Weekend Off

Phew.  Having just done an enormous work week, it's weird not having anything to do this weekend.  So I've just got back from an auction down the pub, in aid of Macmillan Nurses, which is all down to dear old Noel Diamond, who lost his wife a while back, and ever since has been the most incredible engine of charity fundraising for the people who looked after her.  He's making the supreme sacrifice, for one thing, of a sponsored non-haircut, letting his normally shaven pate expand into something halfway between an afro and a grey Old English Sheepdog.  He's a fixture in one particular corner of The Crown, where, in the winter months, he keeps the fire at levels which can baste a turkey on the other side of the room.  He's only just been persuaded that it's getting a bit warm outside.  Noel is a bit heavy metal.  He has a stare which can evacuate the sternest of men, and a soft-shoed walk which suggests he's casually making his way from the scene of the crime. But internally he's this vast pussycat.  He's a joiner-in and supporter of things, the one calling for 'Going Underground' and 'Another Brick in the Wall' from any of our local bands.  And tonight he packed out the back bar with two such bands and said auction, and I think that most people would say they were there because he'd used that glare on them, but mean that they were there because they loved him.

I've started actually getting up and dressed at insane hours during the work week.  I think it started at Eastercon, when I realised that being ready for the day made me feel happy, especially now that summer's approaching, and the quality of light in the morning is so supportive.  Not drinking this year is helping.  (I wanted to make sure I could stop.) It's given me a lot of energy.  But today I lay in, to like, 8am (!), and then spent the day doing lovely, meaningless things like read Mike Ashley's Gateways to Forever (the third volume of his history of the SF magazine) and Essential Daredevil 4, which is mostly Merry Gerry Conway and Gene 'The Dean' Colan, and only just gets to the mad Gerber stuff which I'm most looking forward to.  I also perfected, I think, on about the eighth mulling, my fantasy cricket team, ready for this summer's annual campaign.  Last year I mulled right through the first six months or so of actual play.  This year I can tap it and it rings like a bell.  I have a faith in that team that will continue until Liz Batty and her spreadsheet (she's set up a computer program to rate the best cricketers, without knowing anything about the game, and here I am with all this hard won knowledge, and ny brand new copy of The Cricketer's Who's Who, damn it!) ease past me and vanish into the distance.  We've been catching up on Lost as well.  When the season comes to an end I may well blog about how that show's means of storytelling continue to amaze me.

I must not write anything at the weekend.  Not even the novel.  Never mind that it's sitting there on 98,000 words, and I could watch the word count click over onto six figures.  It's okay if I have Wild Cards ideas, though.  Wednesday is going to be my Wild Cards read all the background I've been sent and build something with it day.  And at the end of it I'll go along to the Clarke Awards and drink orange juice out of a tall glass.  And then next weekend is the Sci-Fi London Film Festival panel I'm on, and then their pub quiz, so I've all that to look forward to. Tomorrow will be devoted to falling asleep while watching the cricket.  Which is just about my favourite thing in the world.  And I want to finish my Hugo Awards reading, to the point where I can make an informed decision about every category.  (But let me say this in advance: 'True Names' changes the genre, it is the way forward, it rocks.) 

This week I've also been checking out the re-design for the blog, and it's going very well.  Shouldn't be long now before you pop along of a morning and find everything looking rather more personal and relaxed.  If there's anything you'd like to see on here, do let me know.  Until next time, Cheerio.

Wild Cards

George just took me by surprise by announcing it:

I've joined the Wild Cards collective, the stable of writers who put together the bestselling mosaic novels (that is, they read like one story, made up of lots of different pieces) of the same name.  And I'm very excited to be doing so, especially alongside the other folk they've got taking part this time round.  

More Gary Russell dancing!  Wa-hey!  Cheerio!

My Comics July and Secret Six Intro

Some of you may have noticed that I have four, goodness, four, comics coming out in July.  Two of these are: Captain Britain and MI-13 #15, the finale of the Vampire State arc, and Dark Reign: Young Avengers #3, which I'm in the middle of, and very excited about, at the moment. Here's my talking about it:


But the other two are new developments.  Thor and Hercules: Encyclopedia Mythologica is a guidebook put together by Anthony Flamini, covering all of Marvel's mythological worlds, during which he consulted with myself, Fulsome Fred Van Lente and Gregarious Greg Pak.  (Did I get those nicknames right?)  My own contribution doesn't really deserve cover billing, since it just consisted of me looking at pages concerning Cap and saying they were awesome.  But Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1 is me doing actual comics work.  It's a miniseries anthology of Dark X-Men stories, covering how this team came together, and the plan at the moment is for me to have a story in every issue (or all but one, we're still working that out).  Anyhow, I'm rather looking forward to July.

My good news related to comics for today, however, is on the DC side of the pond.  I was delighted to accept Gail Simone's invitation to write the introduction for the first collection of Secret Six, which will be out later this year.  Rather splendid of her to have asked me, I think, and all I had to do was wibble on about how much I enjoyed it. 

And finally, not related to comics, I'm pleased to have been interviewed for Third Person, an academic but very accessible book about 'vast narratives', that is, comics, television and game universes, edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, in which I share chatter space with Kate Orman, Lance Parkin and Dave Sim, amongst many others.  It's out now from the MIT Press.  Do look out for it.  

I must say, I'm really into a work groove at the moment.  I'm notching up regular 2000 words of novel (about to hit the 100k mark) and five pages of comic days.  And yesterday was possibly my best work day ever, with that, some small plotting stuff besides, and a dirty great dollop of good news leading me to indulge my new obsession with The Archies by dancing around the room.  Okay, so the video for this, the best pop song ever, isn't as good as the video in our heads, but I thought I'd share.  Altogether now, let's dance like Gary Russell!

Until next time, Cheerio!

Hugo Voting for Beginners

Today I'm talking mainly to the people in comics and media fandom, because to SF fans this may well be old news.  Comics and media folk (hello), do you ever feel, having enjoyed Doctor Who or Primeval or Captain Britain, that you'd like to start catching up with what's cutting edge in the field of print science fiction?  To sample what's best in novels and shorter fiction?  (I'm sure many of you already read SF all the time, but please, play along.)  Yes, I thought so! But what's that you say?  You don't know where to start?  Well, have I got an offer for you!  (Yes, I have, actually.)  

The World Science Fiction Convention, which this year calls itself Anticipation and is in Montreal, is swiftly approaching (on 6th-10th August, to be exact).  SF writer and bon vivant John Scalzi, supported by the good folk there, is making a serious effort to get more people to vote in the genre's biggest awards, The Hugos, which, as always, are to be presented at that convention. 

John has got together with the various publishers involved to make available a downloadable package of the majority of the nominated works (in terms of books, but you can see why the guys making visual material are in a different boat), available, only for voters.  (A voter being someone who's bought a membership, or a supporting membership, for the convention.)  

In the package, you get the full texts of (deep breath): the novels The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; Little Brother by Cory Doctorow; Saturn's Children by Charles Stross and Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi.  Plus four novellas, four novelettes, five short stories.  Plus three books about the genre: Farah Mendlesohn's Rhetorics of Fantasy; Paul Kincaid's What We Do When We Read Science Fiction and Scalzi's Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded.  Plus the online comic Schlock Mercenary.  Plus the long form dramatic presentation Metatropolis.  Plus issues of the magazines Clarkesworld and Weird Tales.  Plus four fanzines, a package of art from nominee John Picacio, fan writing from four of those nominees, and pieces from all five of the nominees for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  

Yes, it's a huge great dollop of quality reading matter!  Adding up just the cost of the books and the magazines (and some of the novels aren't available in the UK yet, even), that's a grand total of at least £89.73 in value, never mind the hassle saved in finding the short stories in their various magazines and anthologies.  

And here's the deal, you see: a Supporting Membership to Anticipation, which gets you all the above, is just £30 or $40!  And then you also get to vote.  (Yes, there's a category for TV episodes (two Doctor Who episodes, a Galactica, a Lost andDoctor Horrible are the nominees), one for movies, and for the first time this year one for comics.) 

It's a great way to support the fandom, catch up on what's new, and get involved in the central institution of SF, around which all else pivots.  And maybe, having committed yourself that far, you might feel you'd like to upgrade your membership, hop on a plane and attend the heart and soul of science fiction.   (Guest of honour: Neil Gaiman!)  

If I've interested you (and just for expressing interest you'll be sent this quality ballpoint pen, no, not really), then go to the Anticipation website and buy a Supporting Membership (or Full Membership if you want to go along):

Then you'll be given information on how to download your 2009 Hugo Voter Packet and how to vote.  

I think this is a tremendous encouragement to get involved in the Hugos, an awards system I hold dear to my heart, my two nominee pins being my proudest possessions.  I like it when I can do something to bring all my different fandoms together, and every fandom involved has something at stake.  

Thanks for listening.  And watch out for your free pen in the post.  (No, not really.) Cheerio.  

Eastercon and Video Interview

I popped up to Bradford for Eastercon last weekend, and I must say I think it was very well organised, with, in particular, a terrific programme.  It's good to see a serious comics strand at an SF convention, for one thing.  Many old friends met with, several new ones encountered.  I did two panels, one about comic book universes, and the many continuity issues arising thereof (good fun, a buzzing audience) and one about the grand old UK comics of yesteryear (which was mainly enlivened by David Lloyd and D'Israeli's expert knowledge).  I'd like to have done some more non-comics ones, but I'd joined up at the last minute, and had to opt out of being parachuted into one on teraforming, not being around on the Monday.  I'd have enjoyed pretending to know something about the subject, and randomly picking a side in 'Terraforming vs. Pantropy' (oh, pantropy, every time, thanks for asking) without knowing anything about the issues.  It'd be like going to the tutorial without having read the book, and nevertheless having lots to say (which I did, often).  I also went along to Padraig O'Mealoid's Alan Moore Show And Tell, which is basically Padraig getting exciting stuff out of a box and saying that he's got it and we haven't; and the Not The Clarke Awards panel, which made me want to read all the nominees (yes, even that one, you never know, it might be literature).  Actually, I do wonder, considering the knee jerk reaction to literary authors attempting genre novels, if, if this was one day done really well, with said novelist doing their research and not innocently re-writing something that was groundbreaking when Brian Aldiss first did it in 1958, and coming up with a really good book that refused to be labelled as genre... would we then accept it and love it?  Or is most of this hatred not because such books are bad, but because they won't join in?  (And let's assume the author isn't decent enough, like Michael Chabon is, to declare they're an SF writer.)  Hmm.  I got to have a sit down with Tim Powers, long enough to tell him how much I've enjoyed his work, and heard some wonderful tales from him and his charming wife about Phil Dick.  (Winona Ryder, it seems, thinks she's in possession of a note from Dick to Timothy Leary, but actually, Mr. Powers knows different.  And it must be very weird to suddenly realise that when watching a DVD commentary.)  The BSFA Awards were splendidly presented by Kim Newman and Paul McAuley, the theme this year being predictions that didn't come true, including a fab 'letter' from a very West Country Arthur C. Clarke, predicting how the whole solar system, in 2009, would run to the dictates of the BSFA.  Ken MuckLeeOdd (as Mr. Powers pronounced it, and he was on a panel later with Suzanne McLeod too, and I really hope they got him to make the introductions) was a popular winner of Best Novel.  It was a real thrill to see Doctor Who amongst a big audience of people, laughing, cheering and applauding at all the right moments.  And later that evening, the highlight of the convention for me, the National Festival Orchestra occupied the main hall, performing SF themes (a wonderful original Star Trek, complete with bongos) and related pieces (like 'The Blue Danube').  A real coup, something people will be talking about for years to come: James Bacon should be very proud.  I ducked my head into Pictionary With Artists long enough to yell 'The Cat from Outer Space!'  and saw large chunks of fabled and largely unseen telefantasy shows Undermind (really rather excellent, if very of its time) and Counterstrike (funky, but the jury's still out).  That's two off the huge list I had in my head when I was a child and there was no video.  One of my favourite things was meeting David Clarke, the Fortean researcher and broadcaster (whose book about UFOs in the UK, Out of the Shadows, I still can't find a copy of), after his excellent panel on the elusive nature of Spring-Heeled Jack legends (it seems the term was applied more like 'hoody' than as an individual phenomenon).  I added to the crowd, and then found I didn't need to, at the well-attended launch of Liam Sharp's excellent God Killers, and, the only disappointment of the weekend, I stood there in 'Blow Things Up' and witnessed only two very small explosions, framed in the context of what might have been an artistic statement about V For Vendetta (or equally, might not).  It did strike me as funny, though, that the whole audience were asked to don V masks (we're all individuals!), and I thought best heckle of the weekend went to the small boy who shouted at the end of it 'is it finished now?!'  Finally came the moment I was most looking forward to: the Rock Band contest.  Forbidden Planet had brought all the gear along and were offering prizes.  I'd recruited a band: Liam Sharp (vocals); Al Davison (drums); D'Israeli (lead guitar, kind of like Pete Townshend I was thinking) and me on bass.  We were called The Victors, after the British comics weekly.  Liam, a real front man in a real band, picked a track he was familiar with.  So obviously, nothing could go wrong.  Except D'Israeli bottling it and being replaced by someone we met in the crowd who knew the lyrics to the number Liam wanted, said number then proving to be unavailable, us thus flailing about on stage so long they assigned a random song to us, which turned out to be something by Nirvana that none of us knew, me panicking, seeing the gesticulations of Juliet McKenna's son in the crowd, assuming he knew how to play and thus giving him my bass and running; Al playing the bass track on the drums, and audience staring in horror at what resulted.  Which was actually nearly saved by Liam's rock heroics, screaming and sliding across the floor to the strange plunkings from behind him.  It was like Yoko Ono as performed by Can.  (And this was being piped on live video feed to the convention website.) 'You know that dream,' said Liam afterwards, 'where you get up on stage to sing, and suddenly you don't know the words?  I think we all got great therapy for that.'  Third Row Fandom's band Mothra and the Godzillas kicked our arses anyway.  Add to all that dinner with Kim Newman and Maura McHugh, lonely walks and later good bus services from con hotel to my hotel through Ballardian industrial wasteland, a dealer's room that didn't take plastic (what will they do when we're all implanted with credit chips, barter books for turnips?) and the company of people as varied as Marc Gascoigne, Simon Gilmartin, Mike Carey, John Clute, Toby Frost and David Bishop, oh, and endless endless Twitterstorming by everyone, and it was very memorable and wonderful weekend.  Phew.  The bar has been set for next year.  

Now, talking of conventions, dear old Cheryl Morgan has just made available online my entire Guest of Honour interview from PCon in Dublin, in which, talking to Padraig, I cover just about every aspect of my career.  The whole thing is available in eight parts, here:

But I thought I'd embed part one here, just for fun:

Until next time, Cheerio!

Cap #12 Preview, Galactica, and Sci-Fi London

I had a lovely time in Dublin, but for the last week (and this one), I'm up to my neck in work.  Last night I popped out to the Fifteen Minute Club (my local talent show) and read Mary Robinette Kowal's 'Evil Robot Monkey' to the audience, and in the next blog, I'll be promoting another effort to publicise this year's Hugo Awards.  But meantime, just a few links to share with you.  Here's a preview of the first seven pages of issue twelve of Captain Britain and MI-13, coming this Wednesday/Thursday to your local comic shop, and for which, as always, this blog will serve as letters page:

I'm honoured to be on a panel at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival, on 2nd May at 2.30pm:

Talking about comics, with China Mieville and Bryan Talbot.  And I'm sure I'll be doing the Festival quiz again.  Indeed, my agent has already nabbed me for his team.  (Sorry, Third Row Fandom.)

And I was pleased to be part of SF Signal's Mind Meld about the end of Battlestar Galactica.  I don't know if it's because I'm a TV writer, but I found the way the question was phrased kind of annoying.  I wonder if so many novelists would be eager to join in with a column entitled 'How I Would Have Ended George R.R. Martin's Latest Novel'?  Just because we wander into your living rooms, instead of sitting passively on your coffee tables, we're everyone's punchbag:

And I'm very passionate, as you can see, about my love for that finale (as are quite a few people who've been in touch) so 'everyone hated it' irks me too.  Still, kind of them to ask me to take part.  I'm on a couple of panels at Eastercon in Bradford this weekend, one about the vastness of comic book universes, at 9pm on the Friday, and one about quality comics of yesteryear (with Dave Lloyd, David Bishop and D'Israeli) at 12.30pm on the Saturday.  I joined up very late, so I asked to be on the substitute list for any SF panels that come up.  It's good to see comics panels of such a high quality.  Anyhow, if you see me there, do say hello, and until next time, Cheerio.