Comica, Napoleon Solo and Leeds

Well, the Japanese Embassy bash was lovely. What a well-appointed building that is. I hung out with Alex Fitch of Resonance FM, and his sidekick Robin, and was pleased to meet British comics historian Paul Gravett and X-Men (and now manga) writer David Hine. And there was some very nice sushi. The do formed part of Comica, the London International Comics Festival, which runs to November 6th, with my old mucker D'Israeli, the artist on XTNCT, popping up as part of a Halloween panel. And there's Moore and Moorcock on Friday. Check it out at:

www.paulgravett.com

As to Napoleon Solo, I thought I'd just quote the BBC press release for this one:

'The Afternoon Play – Solo Behind The Iron Curtain
Monday 5 November 2.15-3.00pm BBC RADIO 4

Actor Robert Vaughn stars as himself in this Cold War rom-com thriller, written by Tracy Spottiswoode and inspired by true events.

In 1968, during the brief flowering of freedom known as the Prague Spring, Robert found himself in Czechoslovakia. A well-known Hollywood actor, he was particularly famous at the time for playing Napoleon Solo in The Man From UNCLE, the cult television spy series.

Robert was in Prague for the filming of Second World War feature The Bridge At Remagen, along with George Segal and Ben Gazzara. Helping them negotiate the tricky business of filming in a Communist country was their interpreter Pepsi, a young woman whose life had been changed that year by the relative freedoms brought by Alexander Dubcek's liberal reforms. It was too good to last. On 20 August, filming ground to a halt when more than 5,000 Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and Robert and the rest of the film's cast and crew found themselves trapped.

Robert vividly remembers the tanks with their big red stars painted on the side, and the guns, manned by alarmingly young Russian soldiers, which were turned on their hotel. As Americans and enemy aliens they had to find a way to escape, and quickly. The ensuing adventure was worthy of the men from UNCLE.

Robert Vaughn stars as himself, Robert Glenister as George Segal, John Guerassio as Ben Gazzara, Richard Laing as Bradford Dillman and Garrick Hagon as David Wolper.

Producer/Kate McAll.'

I think that sounds cracking, and definitely one for us telefantasy bods. I'll be in Saratoga, mind you, so I shall have to use Listen Again.


I also wanted to mention that on the evening of next Tuesday, the 30th, I'll be speaking at Leeds University XChange Club, a meeting open to all students and staff of all Leeds universities and higher education colleges. It's a faith-based group, but it's not quite the time of year yet for me to get heavily mystical. It's free, but you have to book tickets, via:

chaplaincy@leeds.ac.uk

Hope to see some of you there. Cheerio!

Lee Sullivan vs. the Eggheads

Those of you who remember the days when I wrote the comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine may well recall the fine artist who illustrated those strips, Lee Sullivan. These days, Lee’s still illustrating, but he also spends much of his time playing saxophone for Roxy Magic, a Roxy Music tribute band. He tells me that, oddly, they’re on BBC2 at 6pm this evening (that is, Wednesday 24th), not in a musical capacity, but as the visiting quiz team vying against the resident Eggheads in the show of that name.

He also has an excellent website showcasing his art:

http://www.leesullivan.co.uk/

Do pop along. And good luck, Lee! (If such a thing can be said concerning a recorded programme.)

I, however, will have to record said programme, because about the same time, the wife and I will be attending a reception at the Japanese Embassy, celebrating Lingua Comica, the 2nd Asia/Europe comics project, a cultural exchange gathering fourteen young manga creators, in cooperation with Comica, the London International Comics Festival. I shall, of course, report back on this august gathering, probably with pictures of me with soup on my waistcoat. Until then, Cheerio.

Birmingham Comics, Manchester Who, World Fantasy in Autumn

Well, last weekend was as jolly as I expected it to be. Firstly, the Birmingham International Comics Show was lovely. The decision to hold it inside a science exhibition made a mad kind of sense. Every comics convention should have a planetarium handy. And similarly, my hotel had a comics shop, the welcoming Nostalgia and Comics, at its bottom right hand corner. A couple of lovely boozy nights were had at one of those massive bars, built like the Parthenon and filled with treasure, that the Midlands delights in. The convention had set aside the ‘library’ area of the bar (yes, it had a library area!) for us geeks, but we basically took over the place. I spent most of my time on a raised area with a metal rail, gazing out at this Edwardian kingdom of wall to wall fandomness, enjoying the conversation with Leah Moore, John Reppion, Rob Williams, P.J. Holden, Emma Vieceli, et al. (And it’s a big ‘et al’, these chaps are my joyful army of comic friendship, and I anticipate going to comics conventions for their company.) It was also a delight to meet comics writer and novelist Mike Carey, who’s the most charming and gentle of folk, an English gentleman if ever there was one. We popped up together on a panel with Si Spurrier, who in his quiet way is now becoming very accomplished, with Marvel work and a crime novel, the excellent Contract, to his name. The panel was packed, and we seemed to entertain the audience on the subject of the actual craft of writing. I was also very entertained by the quiz on Saturday, where we discovered that the sound effect of Captain America’s shield striking a surface was once the very onomatopoeic ‘wank!’ According to my sources, my last act on the Friday evening was to plonk myself down beside Emma, have an intense thirty second conversation about anime dubbing, declare that I was being boring now and run for the door. That autopilot of mine seems to still be working fine. If there was one failing about an enthusiastic convention, run by people who love the subject matter and seek to care for their guests, it was that the corridors in the exhibition hall were a bit narrow, leading to the sight of a grim movie Batman having to edge his rubber self carefully sidelong past a crocodile of fans coming in the other direction. Still, a good time was had by all, and the organisers can hardly be blamed for having attracted too many people.

On the Sunday, I went on up to Manchester, for the crossover item between the Manchester Science and Literary Festivals, a panel on science in science fiction. Or rather, considering that the panel had me, Rob Shearman and Mark Michalowski on it, the science in Doctor Who. We were on after Toby Hadoke had performed a cut-down version of his one man show, Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf

http://www.tobyhadoke.com/moths.php

And we thus tried to be as entertaining as a serious academic panel that goes on after forty-five minutes of hilarious stand up comedy can be. Actually, that’s just a cheap gag, because apart from being very, very, funny, Toby’s show is also surprisingly touching, tearjerking even, in that it explores the nerve endings of being a bullied Doctor Who fan, and how they light up again when one becomes a father oneself. It’s the heart of Who fandom, exposed and raw. I was startled by how much emotional ground was shared by the show and the novel I’ve just finished, Chalk. Which just goes to show that the same material can be expressed both as stand up comedy and horror. Anyhow, therefore we had some serious territory to explore with the audience, about how science is represented in the series, and how the audience interacts with that. I think it was one of the best panels I’ve ever been on. And again, a packed audience, including my old Who writer mate Steve Lyons, popstar Poppy Broadhurst of this parish –

http://www.pennybroadhurst.com/

And a busload from Derby driven over by Steve Hatcher, in charge of one of the most forward-looking and exciting Doctor Who local groups, the Derby Whoovers –

http://www.whoovers.org.uk/main.html

We all popped back to the pub The Lass O’Gowrie afterwards, which is owned by Doctor Who fanzine editor Gareth Kavanagh -

http://www.thelass.co.uk/

And was the pub animated by Cosgrove Hall in the opening episode of my webcast all those years ago, The Scream of the Shalka! Toby, it just goes to show: we Doctor Who fans can own pubs now!

So all in all, a very warm and friendly weekend, just the sort of thing I need as the evenings draw in. I’m looking forward to Halloween at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, because upstate New York in autumn will make me feel better about this whole dark in the daytime bit. (Regular readers will recall that as autumn draws in, I get, in order, mopey, introspective, mystical and drunk on dark beers. Then I jump into a corner and write twelve blogs in twelve days across Christmas.) I’m only on one panel, on Friday 2nd at 3pm:

The Varieties of Ghostly Experience. ‘Other forms of the returning dead: zombies, vampires, dancing skeletons, and more exotic varieties, literary and folkloristic.’ With Esther Friesner, Maria Lima and Jennifer Schwabach.

I shall have to do my homework. At any rate, I have a couple more things I’m popping along to announce in the time before that, and work things to both do and deliver, so until we meet again, I bid you Cheerio.

Announcements:

ITEM! Next Tuesday, the 23rd October, in a one hour long programme on Resonance FM, Alex Fitch interviews outgoing producer Simon Guerrier about his work on The Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, then Simon takes over the role of interviewer, talking to cast and writers of the Benny plays to celebrate the character's 15th anniversary. 8pm Resonance 104.4FM (in London) and streamed at

www.reasonancefm.com/podcast

or

www.readyformycloseup.blogspot.com

soon after. Bernice is the character I created as a literary Doctor Who companion fifteen years ago. I’m intensely proud that she’s still going in her own range of books and audio dramas, and Simon has brought clarity and care to the range, genuinely revitalising it, putting out some of the best titles to ever grace it, and handing it on in fine shape to his successor, Eddie Robson. Should be a great interview.

ITEM! I’m interviewed in the latest issue (#141!) of long-running Canadian fanzine Enlightenment:

http://www.dwin.org/

Always a pleasure to deal with these intelligent and positive chaps.

ITEM! You know how I’m a big fan of David Louis Edelman’s SF novel Infoquake? The sequel, Multireal, is coming soon, and the cover’s up on his blog, and it’s gorgeous:

http://www.davidlouisedelman.com/blog/

ITEM! As passed on to me by a correspondent whose identity I’ve mislaid (please let me know who you are), an erudite thesis on Theology in Doctor Who, of interest in itself and for the lovely graphic on the opening page:

http://misterspence.blogspot.com/2007/05/theology-of-doctor-who-introduction.html

ITEM! The Audio Time Team, who are, somewhat chaotically, working their way through all of the Doctor Who and Bernice audios from Big Finish, have just decided to what the hell jump ahead to review 'The End of the World', the excellent new Benny play from Dave Stone (and directed by Benny herself, Lisa Bowerman. Spoilers ahoy!

http://www.audiotimeteam.blogspot.com/

ITEM! And just in case you needed it, famously hard to grasp Doctor Who story ‘Ghost Light’, told in the form of lol macros –

http://ionlylurkhere.livejournal.com/20503.html

Writers' Guild Award Nomination

Just a quick note to say that I'm honoured to have been nominated, alongside the other writers on season three of Doctor Who, for a British Writers' Guild Award, the category being Best Soap/Series (which seems to be the award for shows with multiple writers). We're up against season two of Life on Mars (so Chris Chibnall gets two nominations!) and season four of New Tricks. The awards take place at BAFTA on the 18th November, and I'm looking forward to getting back from Dublin in time to pop along, hopefully in the company of Russell, Chris, Stephen, Steven, Helen and Gareth. Do wish us luck. Cheerio!

Starman, Sarah Jane and Samurai Champloo

I’ve just got to the end of writing reasonably useful drafts of all the issues of something else major comics-wise that I can’t announce yet, and I’m knackered. It’s been a weird time, because the freedom to experiment that writing it all before it starts to be drawn gives, also meant that I obsessed about it working as a whole piece, and kept going back and changing bits.

Anyhow, the whole process has taken me as close to the fabled ‘writer’s block’ as I’ve ever been. I still don’t think it’s a real condition (I wrote other things throughout, including a nice little bit for SFX magazine’s Book Club feature), but I did start to think that I might not actually finish it to my satisfaction. And seize up. And stop writing. And open a small tea shop or something. And that would be terrible. No, seriously, you haven’t tried my baking. I once had to throw a cake to the ducks. It sank. Like a comic I couldn’t finish.

But today I did it. I looked at all of it, and it didn’t suck. Or sink. So I sent it in. And now I’m getting more and more proud of it by the moment, really quite vastly proud of it now, and will soon get much wiser editorial notes that will make me slap my forehead with the ease of the wood and the trees.

So I thought I’d pop in and mention a couple of things I’m enjoying at the moment, and some places where we might run into each other this coming weekend.

I’m about halfway through the anime show Samurai Champloo, and I’m really loving it. It’s the first anime adventuresome thing for boyish boys that I’ve really dug. It’s a samurai era show about a wandering threesome of self-centered ex-pirate, noble warrior and the woman who keeps them together. Its raison d’etre is that this is a Samurai show with a hip hop style to it, ‘Champloo’ meaning ‘remix’ in a vaguely culinary way. But there aren’t many anachronisms, the style confining itself to dreamy dub music, fast paced modern editing and some of the animated characters being cast as African-Japanese. The best thing about it is the simple, genius, plotting, with each episode being a finely crafted comedy thriller, often with a weary, cynical, bittersweet edge. Mugen, the pirate, is a shorts-wearing force of nature, whose desire merely to feed himself and fight the toughest fighters, in a free-running-with-a-sword type way, is often used to burst apart an unjust or crushing social situation. In that, in not caring about consequences, he’s often the breath of fresh air that accepted corruption can’t stand. His stoic comrade Jin just sighs at that. And the girl, Fuu, is the one who usually finds out the truth behind whatever Mugen just shattered, and has intellectual adventures of her own that neither of her traveling companions probably end the episode aware of. It’s substance and style at the same time, choosing different storytelling devices like chocolates from a box. And the swordfights are cool.

I love Gareth Roberts’ scripts, but I wanted to mention how cracking I thought the second Sarah Jane Adventures two-parter, by Phil Ford, was. All sorts of adventure and emotional beats hit just right, and the scares suited to the age of the audience. And that cool line about ‘solving a problem like Maria’ as the cherry on top. I know my old script editor, Lindsey Alford, has been deeply involved in this show, and it does her and everyone involved credit.

Thanks to a birthday gift from some friends on the Millarworld website, I’ve been reading Starman by James Robinson and Tony Harris for the first time. It’s a decade old, a strange outgrowth on the evolutionary tree of comics, like something you’d find in the Burgess Shale. It’s the story of a son who assumes the superhero identity his father used to inhabit, while the father’s still around to be annoying. But it’s told sidelong, the opposite of the current fashion for widescreen comics. We dance around the issues at hand, getting past killings and crime sprees and superpowers as incidentals to the real business: the character building and the shiny atmosphere of art deco Opal City, where the series is based. When our hero, Jack Knight, recalls the Doom Patrol, he can’t remember the team’s name, and we’re not told. It’s hard to think of him showing up in the DC universe elsewhere. He’d need to bring his art style with him. There’s a lot of omniscient beat narration. It sometimes feels like a dream. It’s not influenced by anything, and hasn’t influenced anything. It’s one of those all ages certificate comics that feels vastly adult. There’s a parallel world somewhere where all comics are told like this. I can’t wait for volume three.

So, about this weekend…

This Friday night and Saturday, I’m going to be at the Birmingham International Comics Show:

http://www.thecomicsshow.co.uk/

including a panel on the Saturday with Mike Carey, Ian Edginton, Paul Larson and Si Spurrier. So that should be good fun. There’s going to be quite a few old friends there, so I’m looking forward to a relaxing time.

Then on the Sunday I continue north to the Manchester Literature Festival:

http://manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk/

where I’ll be on a panel at the Museum of Science and Industry with fellow Doctor Who writers Rob Shearman and Mark Michalowski, following on from Toby Hadoke’s one-man comedy show, Moths Ate my Doctor Who Scarf. Which I haven’t seen, so I’m looking forward to that. Again, I know loads of folk who are going to be in the audience, so it’ll be relaxing to stick my nose out in public again.

If you’re at either of those gatherings, please do wander up and say hello. I always enjoy meeting people who read the blog. Anyhow, I might try and take a few hours off in the next couple of days, but then I have to dig in on the Vision and a short story, and by then my television notes will probably come back… and I’m really enjoying again, and shan’t be starting that cake shop soon. You lucky devils. Anyway, until we next meet, Cheerio.

Announcements:

ITEM! Over on Facebook, the new Bernice Summerfield group has a new name and new location, the latest covers and blurbs, and the usual immediate and intimate interaction between Bernice readers and editors:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18399608152

ITEM! At 8pm on Monday October 15th, former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel has a rehearsed reading of his new play, a political thriller, Under the Eagle, being performed at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11. He’s after a select audience of blog readers to pop along. Do tell him I said hello.

ITEM! Legendary SF novelist Michael Moorcock has a new podcast interview out, covering his new collection, The Metatemporal Detective. I’m a Moorcock fan from way back, reading the Jerry Cornelius books before I could understand them, and the interview and the new book are both great stuff:

http://adventuresinscifipublishing.blogspot.com/2007/10/aisfp-35-michael-moorcock.html