank the world enough for.

I’m going to start my lists of favourite things of the year, therefore, with a round up of favourite local music. Regular fanservice will return with an anime round up tomorrow.

There just have to be categories and lists here, the level of quality being so high, and I exempt anything Caroline’s been involved in, because I’m biased. I’d say the best rock musicians who regularly play in Faringdon are either Carrie Rossiter’s Band…

http://www.carrierossiter.com/

… who played a storming set in the bar in December… Stafford and Reynolds, who boast perhaps both of the town’s best guitarists and one of the town’s most powerful voices… or the newly arrived acoustic duo H2O, who are from Spain via Thailand (I think), but who seem to have made the town their base. I exempt from this list Belarus, who don’t need my help and should trouble the charts next year, having already made it onto a Word Magazine cover disc. Powertrain’s brand of what they themselves call ‘cock rock’ is also great party fun. A special mention to Gorgeous Moron for writing so many memorable numbers (they should get a publishing deal), and for continuing to attract a young audience. And when I say attract… they do seem to live up to half of their name. The Lucky Generals, Kiff, Bobby Moore’s Shorts, the Strand and Neil Dwerryhouse continue to offer fine, exciting entertainment, and it’s been good to see one half of The Shorts (let’s hope we don’t see the headline ‘Bobby Moore’s Shorts Split’) branching out with a new partnership of his own. Phil from the Blue Meanies is always worth seeing, in any of the many combinations he works with, and this year we’ve also seen Tyla from the Dogs D’Amour continuing to play live in the town and work hard on behalf of music here.

Outside of rock, Mervyn Penny continues a tradition of fine musicianship and song, branching out into organising a nine piece ukulele band for one memorable Fifteen Minute Club evening; Louise Woodgate’s opera voice was heard at the start of the Christmas celebrations, and shortly will be doing a gig at Trinity College, Oxford, along with the other pillar of local classical music, the Faringdon Singers, and one should also mention the continuing work of John King in schools and with The Fantini Consort, and pianist Mark Viner; the band Chase form the heart of a thriving country scene of which I know too little; the lads from the Viceroy presented us with their Bhangra; and jazz musicians continued to frequent the Jam Club Sunday nights at The Bell.

Best young band: Disclosure have capitalized on their recent battle of the bands successes by ditching the band t-shirts and putting their female member upfront, and display such discipline and organization they look like they could go all the way. I’m also blown away by Steaming Nina. Disphilia are improving all the time. And it’s good to see Surface Noise getting support gigs. All of these write many of their own songs, a pleasing trait in the very large young band scene in this town, which I concede I don’t know well enough. Others may which to represent themselves through the traditional angry e-mail.

Between Dave Reynolds (Fifteen Minute Club), Martin Phillips (Portwell Bar, Corn Exchange), Sam Prince (MayFest, Jam Club), the Faringdon Arts Festival, Sean Hodgson (BritPopUK) and the excellent music teachers at the Community College and landlords of other live music pubs, music in Faringdon continues to be in good hands. My apologies to all those I’ve forgotten, some of whom will doubtless be important enough to make me slap my own forehead. And I’m looking forward to tonight.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Two

Caroline’s put up natural Christmas decorations, bought holly, ivy she took from the wood (she says she saved trees from its parasitic embrace, but I think this is more a case of ecological vandalism: many small plants would have united against the ivy) and mistletoe over doorway, in the middle of lounge, over fireplace. This may come as a surprise to Father Christmas.

Geoff Ryman sends a photo from Brazil, rather than a Christmas card, being the nicest man in SF as always. And ADV, the anime distribution house, sent a rather lovely manga style card as well, with two pointy-featured youths in winter garb. I’ve sent e-cards to those abroad, and my initial burst of cards, and from now on will be intercepting and replying likewise to cards as they come in. Today I also have to finish off my present buying.

I sent off a slightly edited version of the short story to The Sunday Times this morning (cutting back by three hundred words or so without losing any narrative at all), and did a quick couple of lines about it for Rob Francis at BBCi. I made sure I was happy with where I’d left the novel. And now I’m very sleepy. But must go out and buy Christmassy foods.

Yesterday was author and fan Craig Hinton’s funeral. I didn’t feel I knew him well enough to go, but I did want to say a few more words about him. He could be the best company, full of wicked gossip, but with a sense of shared human frailty that made it never personal. He’d forgive just as quickly as he fought. He was a bit put upon by life, and just sometimes, to be brutally honest, those of us who ran into him at the Tavern every month would get bored of hearing about his latest woes. Because us people are a bit crap like that. But Craig’s reaction to his troubles was to assume that everyone else had hard times too. So he’d go out of his to do whatever anyone asked of him, be the chap online who’d say ‘I’ll read your manuscript, I’ll work on a plot with you’. No matter who you were. That earned him so many enduring friendships. It’s easy, now we’re all hard-working professionals, to sneer at that attitude, that collective make-do and mend approach. But I think it was beautiful. Particularly since Craig could offhandedly leap the fan/professional fence and write for pro Who in many media. He called a lot of what he did ‘fanwank’, because it was purely meant to please the fans, and often deliberately avoided literary sophistication. It takes a brave and honest writer to do that. He was a professional who never stopped being one of the fans, in the deepest way possible. There are currently 533 individual posts on Outpost Gallifrey’s memorial thread, each talking about what a lovely man he was. And it took me a while to write anything that comes close to doing him justice. If there’s an afterlife (I always find it hard to think there is), by the time I get there, he’ll probably be in charge.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: One

Okay, I’m aiming to write a short blog every day over the Christmas season. Which starts tomorrow for me, when I officially knock off. Got a lovely e-mail from Russell overnight (he only looks up from his scripts in the early hours) about my Christmas Eve Doctor Who short story in the Sunday Times, ‘Deep and Dreamless Sleep’. He literally wanted to change two words, and he was absolutely right, a useful two words they were. We popped along to see the filming of the two-parter last week and I was blown away by what was going on, but… can’t say a word, sorry! I’ve saved it all up for when it’s out there and I can talk about it. I’m trying to finish my current edit on the new novel, bringing me up to 72,000 words, today. The script for my own show is agreed with my producer and script editor and off to the powers that be to see if they want to make it. I’m just about up to date with Pete Wisdom, though a lettering draft of issue two looms. But that’ll take an hour. Altogether, this seems like a good place to stop and fall over.

Around early December, I always start feeling sleepy during the afternoons, and slow of thought, and I eat rich food, and drink dark beers. I don’t like winter, I live for summer, but after a certain point, the darkness at four o’clock gets so extraordinary to me that I just give in to it, and start liking and living for it instead. The run up to Christmas, or to December 21st, the shortest day, is an emotional time for me. I cry at anything. I made myself cry a lot writing that short story, so at least I get to share that around a bit this year. I get up before dawn, and see the light over the hills. I go into the lounge and don’t switch the lights on, and illuminate the room with that weird orange of the Test Match and magical summer. I write with a candle on my desk. I put on low music. That northern classical stuff written by people who have experienced snow as a threat to life and who appreciate bonfires. I find ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’ moving beyond words. The key changes. The lyrics. No strident triumphant chords of the kind I so dislike in hymns. A recognition of what the world is like. ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are gathered here tonight.’ All this is me heading, like I’m tumbling downhill, towards Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the midnight around which the year turns. I come out of that one tearful, yet done, sorted out. Laughing, often. I’ve been recently thinking about getting confirmed, but I’m still held back by something that was once said to me in Keble Chapel, that the proper place for a Christian like me to be is outside the gates of the city. That’s my life and career, really. And why I still value my more pagan self that worships the quality of light.

Anyhow, you may hear more of the mystical stuff in the next eleven blogs, but I also want to talk about Faringdon, the local bands I’ve seen in the last few weeks, the lovely BBC4 film crew wandering about with me in the church yard, the best media bits of the year, the cricket, the food and drink, all sorts of things, whatever comes to me.

So, rambling mad sentimental nonsense ahoy. Just thought I’d warn you in advance. But those of you who know my books will be used to that already. One thing I should say now: thanks very much, all you lot who’ve been kind enough to follow my work in what, I think, has been my best year. I do appreciate having an audience to talk to about this stuff, but online, at events, and down the bar.

And now, hey, to start the season off in a graphical way, here’s Trev Hairsine’s lovely cover to issue three of Wisdom, out in February, inside which we welcome our new regular artist, the wonderful Manuel Garcia. (Those of you who’ve taken up the offer on the banner above should be getting your deliveries of issues one and two together in January.)



Announcements:

ITEM! My Science Fiction Life will be on BBC4 on December 27th., time still to be decided.

ITEM! On December 28th, the hardback graphic novel collection of my comic strip collaboration with the fabulous artist D'Israeli, XTNCT, is released by Rebellion:

http://mysql.rebellion.co.uk/~twothousand/books/coming_soon.php

ITEM! The BBC’s Doctor Who site mentions the new Big Finish script writing competition, with a couple of harsh words of advice from me:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/news/cult/news/drwho/2006/12/11/38854.shtml

ITEM! Here’s the solicitation text for Wisdom issue four, out in March:

WISDOM #4 (of 6)
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Pencils by MANUEL GARCIA
Cover by TREVOR HAIRSINE
Pete Wisdom is up to his neck in Jack the Rippers-- every version of him that anyone's ever thought of. All this due to a man who can access alternate universes. At a time like this, Wisdom wouldn't want British Intelligence to turn against him, would he?
32 PGS./Explicit Content …$3.99
THERE IS A STRICT NO OVERPRINT POLICY ON ALL MAX TITLES PLEASE CHECK YOUR ORDERS AND PLACE THEM BY THE FOC

ITEM! I’ve now got a page on ComicSpace, the online community for comic book creators and fans:

http://www.comicspace.com/paulcornell/

ITEM! This Saturday, Boogie Me, the fifteen piece swing/r’n’b/blues band that Caroline’s a part of, will be playing at the Junior School, Faringdon, with two more of our favourite acts in support. If you’re in Oxfordshire/Wiltshire area, do come along for what promises to be a huge night out:

http://boogie-me.co.uk/


Christmas Story, Torchwood Auction and more

Another quick and bitty post today, sorry. I promise holiday fun over Christmas.

ITEM! I stumbled upon this the other day:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260060978830&ssPageName=ADME:B:EF:UK:11

It appears to be a charity auction, in aid of Cardiff Samaritans, of Helen Raynor's script for episode three of Torchwood, signed by her and all five cast members. Naoko Mori includes a cute little doodle of herself. Do pop along and chance your arm.

ITEM! My exciting news this week is that, thanks to the production office, it seems that I'll be writing a Doctor Who at Christmas short story for the Christmas Eve issue of The Sunday Times.


ITEM! News of the next season of Bernice Summerfield books and audio plays, plus the long-awaited The Inside Story, is now up at:

http://www.bigfinish.com/news/news_061204_berniceat15.shtml

ITEM! Thanks to everyone who's written to me about it, but I know that Jac Rayner's novelisation of my first Robin Hood episode is credited as from a script by Dominic in front. It's an understandable typo (in that the other two were), Tiger Aspect have been very gallant about it, and promise that it'll be fixed in future editions.

ITEM! If you've never had a piece of fiction professionally published, check out Big Finish's Doctor Who short story contest for new writers, here:


http://www.bigfinish.com/news/news_061204_writingcomp.shtml

ITEM! I'm off to see my Doctor Who being filmed on Thursday! Wish me luck! Cheerio!