FF True Story 2 and First Comic Shops

Just a couple of quick things. Issue two of Fantastic Four: True Story is now in the comic shops, so do check it out. In this issue, the FF, venturing into the world of fiction, enter the domain of Ivanhoe, and the big villains is revealed.

And I've just done a quick piece for the chaps at I, Fanboy, talking about the first comic shop I ever went into:


And I'm pleased to say I'll be seeing you at the Dublin City Comics Con in November:


I'm insanely busy at the moment, so for now I shall bid you a fond Cheerio.


Worldcon is always too big to blog about. It’s a culture, a civilisation. It lasts just long enough that you start to think of it as a career, and then it goes away. It always leaves me inspired, wanting to write, wanting to be one of these people always. Rather than fail at a structured report, I thought I’d present some moments. All this takes place in Denver, in a vast convention centre with an enormous blue bear outside the window, in a pose like he’s assuming the position for some equally enormous armed police.

A whole bunch of us in the pre-Hugo Awards party, all with nominee pins on our lapels: Lou Anders, up for Best Editor for the second time; John Picacio, the great artist and his charming wife; David Louis Edelman, up for the Campbell. Ian McDonald, wonderfully, for Brasyl, Best Novel, my friends, the big one. (Lou has thrown an enormous Brazilian party in his honour the previous night, where we all discovered that the Brazilian national drink is rum with a bit of rum in it and a slice of lime, and everyone who is anyone came along.) I’m in my suit and Converse All Stars, and Chris Roberson and Jay Lake have extraordinary shoes on also. Chris, Lou and John are the supporting poles of Worldcon bar life, and the best thing about going there is being part of their travelling circus.

(All photos courtesy of Lou, there with Ian in the second photo.) It’s not our year for wins, though. Picacio comes closest, second, with a whole career in front of him to make up that distance. Anyone who’s gone to one of his slide shows knows he deserves to make it, and will be a most fitting winner when he does. Lou, also, has time on his side. David gets third, against some tough competition.

It’s a huge and tremendous thing, being part of an awards ceremony when you care passionately about the result. On the day of the Hugos, I wandered into the enormous empty auditorium, rehearsed with the organisers as every nominee is asked to, came out again having stood on that stage, wandered some more. People talk about the ‘greying of fandom’ and try to write off Worldcon, but this is where the frigging saints have trod, and as long as that feeling is still with us to oppress new Hugo nominees in huge convention buildings, then this event will always be with us. Doselle Young grabbed me and took me for a beer, because I think I must have looked like a lost puppy.

A couple of days before, Melinda Snodgrass had taken us and Carrie Vaughn and the organisers of the Aussie Worldcon in 2010 out to a Moroccan restaurant where we lounged on cushions and plucked sweetmeats with our fingers and glanced at belly dancers over our shoulders. The Aussies admitted they’d voted for Moffat, and I was absurdly hurt, could hardly look at them. But then we all started talking about cricket, so that was okay. ‘You’re meant to feel as strongly as that,’ said Melinda, kindly, later. But the intensity of it rather surprised and shamed me.

So on the night, we’re all in a line in the nominee seats, in that huge and now full auditorium, and we sit and wait, as nominees should, through the Big Heart awards for long and friendly service in fandom that come before the Hugos, and I find the whole atmosphere tremendously... comforting. It says ‘you’ll be back’, like I just said to Lou. I’ve discovered that’s the award I most want: the Big Heart. When I’m ninety and have an enormous beard. I want to still be here then, having lived for an uninterrupted series of Worldcons. When the presenter says ‘Blink’ I’m able, to my great relief, to cheer, and not to be a selfish fool in the face of my old friend’s success. He sent a very funny note to be read out, and we shared some gracious text messages in the early hours when I stumbled in after all the parties. If he wins again next year, and you know he will, Doctor Who will have gone from ‘the kind of thing that will never win a Hugo award’ as Starlog once put it, to the show that has jointly won the most, tying with both The Twilight Zone and all kinds of Star Trek put together. Then we have to get one more.

From later on that night, I only have vague images of Mary Robinette Kowal, new light of the SFWA and Campbell winner, in the Campbell tiara, drifting past in a golden dress like the bringer of new order at the end of a Shakespeare play. Greying of fandom my arse. Maybe this is the start of something. How about we ask Stephenie Meyer to be a Guest of Honour as soon as possible? And, as Lou urgently tells me when we go out to dinner, let high school kids in for free?

I met a number of new and lovely people in the company of the Lou/Chris/John trifecta this year: Bill Willingham, the writer of Fables, my favourite comic, who wears his glory lightly and was a little freaked out, I think, by my gushing; John Scalzi, the blockbuster face of hard SF, and a feisty scrapper of a fellow panellist, missed Best Novel by nine votes, got Best Fan Writer off Langford, then said vote for someone else next year, excellent company my friends; Shanna Swendson, who’s as charming and Carrie Bradshaw as the heroines of her books. And many more.

I was reading David’s sequel to Infoquake, that is Multireal, during the convention, and as always it spoke to me about my life like no other author does. As much as I loved Infoquake, Multireal is better. It’s The West Wing, in the world of big business, in the future, all last second deals and human emotion finding desperate chances and tense negotiations, but this time with added sex and violence. I was almost disappointed to find some, in that last time David had me on the edge of my seat with only one burst of gunfire and the glimpse of an ankle, and I was hoping to see that feat again, but this book soars mightily, and presents me with terms I find myself mentally using in everyday life (the fiefcorp of Pyr Books, the memecorp of the BBC), and situations redolent of it. The bar and the panels and the awards map onto the fingernail biting world of freelancing in the future. It’s not, as I thought after the first book, a work of Mundane SF, because the (albeit unreliable and hardly magic) teleportation just about rules it out. But I still believe that this world, almost uniquely in modern SF, isn’t just a commentary on the modern scene, but might also come to pass. David has thought about who empties the bins. And his singularity came and went and those bins still needed to be emptied. Most wonderfully, two big set piece speeches in the middle of the book, which sum up its themes of governmentalism vs. libertarian capital, dissolve into the most brilliant shit-flinging gunfight and escape, and one can hear David laughing, shouting ‘yeah, you can have both!’ The mass market paperback of Infoquake was in the bloody airport bookstore on the way out. I’m saying not just Campbell next year but come on, let’s say it out loud, Best Novel.

I did some panels. I was lacklustre on ‘best villains in SF’, then perked up a lot in the company of Jeff Fennel and Graham Sleight on ‘Does SF matter?’ where I was proud of my contribution towards an interrogation of why the genre feels so self-conscious about itself as both a literary form and community and an instrument of social change (every now and then, possibly, discuss). That’s the other great thing about Worldcons, that the panels matter (every now and then, possibly, discuss) and can be, at their best, symposia. (Witness David Brin’s scathing attack on the SETI community, which I felt privileged to be in the audience for.) I was pleased at what we got to with ‘Shakespeare’s themes in SF’, and here, as promised, I summarise my opening rant from that panel, where I tried to sum up the ground we were going to cover:

‘”O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space–were it not that I have bad dreams”, as Hamlet says, which is Phil Dick in a nutshell. Hamlet is of course the first confused AI as he tries to discover what being a person means. Forbidden Planet is the obvious start text, Shakespeare as SF 101, but there’s a lot more in the way of connection than that. The rude mechanicals of Star Wars. The forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the first parallel universe, where the rules of society are different to those at court. (Sure, there’s the idea of Avalon and such before that, but those are afterlifes or physically connected to the world, and this uses the same actors in different roles, originally, probably, to suggest the parallel world idea.) There’s Foundation (the books not the magazine, though I don’t know) modelling itself on the history plays. There’s Dune grabbing loads of tropes from Shakespeare’s villains. There’s the bastard figure as the mutant, hated and feared by a world he never made. And there’s the restoration of order, as someone in a silver spacesuit, or the singularity, or Mary Robinette Kowal, walks down a ladder to tell everyone the play’s over now and everything’s going to be all right.’

Phew. Well, it was probably better when yelled across a crowded room. Then I was useless again in a panel about whether or not social forces or great people are the levers of historical alternatives (both sides being too politicised, I think). I did all my thinking in the first ten minutes and then floundered. (Does anyone else treat panels as sporting contests? I sometimes think I’ll see a row of judges at the back holding up scorecards.) And finally there was a glowing, incredibly friendly, packed to the ceiling (Stephen Baxter putting his hand up!) Doctor Who panel, which basically was just loads of people talking very fast about how great the show is. (And having been given the opportunity to be ‘Mr. SF’ for all the previous panels, it was kind of relaxing to be a Who fanboy again. ‘Second is right after first’ I said on being introduced, and got a cheer. Thanks, all. I also went on one of Stu Segal’s ‘strolls with the stars’, where me and John and Lou and about fifty people took a mile walk around the (really rather ugly and deprived) streets of Denver. Lou and John laugh at me for working the crowd, like I’m a Democrat from a week after our convention, shaking every hand.

I’m sure I’ve missed out on some of the greatness. The company, as always. The way the format of the weekend shapes the company, gives everyone targets, trauma, dreams, things to talk about. The history. The fact that to make a panel rock in this company you have to do some heavy lifting. The showbiz combo of great respect and great flippancy. Here are some places to find the pictures that my hands were too shaky to take. Strolling:


Hugo party photos:


Lou’s report:


And more pictures:


And then we were off into Colorado, and whitewater rafting, horse riding, and in Caroline’s case, rock climbing. I wasn’t rock climbing because I was walking back and forth on a bandstand in Aspen before my hotel would let me check in, on my mobile to my latest fiefcorp master, saying: ‘I understand that you might not want to see a CCTV camera, because that would mean constructing a roof, but if we see our heroine from the CCTV’s camera’s point of view, then that provides the general sense of paranoia you’re after. If we just see her from an unseen POV, on two occasions, then the audience will expect, without knowing they expect, to discover, on a third occasion, who’s watching her. Okay, so let’s make that end scene a reveal of someone watching her. Who’s the most harmless character? Okay, them!’ And I look around to see that a small boy has been watching me, entranced by the gibberish I’m talking. Or perhaps just appalled that I’m working on holiday.

We saw dinosaur footprints, experienced enormous weather (too much rain out here too, Forty Signs of Rain ahoy), walked sand dunes and watched the Olympics from a series of bars. And came home thoroughly rested. I love fandom, I love Worldcon, and I’ll be back. For that Big Heart award. Look out for the beard in 2058.

I’m sorry I won’t be making it to Timegate in Atlanta, as advertised, but I will be in Calgary to support Chris and Alison, John and Kim in their World Fantasy Award nominations, and to be with Rob Shearman, twice nominated for his short stories, first time for him, and rather amazed about it:


Final thing for the Who fans, courtesy of Tara O’Shea, this extraordinary fan video, which both shows off the editing skills and tech now in place in the field, and actually offers narrative and commentary on the current show, in a brilliant and shocking way (one of many in an increasingly intelligent artform, so I’m told, it was all jog and shuttle back in my day):


Until next time, Cheerio.

Thanks and Cap Four

Thanks to everyone who expressed condolences on my second place in the Hugo Awards, but hey, Doctor Who won! Now we're the second most successful Hugo-winning show, with three wins to Twilight Zone's four, and I fully expect we'll equal that next year. I had a wonderful time at Worldcon (if you were there for the Shakespeare panel, yes, I'll be blogging my rant) and will report on it when I get home.

Today, issue four of Captain Britain and MI-13 is out here in the States, tomorrow in the UK, so, as always, this blog will serve as letters page. Now I'm off to do some whitewater rafting. Cheerio!

Wish Me Luck

So tomorrow we're off to Denver for the World Science Fiction Convention, and it's the Hugo Awards ceremony on Saturday night. Thanks to everyone who's supported 'Human Nature'. I'll let you know how it goes. We're on holiday for a week afterwards, and I'm looking forward to the time off.

Captain Britain and MI-13 issue 4 is due to come out on Wednesday 13th: as always, this blog will serve as the letters page, so let me know what you think.

But before I go...

Just did an interview with the ladies from Comic Racks podcast, available here, where we talk about Cap, Who and the FF:


My mate Ian Potter deserves a few more listeners for his excellent BBC radio comedy show
No Tomatoes. Do pop over and give it a listen, for it is full of fannish glee:


And I was very pleased to be a sent, by the author Joel Meadows, a copy of Studio Space, Tripwire magazine's generously-illustrated book that interviews comic artists at length and looks at their work environments, with many luscious examples of their art. I'm pleased to have plonked a blurb line onto their next edition. Do give it the once over.

I've lost one panel at Worldcon, the post apocalyptic one, so that's a bit less homework for me. Phew. I think that's everything I had to do before I went sorted out. I'm bound to have forgotten something. If you see me in Denver, do say hello, otherwise, until then, Cheerio.