World Fantasy, SFX Doctor Who, Gaiman's Launch

Well, I'm off to the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary tomorrow, the event which I've been describing to those not in the know as being as much fun as it sounds, but in a different way. My only contribution to anything outside long serious hours of work in the bars and restaurants and parties is a reading, from my short stories, at 10am on the Sunday. My competition is the business meeting, hangovers, and a panel about elves, so I have some hopes. Which will probably be dashed by the elves.

Neil Gaiman's launch party for The Graveyard Book last night was lovely, held in a crypt and so packed that I took a turn round the floor, greeted the great man warmly, met a bright young chap in his party to whom I was introduced as 'the scarecrow one' (I hope that was referring to Doctor Who) and said hello to a few friends before wandering off into the night. It was either that or collapse from exhaustion under the coats, and I feel that the book's head was wetted. Neil: very sweet chap. You may already know this.

And speaking of said Who, I've got an essay in the latest issue of SFX Magazine, where I talk about my love for the show over the years, and how much fandom is a part of that, and I get all gushy, really. But I'm quite pleased with it. I'm being sent one with a Patrick Troughton cover, I'm told.

Oh, and see the tag over there on the right? (For Blogger readers.) I'm now Twittering away, and rather enjoying it. If you Twitter too, do Twitter with me.

At any rate, I hope to see some of you in Canada. If you read the blog, do say hello. Much packing to be done. Cheerio.

The Return of Meggan, Comics and Who

Those of you who are comic readers of a sufficiently ancient vintage may well recognise the young lady appearing with Brian Braddock in the picture below:

Her name is Meggan, and for the longest time she and Brian were one of the most stable couples of the Marvel Universe. Then he lost her, but now she's... well, is she back or isn't she? The above is from the cover to issue nine of Captain Britain and MI-13, but her first appearance is on the last page of our current mag, issue six, and she's a major part of this new arc, 'Hell Comes to Birmingham'. Just wanted to make a noise about it. Because I do adore her. And aren't they cute together?

I was delighted to be part of last weekend's Doctor Who in comics event in the Lass O'Gowrie pub in Manchester. It was actually something of a new idea: close off a pub for the day, and devote the whole downstairs space to a very focussed event about a specific fan topic. The cosy venue, the joy of the participants, and the novel nature of what they were all talking about, plus the fact that the panels had been arranged in roughly chronological order with just about everyone involved present (although we maybe could have used someone who was around in the Tides of Time era), meant that it felt like a very thorough and celebratory day. Slides coming up onscreen to illustrate the panels helped a great deal. And where else could you pop into the snug of a pub and find Lee Sullivan and D'Israeli sketching away? And hey, my old mucker Scott Gray and the highly talented Roger Langridge have just brought their Fin Fang Four series to Marvel's digital comics:

The Lass, judging from the Friday night, is also a very successful mainstream pub, the eccentricities of which (a room devoted to the art of Adrian Salmon, the Salmon Room as it's called) only add to its charm. Too many old friends to note, but huge thanks for the hospitality (and the pies!) to Gareth Kavanagh, the, erm, Doctor Who fan who owns a pub. Who would have thought it? He's planning other themed events, and I think they'll be very successful. If you're in the area, do pop along, it'll be worth your while any night.

I'm working all hours at the moment, but I tell you what, I'm having a great time. Just signed off on the lettering for the final issue of Fantastic Four: True Story, the TV work is highly satisfying, the novel's bubbling along and the extremely gracious and charming Michael Moorcock just gave me permission to use Jerry Cornelius in a short story. (And would like to emphasise: yes, you do need such permission, Jerry isn't open source, no matter what may have seemed to be the case in the last few years.) I'm really happy today. I hope you are too, and that we'll be able to bounce around together in Calgary next week. Until then, Cheerio!

Alan Moore Knows the Score

And what a sweetheart he is, as charming a chap as you could meet.

(Photo by Deirdre Walsh.) This was all courtesy of Padraig O'Mealoid, who's a great collector of everything Mooreish, on the Friday night prior to Newcon 4 in Northampton. We had dinner and a wide-ranging chat with Alan and his wife Melinda, and what struck me most was how straightforward and free from artifice the great man was. He popped along to the convention later to introduce Iain Banks onstage, stayed around to meet folk and hang out, and was, well, wonderfully who you'd hope Alan Moore to be. I'm still a little stunned, but perhaps not so much as my Agent, who wandered over to join us for dinner without being warned we were in the presence of one of his heroes.

The convention itself was delightful. The venue, the Fishmarket, an excellent conversion from piscine salesplace to arty event centre, contained every aspect of the con in one L-shaped room, from bar to stage to dealers, and transformed successfully to a bands and real ale forum in the evening. The only problem was the acoustics, which didn't serve the panels very well, but that's surely something that'll be fixed for future events. Ian Whates and Ian Watson are to be congratulated for such a warm, fun, shared experience. And it was good to meet a lot of new friends and old in the company of the genial Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod, with whom we dined on the Saturday night. It was a little nerve racking, premiering clips of my radio adaptation of 'The State of the Art' in front of the author, but he was very kind. And hey, I won at Just A Minute! Although I'm still not quite sure how. Much drunken revelry along the way, Friday night especially being a bit of a blur. I'm not sure I can deal with many more weekends like that in a row. So, oh dear, I look forward to seeing you in Manchester on Saturday for the Doctor Who in comics event. And Wednesday sees me on a panel at BAFTA. But that'll be quite sober. Hopefully.

In other news, Captain Britain and MI-13 issue six will be out on Wednesday/Thursday, and as always, this blog will serve as the letters page. You can find the first few pages here:

I'm particularly pleased with how Leonard's drawn those spot-on British policemen.

And the Geek Syndicate have put up that panel I did with Dave Gibbons, et al, on video now:

Ah well, another weekend, another enormous fan experience. I must schedule some time to, you know, write stuff. Until I see you at the next of these, probably in the bar, Cheerio.

Podcast with Gibbons

The title conjours up a still life painting of some difficulty. However, what I'm talking about is that the Geek Syndicate have put up their podcast (made at the Birmingham International Comics Show) of myself, Dave Gibbons, Mark Buckingham and Doug Braithwaite talking about British comic creators approaching the US industry: which, it turns out, Dave first did in 1973! It can be found here:

And here, courtesy of frontman Liam Sharp, is Tom Daylight's rough phone camera footage of Giant Sized Band Thing playing on the Friday night of that same event:

Nice. Until next time, Cheerio!

Birmingham Triumph and IPhone Comic Genius

Just got back from the Birmingham International Comics Show, and just wanted to say what a fabulous event it was. The overcrowding problems of last year were noted and thoroughly dealt with, with a lecture theatre having been found to host the panels, just one floor below the old venue. As a convention veteran, I must emphasise what a pleasure it is to see presentations in a room meant for them, with great acoustics. It added greatly to such delights as Gary Leach's slide show on the creation of a Dan Dare painting, the now gladiatorial delights of 'pitch us a 2000AD short story in ten seconds, winner gets printed' (they may have had a snappier title for that), and actual science being done in 'The Science of Superheroes'. I tested the venue myself in the company of Dave Gibbons, Mark Buckingham and Doug Braithwaite, in what turned out to be a bouncy but quite reflective podcast recording for those nice chaps at Geek Syndicate. I'll let you know when it's out.

I also very much enjoyed the Friday night party, where Liam Sharp's Giant Sized Band Thing rocked the house, with covers including Tony Christie's 'Avenues and Alleyways'. It's always the social life with one's peers that makes these dos, and it was a pleasure as always to hang out with Leah Moore, John Reppion, Rob Williams, P.J. Holden, Emma Vicelli, Nick Setchfield and the gang. I have but two quick things to plug, in the wake of all that, considering especially that I've just got back, am posting enthusiastically and will shortly retire to the embrace of my sofa...

First up, I must mention Mike Collins' (of Paul and Mike fame, you may remember, last Christmas) excellent comic adaptation, for Classical Comics, of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's fine work, drawn in many different styles suiting the changes in the material, and in its most serious form (Classical Comics have different versions for different reading ages) is a complete rendition of every single bit of dialogue from the original. Plus you get designs and hidden extras taken from lots of the different movie versions. It's clearly a labour of love, and is, like all these guys' books, extraordinarily inexpensive. Do have a look:

But most importantly, and I really think this is some sort of breakthrough, and something that kept making people go ooh and ahh all through the convention, if you have an IPhone or an IPod Touch, I'd like to direct your attention to this on ITunes:

This being P.J.Holden's weekly comic for children, on the IPhone, for 99c a go, or the British equivalent. The oohs and ahhs (and P.J. got serious people from various serious organisations I shall not name coming over to have a look at his phone as word of mouth spread) were because this is the first comic project that I've seen that really takes advantage of the mobile form. You can bring up a colouring pallette, and colour in, with your finger, black and white versions of every panel. You can pare them down to their original pencil versions and further to see how they were made. Most importantly, each comic comes with an IPhone novelty: a horse with googly eyes that neighs when you shake the phone; the ability to shave a character's hair off with your finger, and feel the vibration as you do so. Children are absolutely going to love this, and from the effect it had in the bars and convention halls, not just them. And I think P.J.'s innovations and programs are going to be huge. Go on, have a go!

Anyway, tomorrow I'm back to work, on loads of things about which I can't yet tell you, but feeling refreshed from the convention experience. And next weekend is Newcon in Northamption, and Iain Banks radio play snippets, so the fun keeps on coming. Until next we speak, Cheerio.

My New SF Short Story Online

Here's something I've been looking forward to for months.

I was very pleased to have a story included in Pyr Books' new original SF anthology Fast Forward 2, which will soon be available in all good book stores. I was even more pleased when editor Lou Anders told me he'd be launching the anthology by putting my story, complete, up on the Pyr website, as he's done with the first chapters of many of the books he releases. Now that day has arrived, and the story, 'Catherine Drewe', is up:

And it's great to see it there. The story is the first in a series I've put together. The second, 'One of Our Bastards is Missing' is in the Third Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, coming soon.

Here's how I've described the series in the new Pyr newsletter:

'They're the stories of Major Jonathan Hamilton, who serves with the 4th Dragoon Regiment of the British army in a present day rather unlike our own. Because of a single difference in the timeline (that I haven't yet revealed), the empires of Europe remain in place, and have indeed spread out to compete in the colonisation of the solar system, and the Great Game espionage cold war between them continues on many fronts. Indeed, the concept of a great balance to be kept has seeped into the fabric of these civilisations in all sorts of ways. Hamilton is often called upon to work out of uniform, as what we'd these days call an intelligence officer, intervening in the plans of rival empires. Hamilton himself is damaged, vulnerable, but also terse, repressed and honourable, though his concept of honour is shaped by his society. He can be horribly dangerous to those who get in the way of his duty, but he feels a need to be tender with innocents. He's not cruel in everyday life, but he can be something of a sadist when his mission and the nature of his enemy gives him leave to be. Indeed, he lets himself enjoy those moments of release. His relationships with women are complicated and rare. I like to think I'm writing in the tradition of Ian Fleming's Bond novels (not the movies) but I'm trying to stay away from pastiche, and instead hope to explore the same debates about masculinity and Britishness he did, while perhaps coming to different conclusions. I also hope this is serious SF in all sorts of ways, and that the politics and tactics make them genuine espionage stories too, but that they're also, well, fun!'

Do pop over and have a read. And check out the anthology itself:

All in all, I'm having a very good week. I hope to see some of you this weekend in Birmingham. Until then, Cheerio!