Disney/Marvel, Word Balloon, Bernice Bonanza

I was as surprised as anyone else to hear about the sale of Marvel to Disney today, but I must say, I think it'll be a good thing. It gives Marvel Comics the same financial security as DC has, the latter being part of TimeWarner, while previously Marvel had to survive purely on the strength of its comics (and, admittedly, starting with Iron Man, its in-house movies). That's why, in the past, a marginal Marvel title would be cancelled long before a marginal DC title would. Now, when the immediate success of every single title isn't make or break, I expect we'll be seeing more experiments and more creative risks from people whose love of the medium meant they couldn't help themselves but to publish comics they knew would find only a small audience, even when finances were tight. I've already heard from a few people fearing for Marvel's creative independence, but Disney also own Pixar and Miramax, and from what Joe Q's been saying, this is a similar deal. I've also heard specific worries about whether this will be the end for gay characters at Marvel, but I really very much doubt it. (Again: Miramax?) If Wiccan and Hulkling suddenly go back into the closet, I'll be the first out of the door. I promise you. If the gay characters vanish or go silent about their sexuality, I'm gone. But I'm betting it won't happen. (And let's give them a couple of months after the deal is done to see Wiccan and Hulkling and co. appearing where they naturally would, being who they naturally are, okay? I mean, don't start heckling me if Daken feels like kissing a girl that week.)

Hold me to the above. But hold your horses. And watch for your favourite edge-of-being-cancelled title to keep going a while longer now. Hmm, is it time for me to pitch that Defenders ongoing again?

Talking of comics, I did a long interview with John Siuntres of the Word Balloon podcast, which you can hear here, where we talk about all my Marvel projects, the TV stuff, everything, really. A pleasure to chat with him.

Finally, because it's been a long time coming, I want to make a fuss about this. Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story is finally out! Written by Simon Guerrier, it's a genuinely enormous book, the history of my character in all her media, and, in the typical Big Finish style, with none of the blood washed out of the carpet. So many of the creative people involved in Benny's history have gone on to bigger things that this is serious stuff for anyone who wants to look into the engine of all that's happened in our corner of the media in the last decade and a bit. My copy came with nice messages from Simon and Lisa Bowerman, who plays Benny, and yours can too (in that they'll sign it) if you order direct. Which can be done here, and if you want a preview, a couple of pages of the section covering the original Human Nature (when it was a Doctor Who novel) are available online here. And for those of you in search of icons and avatars, the wonderful Red Scharlach has a range of Bernice designs to choose from here.

So, exciting times all round. And I really must get back to finishing my holiday now. Until next time, Cheerio.

The Cornells' Scottish Holiday

Good afternoon from the shores of Loch Oich, where we reside in only slightly faded splendour, at the kind of hotel which feels like a boarding school, with stuffed animals, after dinner coffee in the library, and a big oaken door with a brass plaque on it inscribed 'internet'. And hey, wifi too. I may have the smoked mackerel this evening. As those who read the Twitter feed know, I've been busy falling into several different Scottish rivers, out of several different whitewater craft. This was our third time rafting, and we found to our surprise that our current guide, a Kiwi (not literally), had known the guide on our first such experience, on the Tongariro River in New Zealand. She was called Viv, and we'd kept her memory with us as a kind of measure of life-loving energy and fearlessness. Our current guide told us she'd passed away. 'Oh,' I said, 'what happened?' imagining some leap for a too-distant handhold. 'Suicide,' he said. He went on to say that that was surprisingly common among raft guides, and hearing him talk later of how he'd spent 'six years of summer', from hemisphere to hemisphere, I connected it to the extraordinary depression and suicide rates among professional cricketers, for whom seasonal change is a very personal thing. So to find myself suddenly out of the boat when going down a waterfall, with everyone else, and then managing to get back to it after a lengthy separation and a few bashes to the hindquarters, and follow the rules to get back in, with a lot of laughing and very little drama... well, that felt even better than experiencing something feared and finding it to be okay normally would. Leaving a kayak mind you: not nearly so life-affirming. I had to let myself drift downstream after that mentally keeping a Beatles track in mind, as I told Twitter. ('Tomorrow Never Knows', with its refrain of 'turn off your mind, relax and float downstream... it is not dying' and not, as some suggested, 'Help!' or (unkindly, I thought) 'I Am the Walrus'.

We've been walking a lot. We've seen a brilliant German archaeologist called Dirk make fire in a crannog (a lake dwelling) and then keep it in a tree fungus, for up to twenty-four hours. We've seen a bat detector working on the grounds of Blair Castle (and where else but a Scottish estate would you find signage indicating how inexpensive a statue of Hercules was to build? Less than £25!) Today we walked near Corrimony Chambered Cairn, a round barrow with stones for a ceiling, which had been open (like a lot of the Wiltshire barrows), as if one could thus visit the ancestors, but had been closed off when people started building stone circles (just like in Wiltshire), in this case around it. I think that must mark a change in worship, possibly from ancestral to sky-watching, and with circular 'cup markings' on the biggest stone and a fougou passage element, in that you needed to crawl to get into the barrow, this one really had it all.

I'll just quickly add that Drumnadrochit, which has taken upon itself the mantle of being 'the town where Loch Ness is' is pretty horribly infested with sheer tat. But shining amongst that is the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre (there are a couple of others, I think, with similar names, so if you go seeking, be precise). It's quite surprising to follow an audio and video tour, in a town that relies on the Loch Ness Monster for its tourism, that, having rehearsed all the details of Fortean interest, with side trips and angles I didn't know about, sifts through the data and how it was unconvered, and pretty solidly comes to the conclusion that there is no monster. It's also refreshing to come out of such a tour feeling that, hmm, that all went a bit fast, I was a little overwhelmed by the detail of the hypothesis there at times, what was that he said about diatoms? Excellent stuff to perk up the jaded Fortean, and you sceptics would have a wild time.

Anyway, it's back to my desk tomorrow, having not really relaxed to the putty-like state I normally seek on holidays, but with loads of exciting stuff coming up, more having girded my loins. Talking of which, I'll be blogging again in a moment, with the Marvel/Disney news, and Bernice stuff. So I'll see you in a moment. Cheerio!

Thirty Comics for Hugo Voters

Okay, you may want to have a cup of tea beside you, we're going to be here for a while. The Hugo Awards for 2009 are going to be presented at the World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne in September next year. The Best Graphic Story category is only a year old, and I think SF fans might benefit from a broad brush introduction to some of the many comics out there that they might consider nominating. I'd like this to be the first of many such articles, from many people.

The following list doesn't include online comics, because my knowledge of that field (including such excellent titles as FreakAngels) isn't what it might be. I'd be happy to link to someone who's done a similar survey of those delights. It also only includes one manga title, which I think is especially deserving. (And next year I'll add the final volume of Mushishi, when translated, on the same basis.) Again, I'd appreciate some linkage by those more in the know (with manga, I know what I like, but I don't have the depth). I've purposefully excluded much in the way of adaptations and spinoffery: in this category, entirely original work needs all the help it can get. (Which is not to say that something of such high quality as, for instance, IDW's Doctor Who line or Titan's arty Torchwood doesn't deserve your voting attention, just that I'd rather err on the side of titles that have only their own fans to rely on.) The many different stories serialised in such anthology titles as 2000AD also deserve attention. Once more: tell me and I shall link. I've tried not to duplicate creative teams or titles, so remember there may be more stuff you can nominate from the guys and comics you like. If anyone can find links to (legal) preview pages for the following that I haven't found, I'll add them.

Please bear in mind that some of the previews aren't suitable for children.

And please note that, while I describe everything positively, this is a survey of what's out there rather than just what I like. I think it's important to not let my own taste get in the way here. (Though I love some of these titles with a passion.)

I'd like to thank Josh Flanagan of I, Fanboy, Cheryl Morgan, Chris Roberson and everyone who responded to my Twitter on the subject for their help compiling the following. My understanding is that to be eligible, an individual story has to come to a conclusion in 2009. So I've made sure the following all qualify. I'll be offering, covers, preview pages from the stories in question (where possible), and some idea of the feel of the title. And the only fair way to present these is alphabetically. So let's go...

Air: Letters from Lost Countries

Written by: G. Willow Wilson.
Art by: M.K. Perker.
Published by: Vertigo.
Originally available as: Air #1-5, ending in February 2009.

The story of Blythe, an acrophobic flight attendant, who makes her way through a Ballardian maze of modern angst: terrorism; conspiracies; landing in a non-existent country, as she discovers her part in a battle for the sky. 'It starts off as Rushdie and parachutes into Pynchon' - Neil Gaiman.

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Box

Written by: Warren Ellis.
Art by: Simone Bianchi.
Published by: Marvel.
Originally available as: Astonishing X-Men #25-30, ending in June 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Warren Ellis' mutant superheroics have a distinctly SFnal flavour, with a graveyard of spaceships being the location for a showdown with alternate mutants from another dimension, who've been affected by one of the Marvel Universe's game-changing physics events. The art is luxurious, and the atmosphere distinctly more chilly than in most superhero titles.

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Written by: Neil Gaiman.
Art by: Andy Kubert.
Published by: DC.
Originally available as: Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853, ending in April 2009.

The final issues of both Batman titles were given over to Neil Gaiman's love letter to the superhero, as every different style of the Bat is celebrated, in what becomes an actual funeral, with eulogies from Superman, Robin and the Joker. 'Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman? You get to be Batman.' And Gaiman does a wonderful Alfred.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8: Retreat

Written by: Jane Espenson.
Art by: Georges Jeanty.
Published by: Dark Horse.
Originally available as: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 #26-30, ending in November 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Buffy creator Joss Whedon oversees his original writing staff, and the pick of modern comics writers, in a canonical continuation of the show, that feels authoratively like the real thing, while Jeanty squares the circle of licenced titles with an art style that's both true to the cast and pure comics. After a row of fill-in issues, this Oz-centered tale could be a return to witty form.


Written by: John Layman.
Art by: Rob Guillory.
Published by: Image.
Originally available as: Chew #1-5, ending in October 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Tony Chu is cibopathic, meaning he gets psychic impressions from what he eats. So he's a detective who takes a sneaky nibble at murder victims. He falls madly in love with a food critic who's a saboscrivner, which is to say she can make the whole city throw up with her damning restaurant reviews. It's charming, it's full of energy, and, madly, it's a runaway indie hit.

The Complete Dracula

Written by: Leah Moore and John Reppion.
Art by: Colton Worley.
Published by: Dynamite.
Originally available as: The Complete Dracula #1-5, ending in November 2009.
Preview Pages: here

An attempt to create an entirely authentic comics adaptation of the novel, including the short story 'Dracula's Guest', with fully painted art and a slavish attention to detail, under gorgeous covers by John Cassaday. 'The only adaptation of Dracula you'll ever need, this is the new gold standard' - Warren Ellis.

DMZ: No Future

Written by: Brian Wood.
Art by: Ryan Kelly.
Published by: Vertigo.
Originally available as: DMZ #42-44, ending in August 2009.

In the near future, a civil war between the government and an ideological rebellion has turned Manhattan into a demilitarized zone. Matty Roth is a photojournalist who becomes trapped with those left behind: the very poor and those on a mission in the remains of the city. This story spotlights a death cult operating out of the Empire State Building. Modern dystopian SF.

Echo: Desert Run

Written by: Terry Moore.
Art by: Terry Moore.
Published by: Abstract Studios.
Originally available as: Terry Moore's Echo #11-15, ending in September 2009.
Preview Pages (from the first arc): here

Julie Martin is an about-to-be-divorced photographer, caught in the explosion of a high tech battlesuit, the Beta Suit, and forced to bond with the silver material that covers her body. In this arc, she discovers the suit is about to explode, and it's also down to her to prevent the reboot of the universe. Echo is about the people as much as the action, and is beloved on that basis.

Ex Machina: Ring Out the Old

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan.
Art by: Tony Harris and Jim Clark.
Published by: Wildstorm.
Originally available as: Ex Machina #41-44, ending in August 2009.

Mitchell Hundred used to be the world's only superhero, the Great Machine. Now he's been elected Mayor of New York City, and has left all that behind him. But amongst the political intrigue of his term of office, secrets from his past start to be glimpsed, and this arc reveals the source of his powers. From the Hugo-nominated writer of Y: The Last Man and Lost.

Fables: The Dark Ages

Written by: Bill Willingham.
Art by: Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross, Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred and David Hahn.
Published by: Vertigo.
Originally available as: Fables #76-82, ending in March 2009.

The winner of 12 Eisner Awards (comics' highest honour), this story of such heroes of fairytale, as Prince Charming and Snow White living in exile in modern New York, and fighting to reclaim their homelands from The Adversary, is epic, Hugo-nominated stuff. In this volume, bringing the defeated Adversary back to New York turns out to be... complicated. A masterpiece.

Fear Agent: I Against I

Written by: Rick Remender.
Art by: Tony Moore.
Published by: Dark Horse.
Originally available as: Fear Agent #22-27, ending in July 2009.
Preview Pages: here

This is the story of rugged alcoholic Texas spaceman Heath Huston, last of the Fear Agents, in a space opera that runs at a million miles an hour. In this exciting episode, he finds himself flung through a black hole to a planet of gunslinging robots and venomous mutants, in a story which ends with all the secrets of his universe revealed as lies. There's concrete under all this fun.

Fruits Basket

Written by: Natsuki Takaya.
Art by: Natsuki Takaya.
Published (in the US) by: Tokyopop.
Originally available as: Fruits Basket #1-23, ending (in translation), in July 2009.

Orphaned high school student Tohru Honda encounters the thirteen members of the Sohma family, possessed by the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Her radical kindness lets them unentangle themselves from their secrecy and shame, and finally she sets to work on the curse itself. Intense, dark, passionate, I rate the whole run as one huge story. And a major work.

Hellblazer: Scab

Written by: Peter Milligan.
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini.
Published by: Vertigo.
Originally available as: Hellblazer #251-253, ending in March 2009.

John Constantine is a modern working-class British magician, more Harry Palmer than Harry Potter, and his adventures have always explored sociopolitical issues in British life. In this arc, new writer Milligan takes him into the psychic consequences of a Liverpool dockers' strike, made flesh, and into his own murky past. When, as now, he was something of a bastard.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt

Written by: Mike Mignola.
Art by: Duncan Fegredo.
Published by: Dark Horse.
Originally available as: Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #1-8, ending in November 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Hellboy comics are consistently better than the movies made from them, and this is no exception. When giants start to rise from the ground in England, a mysterious group called The Wild Hunt invite Hellboy, the human-raised demon who battles the supernatural, to help them stop it. But it turns out to be a trap. Mignola's use of mythology always impresses.

I Kill Giants

Written by: Joe Kelly.
Art by: J. M. Ken Nimura.
Published by: Image.
Originally available as: I Kill Giants #1-7, ending in January 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Little Barbara Thorson says she carries a Norse warhammer in her purse, and kills giants for a living. But where does the fantasy end and the reality begin for this troubled girl? What if... she's telling the truth? This is a bittersweet story of a child dealing with monsters real and imagined, and by the end it packs a hell of a punch.


Written by: Ed Brubaker.
Art by: Sean Phillips.
Published by: Marvel.
Originally available as: Incognito #1-6, ending (probably) August 2009.
Preview Pages: here

A former supervillain is hiding out in the Witness Protection Programme, remembering the days when villainy was fast and loose, and getting bored of his current tame existence, in this noir adventure from Captain America writer Ed Brubaker. It's not set in the Marvel Universe, plays for adults, and there's a giddy feeling that anything could happen next.

Invincible Iron Man: World's Most Wanted

Written by: Matt Fraction.
Art by: Salvador Larocca.
Published by: Marvel.
Originally available as: Invincible Iron Man #8-19, ending in November 2009.
Preview Pages: here

This is the one you want if you loved the movie. Tony Stark, on the run from Norman (the Green Goblin) Osborn, who's been put in charge of US security, his plans to regulate superheroes in tatters, an alien invasion all his fault, has to use his wits and know-how to stay one step ahead. Fraction writes funky and sardonic dialogue, and the art rocks.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, 1910

Written by: Alan Moore.
Art by: Kevin O'Neill.
Published by: Top Shelf.
Originally available: published in May 2009.
Preview Pages: here

The first of three self-contained volumes, this takes Moore's literary heroes (including Raffles and Carnacki) into Victoriana, as they encounter Mac the Knife and investigate an occult order attempting to create a Moonchild in darkest London. An adventure again, rather than the last volume's tour, and a radical one, with the docklands slaughter making one's eyes water, rather.

Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted

Written by: Matt Wagner.
Art by: Amy Reeder Hadley.
Published by: Vertigo.
Originally available as: Madame Xanadu #1-10, ending in April 2009.

Madame Xanadu is an immortal spellcaster, this arc being her journey through history, where she occupies every archetype of a female magician, from Camelot to ancient China to revolutionary France to Victorian London. Throughout, she romances the Phantom Stranger, her equal and perhaps her foe. Angry and thoughtful, with cracking storytelling in the art.

Phonogram 2: The Singles Club

Written by: Kieron Gillen.
Art by: Jamie McKelvie.
Published by: Image.
Originally available as: Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #1-7, finishing in October 2009.
Preview Pages: are so here

Phonomancers are magicians who get their power through pop music. Gillen and McKelvie convey the romance and heartbreak of pop like you're fourteen and reading Smash Hits for the first time. This run is entirely single issue stories, building up into another magic epic that we can all understand, because we've all been there. They hit my nostalgia/dance buttons big time.


Written by: Warren Ellis.
Art by: John Cassaday.
Published by: Wildstorm.
Originally available as: Planetary #1-27, ending in October 2009.

Running since 1999, the ending of this series concerning the 'archaeologists of the impossible', three superhumans who investigate the remains of enormous monsters, supervillains and ghosts, is much awaited. It's a bittersweet world of nostalgia for lost oddness, portrayed in a widescreen, gloriously colourful way. We await the final answers to one huge, complete story.

Proof: Julia

Written by: Alex Grecian.
Art by: Riley Rossmo.
Published by: Image.
Originally available as: Proof #18-23, ending in August 2009.
Preview Pages: here

John 'Proof' Prufrock is a sasquatch who hunts cryptozoological creatures for a secret organisation, with his partner, Ginger Brown. This arc explores his past, as Proof goes steampunk in Victorian London, battling Springheeled Jack, and living in a circus sideshow where he becomes fascinated with Julia, the 'baboon lady'. The next Hellboy!

Rasl: The Fire of St. George

Written by: Jeff Smith.
Art by: Jeff Smith.
Published by: Jeff Smith.
Originally available as: Rasl #4-7, ending December 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Richard Joseph Johnson, the titular hero, is an art thief with the ability to travel through the light between dimensions. We're gradually shown more of his mysterious past as a research scientist, which seems tied up with UFO conspiracies, in this noir adventure from multi-award-winning cartoonist Smith, the creator of Bone. Inspired, simple, addictive storytelling.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe

Written by: Bryan Lee O'Malley.
Art by: Bryan Lee O'Malley.
Published by: Oni Press.
Originally available: published in January 2009.
Hey. A page is: here

Scott Pilgrim has to win the heart of Ramona Flowers by defeating her seven evil ex-boyfriends in combat. The world he lives in is a fondly-described slacker reality of small clubs, band life and staying on sofas, described as a video game, with Scott finding 'save points'. This volume hits grown up reality head on, and asks 'Game Over?' Incredibly well told, romantic, hilarious, real.

Secret Six: Unhinged

Written by: Gail Simone.
Art by: Nicola Scott.
Published by: DC.
Originally available as: Secret Six #1-7, ending March 2009.
Preview Pages: here

So there are these six rather useless supervillains, hired to free a villainess, to find it's because she stole a demonic card on which is written 'Get Out of Hell Free'. With a $20 million bounty on each of their heads, they have to get across the USA and home, with hundreds of supervillains in pursuit. Wry, absurd, satirical, nasty, precise, characterful and fond only begins to describe it.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas

Written by: Gerard Way.
Art by: Gabriel Ba.
Published by: Dark Horse.
Originally available as: The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1-6, ending May 2009.
Preview Pages: here

The idea that the lead singer of My Chemical Romance would write a bestselling comic that was actually great... no, we're past that now. The members of a disbanded superhero team reunite after the death of their adopted father, and having saved the world again, now find themselves in a surreal political thriller in which the history of the USA is changed forever.

Unknown Soldier: Haunted House

Written by: Joshua Dysart.
Art by: Alberto Ponticelli.
Published by: Vertigo.
Originally available as: Unknown Soldier #1-6, ending March 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Dr. Moses Lwanga is a pacifist caught up in the wars of Africa, a voice in his head telling him to kill child soldiers. Which is why he wounded his own face so badly. The lead being a modern geopolitical take on an ancient DC character, Dysart took the book seriously enough to spend a month in Northern Uganda to research the civil war of 2002. Committed, intense, and pained.


Written by: Mark Sable.
Art by: Julian Totino Tedesco.
Published by: Boom! Studios.
Originally available as: Unthinkable #1-5, ending in September 2009.
Preview Pages: here

Novelist Alan Ripley joins a government think tank of imaginative people from diverse fields, asked to 'think the unthinkable' about nightmare terrorist scenarios. But when members of the group start vanishing, can he stop the unthinkable from starting to happen? It seems his brain is being used as a blueprint, in this smart, modern SF thriller from a company on the rise.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

Written by: Mike Carey.
Art by: Peter Gross.
Published by: Vertigo.
Originally available as: The Unwritten #1-4, ending in August 2009.
Preview Pages: here

This is the metafictional story of Tommy Taylor, a Christopher Robin for our time, a lame celebrity who does the conventions because his Dad made him a bestselling fictional character. But what if Tom is that boy wizard made flesh? To find out, he has to search the places where fiction and reality have intersected. Vertigo's big hit from the writer of the Felix Castor novels.

The Walking Dead: Fear the Hunters

Written by: Robert Kirkman.
Art by: Charlie Adlard.
Published by: Image.
Originally available as: The Walking Dead #62-66, ending in October 2009.
Preview Pages: here

The zombie comic that treats its subject matter seriously, The Walking Dead kind of, erm, sneaks up on you, in that you come to care and fear for its characters a great deal. We haven't heard the cause of the zombie apocalypse, we just know that our survivors are desperate to find a home. It's about despair and the human spirit. A bit of a modern classic.

And that's it! Thirty titles I urge you to check out before you start nominating for the Hugos. I hope I've shown that the field is diverse (in all sorts of ways), has depth, and is worth your attention. Please distribute this post as you wish. In the comments section, I'd love to hear from comics fans who want to talk up any of the comics here, or any not here, and SF fans who've tried some.

I hope that helped a bit. Phew. Off for a lie down now. Until next time: Cheerio!

A Couple of Dark X-Men Interviews

You know, I don't know why I didn't mention anyone getting their Hugo Awards in that last lengthy bit about Worldcon. It seems a weird gap in retrospect, but in my defence I was writing at high speed in a style best described as 'stream of incoherence'. I was particularly delighted, on the night, by Cheryl Morgan's win for Best Fan Writer, and to see a friend of her's (you wonderful soppy old thing, Anne) weeping with joy for her was proof yet again how seriously these things are taken. So there, I was paying attention.

I'm about to blog, and this may even be today if I get a real head of steam going: Thirty Comics Hugo Voters Should Read. With covers, and links to sample pages and everything. Yes, this is what I do on my day off. I've got this vast work week ahead of me before going on holiday, and this is just about the only gap, but I really want to get this one done. And I still don't know what time it's supposed to be. Doctor Who -related comedian Toby Hadoke (and my old mate Mark) came over for the Twenty20 cricket finals yesterday, and found me still kind of convention hyper. My wife insists I still haven't fully decompressed yet. I keep wanting to give awards to things.

In the meantime, here's a couple of interviews about Dark X-Men I should have already linked to. This one talks to Leonard Kirk as well as me, and this one to me, Leonard and editor Nick Lowe.

Okay, so until I get that next blog together, Cheerio!

Worldcon Event by Event: Two

Some things I missed, like John Picacio and Lou Anders recieving Chesley Awards, for Best Book Cover and Best Art Director, respectively. Like Charlie Stross' onstage encounter with Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman (that's the sort of thing Worldcons are for, and, typically for a Worldcon, I was on a gameshow at the time). The Chesleys were, like all awards at these things, taken back to the bar. Unlike most awards, they lit up, but we couldn't find anywhere to plug them in.

Anyhow, Saturday morning found me on what I thought was going to be another of those 'is this the five minute argument?' panels. This one asked the question, to quote from the programme booklet: 'How are current SF movies and TV shows reinforcing out of date attitudes and prejudices?' Not are they, but how are they. That urge for consensus again that's created dire religious yearnings like The Singularity. Or so I thought when going in. As it turned out, it was a bunch of cool people having a rather nice chat about the issues. You never can tell. And I just got to say 'Torchwood' like it was a get out of jail free card, which was a bit of a first.

I popped in to see Lou do his thing, which is to march back and forth in front of an audience like a southern gentleman Brian Blessed, promoting the heart out of the books which Pyr publishes, and occasionally pulling a scared author out of the crowd to do the same, generally in a more reedy voice. I also saw a bit of Mary doing her puppet building thing, which had a nicely packed audience, and was surprisingly technical. And I watched a bit of Scalzi's panel about Michael Jackson's Thriller, which was, I suppose, no odder than doing one about Kate Bush. At least it wasn't like that British con I once went to which had one on girl guiding. Scalzi also was the host, during the weekend, of a singles meet and greet, which I so hugely envy him for. Being a married man, matchmaking is one of my favourite things, and something at which I have so far failed utterly. Doing that at another convention would allow me to have a go on a semi-professional basis. He says that quite a few folk were still making eye contact at the end of that reception.

That evening, I'd arranged to meet up with Neil Gaiman, the Guest of Honour, for dinner. This takes organising, obviously. Neil had his (incredibly sweet and useful, if sometimes a little bit sarky about my French presentation, yes, I do mean you, young lady) publicist with him, plus a couple of fan friends who generally sorted things out convention-wise, which seemed to work well, and wasn't really the sort of thing one gets a mental picture of when one hears about 'minders'. He also had a journalist with him from a well known magazine (I'm being coy because I've no idea if this is sensitive information), who'd been observing his every public move for the last week or two, and took notes during the meal. This is all not the stuff of normal life, and I think it's a mark of how Neil's managed to hold on to his normality that everyone who talks about it tends to feel sorry for him rather than envious about his situation. I get the feeling that he doesn't really like how fame distorts peoples' reactions to him, but he's not one of those famous people who tries to pretend it's not there. One of the best things about him is how he uses the gravity around him to highlight worthwhile causes and the work of friends. If gravity can highlight things. (Did I mention I'm really tired?) Anyway, we had a nice, fannish, chat about all kinds of stuff, got back in time for Neil to record a reading of a Cory Doctorow short story before a live audience, went to see a bit of the firework display from the roof of the Palais, and ended up in a miraculously quiet bar with Ellen Kushner and her wife Delia Sherman, who are incredibly sweet, and who I hadn't properly met before. Neil worked hard all weekend, particularly popping up at children's events, and it was good to have grabbed the chance to spend a bit of time with him.

(I love how the audience after one of Neil's readings, above, have arranged themselves into something like a renaissance painting. There really out to be a man with hunting dogs somewhere in the corner.)

On the Sunday morning, I joined Stu Segal for his 'Stroll With The Stars', an effort to get fandom walking, which he does every morning of Worldcon. At this one, what with those corridors, I'm not sure extra PE was required, but nevertheless, a whole bunch of us set off, including Lou, John, Lauren, Farah, Jon Courtenay Grimwood and several others. What I do on these route strolls is quite odd: I 'press the flesh and shake hands' as Lou put it. I like the 'and' there. I work my way back through the crowd, meeting every one of them and saying hello. I'm not quite sure why. It's not like I'm inaccessible normally. I suppose I think that if one's signed up to go on a walk with particular writers, then at the end of it one should be able to say one's actually met them. Stu took a photo:

The expression on my face, if you can see it, is 'he's jumbled them all up, and now I've lost my place with the handshaking!' Oh, and you see the redhead behind Lauren, John and Lou? That's Syzygy.

Bill Willingham, after much fending off on my part, had invited me onto his Fairy Tales in the Comics panel, which was just the two of us and Kevin Maroney from the New York Review of Science Fiction. Bill laid down ground rules at the start: half an hour of us debating a list of points he had, then audience questions, because he'd been frustrated by some of the panels he'd seen, and I must say, having an actual agenda really made the thing satisfying. Plus, all three of us just wanted to explore the matter at hand. Mind you, it turned out I was there on false pretences, because Bill had thought that Pete Wisdom was literally Peter Pan.

That evening was the Hugo Awards ceremony, which has come to be the centre about which my year turns, in all sorts of ways. This year, I was honoured to be presenting two awards, both the Dramas: Long Form and Short Form. At the rehearsal, I was taken through the tech needs, and discovered that tech positively needs a long intro and some flouncing around on stage from those handing these things out, so I said I'd flounce all right. That's my excuse, anyway. I wrote my speeches in the Green Room, with research help from Bill and Lee, Mark and Lauren, after we'd got back from a lunch at which the waiter took so long to bring stuff that several of us had to leave without eating (this happened a couple of times in Montreal: 'there are... other people to be served...' he said with a Gallic shrug). The afternoon before the Hugos feels ennervated. It's like the whole convention takes a deep breath. There's programming scheduled opposite the actual ceremony, even, but nobody goes. I get the feeling it's so that if one of us chickens out and flees the auditorium before the winner is announced, they can go hide in a Hair Beading Workshop.

I went to put on my suit. I walked back in my suit. I found the reception, and all of us, my peers, wandering in, dressed up as much as we want to be, some of us in full evening wear, some of us too Professorly and renowned to do that (hello Geoff Ryman), some of us in suitably gonzo fannish alternatives to evening wear (hello Sue Mason and Cory Doctorow, who wore his wedding suit) and some of us in tank tops (hello Doselle, please don't kill me). Mary wears movie star dresses. Some prefer kilts.

The reception took place in a vast warehouse of a room, with such a huge echo that when the designer of this year's Hugo base showed it off, nobody outside of a few feet of him could hear what he was saying, which was a pity, becuase with its granite asteroid and maple leaf of fire under the rocket, this was a thing of beauty.

With more echoing, we were led into the auditorium, and put in the front row for ease of access. A young steward in a particularly visible hat was assigned to run, bent at the waist, and collect us two awards before the one we were reading out. I always enjoy the early part of the Hugos, when they give out the fan awards, like the Big Heart, that connect us by tradition to the start of the fan movement. It's like playing First Class Cricket: part of the pleasure is in knowing that you've entered a body of records that goes back along way, that you're treading where the saints have trod now, so you better damn well take this seriously, young pup. David Anthony Durham, who fell asleep one night as a literary author and woke up to find himself in SF, is a worthy recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and makes a fine speech about seeking this community out. I know exactly what he means, as I'm sure Bill Willingham does. We had to decide to come here. He's given the Campbell Tiara by Mary, the previous encumbent. On her it looks like something out of A Midsummer Night's Dream. On him it's more Classic Trek. He looks like he's about to take over the Enterprise.

When my turn comes I head backstage after the lad in the odd hat, and find myself under the bracing leadership of the Rev. Randy, who's a stern but fair stage manager. The Hugo organisation seems a good deal more together than the stewarding at the convention, although communication between the two organisations seems to be approaching nil. I walk out and, frankly, take a moment. Last time I did this I didn't know what it was. Because I've been asked to reproduce it, here's what I said for each category.

Long Form: 'A conflicted avenger confronts his own heroism. A conflicted Avenger confronts his own ego. A monster who's a person battles monsters. A robot who's a person battles people. And the cities of the future, as described by SF's modern greats. The nominations for this year's Long Form Drama Hugo, like all the best science fiction, confront us with questions of ethics, personhood, and the life of the world to come.'

Short Form: 'How much difference does it make if you turn your car right, or turn left? What happens if you lose the love of your life, before you've even met? How can you choose between the two things you most desire? How can you identify who's human, who's inhuman, and what the difference is between those conditions? Can love conquer time? The nominations for this year's Short Form Drama Hugo ask us to ask the hardest questions, questions being asked for the first time, in a determinedly science fictional way.'

Okay, a bit cheesy, but I didn't have long to write them. And a bit of cheese is good on top of an awards ceremony. I got hell from Niall Harrison for that 'first time' bit, because of course only prose SF can be any good.

After all the awards were given out, there was much glee and joy and milling about on stage, and I slipped off down the rather gothic underground passage between the Palais and the Delta (in which, illuminated by a shaft of light, there sits a single silver chair), in the company of Bean and Medge, old Aussie buddies of mine, to the Hugo Losers' Party (there isn't one for the winners anymore, because, you know, that one would be, though fun-packed, quite small), which, as always, was hosted by the guys who are running the next Worldcon, which is in Melbourne. I stayed for a couple, then sloped off to bar and then private party of Paolo Defendini's, where we met two charming Clarion writers, Megan Kurashige and Kathleen Howard, who gave me and Lou and John hope for the next generation. I wandered home that night with Geoff Ryman, to whom my six foot is like unto a midget, and who I would always choose as wise final company on such an enormous night.

All that remained on Monday was me and an incredibly erudite Norwegian economist (with nobody else showing up, thanks for that) talking at cross purposes about the future of the nation state; a meet up with loads of folk who'd asked to be in a small room with me, and were charming (even those who'd actually signed up to be in a small room with Stephen Segal); and an end of the convention pizza with Lou, John and Paolo Bacigalupi. And by that time I was fiercely dull and sloppy about the face. 'You're in civvies, I see,' someone said on the way over to that, when actually I was wearing all the same gear except my game face. I had a joyous sushi lunch with the Plokta team the next day, and wandered about old Montreal looking for comic shops and looking at churches, and finally fell into a taxi and slept.

And I've slept since, really. And in some ways, I'll stay asleep until Melbourne. Even if there's bureaucracy, and the dealers' room this time was a bit puny, and there are rows to be had, if you've never been to one of these, do yourself a favour and go. Like I say, it's concentrated experience, concentrated friendship, concentrated love, really.

That sofa looks nice now. I've done my wordcount for the day. I think I'll get my head down. Until next time, Cheerio.

Oh, but PS: a coda, like over the end credits of a sitcom. Lauren vs. the Angry Robot...

Worldcon Event by Event: One

So the only sane way to tackle this is chronologically. Either that, or you have to just post a quick overview. The thing about a Worldcon is that it's concentrated, largely relevant experience, a very fast stream of happenings coming at you, and relating to you, in a way which is the exact opposite of sitting at a keyboard and looking out of your window every day. I sometimes think of it as what my ideal for an afterlife would be. Yes, even with the bureaucracy and the fights on panels (you'd really need something to do in an afterlife). But I will try and cut to the chase for each particular event, or this'll be like one of those fanzine convention reviews from the old days which began with the author packing his suitcase and didn't get to the convention until after three pages of moaning about British Rail. So...

The first evening at a convention is always an interesting time. You don't know the city. You don't know where your hotel is in relation to anything. You have to venture out into the wild to find stuff and people, like this is a first person shooter, and dinner with Lou Anders gets you an energy bonus. Montreal was to turn into, like most of the places conventions take you, somewhere beloved by association, but on the first night it could be dangerous, it could be dull, it could be anything. Worldcon is the sort of extreme sports holiday where you find that stuff out really quickly. As it turned out, I was at a traffic crossing, and saw Jonathan Strahan and Farah Mendlesohn and loads of others coming the other way, and it was like that line in that Calvin Harris song about coming home. They were on their way to dinner, and told me where Lou was, and I went and had dinner with him and his first friends here, and got my energy bonus.

The first thing that hits you about the Palais De Congres is its sheer size. If you had a panel in one of the rooms around the 520s, you'd better set off from the Green Room sharpish. It's a bad area, the 520s, on the wrong side of the tracks, with hobos. Not like the rich uplands of 512 or the bustling urbanity of the 200s. It was rather like a convention was taking place inside, say, the hollowed out interior of Phobos. Which SF fandom is presumably going to do as soon as convenient. Us panel participants swiftly got into the swing of hanging out in the Green Room drinking too much coffee, comparing forthcoming panels, and putting small bits of cheese into a handful of bagels.

The first event I should mention was lunch with John Scalzi. He's someone who's work I really enjoy, and who I've recently had the pleasure of getting to know. (I read his Agent to the Stars in one sitting on the flight home, and excellent it was too.) There's something reassuring about him, like he should be a wise sort of private eye. But he's also the only man I've ever met who criticised my wallet. He said it was 'like Otzi the preserved iceman's wallet' and should contain poison darts and bits of dried mushroom. Or something similar. So I'm obviously conflicted about him. It was good to meet his wife Kristine for the first time, too.

The first thing I had to do was a reading, three authors together in the same hour, taking it in turns and sharing the podium, which seems a good way to maximise the audience and expose people to new things. (The high quality of the programme this time round was down to Farah Mendlesohn, who put it together.) I shared mine with Edd Vick, who read several of his snappy and very short stories, and Hayden Trenholm, who being a Canadian author brought a loyal audience, including Robert J. Sawyer, for his well-crafted future noir. I laughed at his hero actually commenting on reading one of Sawyer's novels: there's product placement for you. I read from 'One of Our Bastards is Missing' and it seemed to go down well.

Then I was on a panel which largely agreed that Fringe is interesting and will have a very exciting second season, a very warm and friendly panel about sexual relationships in modern and classic Doctor Who, which could be summed up as 'joke, double entendre, isn't it all just lovely?!' I've discovered that Who panels in mainstream SF fandom either go like that (and are packed) or are really cold and bitchy (and are packed). And then I faced off my team against Lee Harris' team in a grudge match game of Charades, which featured one of his successfully performing 'Syzygy', and henchforth becoming known by that name whenever she appeared over the weekend. She finally got a badge made. Hi if you're reading, Syz. Of course, as Lee and I both mentioned, the real master of this game is Lionel Blair...

That evening was the first one when most of our gang ended up in the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel, halfway between the venue and the official party hotel, the Delta. Said gang, as always, revolved around Lou, and featured John Picacio and Paolo Bacigalupi, and this time round Bill Fables Willingham (I'm still slightly freaked out that the writer of one of the world's best comics wants to buy me beer) and new star Lauren Beukes, the writer of Moxyland, who was adopted by both our Rat Pack and Marc Gascoigne's Angry Robot crowd (the rather lovely family he and Lee are building around their book imprint, from which we also hung out with Kaaron Warren, author of Slights). Lauren was the latest in a line of splendid new friends we meet at these dos, a South African with a fierce sense of humour, who tuned into the banter straight away, and was made to blush and made others blush in turn. What with Mary Robinette Kowal, Doselle Young, Jonathan Strahan (forever laughing at me about the cricket), Jessica Langer (three weeks before giving birth and pretending to drink pints), Laura Ann Gillman and Catherine Petrini, that really became the bar from that imagined afterlife of mine. Where I'd be every night, drinking with the best company, fellow chancers and creatives. And where, I couldn't, I presume, die of alcohol poisoning. (I made the decision to drink again for the duration of the convention, and didn't regret it in the slightest.)

(That photo by Megan Kurashige.) Friday began with me pounding on the door of the Filk Room, desperate to get inside. Something I've never done before, let me assure you. Only, you see, certain aspects of the programme weren't running as advertised, and I'd made an arrangement to pick up a guitar amp, and as, it turned out, bloody always at this particular convention, every single person I asked about it sent me to another person, over vast geographical distances, and nobody wanted to take on an iota more responsibility than they'd originally been assigned, and there seemed to be a vacuum of leadership at the NCO level. Farah, on the other hand, helped me break in to said room, leave a note in place of the amp, and get it to the room where I was due to make my Kate Bush presentation. The subject was Kate as fantasy author, illustrated by playing short passages from the songs, and I think I did okay, in front of a pleasingly large audience. I've been asked to repeat the show at Eastercon next year (with additions suggested by this audience) and I'll blog a written version here at some point.

Then I was on a panel about which genres get looked down on and why, and I confess I had my only row of the convention on it. I think I was feeling a bit fractious after the close run thing with the amp and the nerves of doing the Kate lecture, but that's no excuse. I'm not going to rehearse the matter here, because honestly it was all a bit dull, and went row, apology, entirely new row, and I think the audience got very tired of it. My apologies.

I signed some autographs that afternoon sitting beside the charming Francophone author Heloise Cote. That evening, I popped into the start of the Angry Robot party (the only one I managed to attend in the Delta, where queuing to get into lifts swiftly became the norm), then dashed across town to spend half an hour at the Wild Cards get together dinner hosted by George R. R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, where it was my pleasure to meet some of the other folk who are contributing to the next shared world novel, David Anthony Durham among them. George, who still seems to be sizing me up and waiting for me to prove myself (or maybe that's just how I feel around the greats of fantasy writing) tells me that Harry Lloyd, who played Son of Mine in 'Human Nature' is going to be Viserys Targaryen in the HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones. Which is great casting, but then, Harry can play anything.

Then I dash back to the Palais in time to host Just A Minute, in which David Clements (the host of Charades and thus responsible for 'Syzygy') beat off Ben Jeapes, Tom Galloway and Steve Green. And we had a flautist in the audience playing the 'Minute Waltz' for us, which is a first for me. Towards the early hours, I indulged in one of my favourite things: that is, I went on a slightly drunken wander in search of a bar that was still open, in the company of Laura and Catherine and chums. Laura's kind of hardcore, especially for a romance author. By which I mean to say you wouldn't be surprised to find that she carried a throwing knife in her boot. We kind of do the world weary cynical thing together, which is weird, because otherwise I'm really not. But she's great drunken wander company. As it turned out, I hopped in a taxi and ran after we went around in one circle too many. I'm told they did finally find a bar.

Phew, I'm sure there's stuff I've forgotten. Tomorrow: the Saturday onwards. Cheerio!

The Captain Britain Hugo Awards Thing

I'm back at my desk now, but still in recovery mode. Huge bloggage about Worldcon to come. But first, just a quick post about what happened with Captain Britain and MI-13 at the Hugo Awards.

(I'm indebted to the Plokta team, Scott Edelman and Neil Gaiman for all individually noticing this and telling people, by the way.) One great thing about the Hugos is that afterwards the participants are given out a sheet of data, showing all the votes and nominations, something that the Oscars do not do. (I can just see George Clooney peering at a piece of paper at a reception going 'Brad Pitt by just two votes, damn it!') This year, if you put together the nominations for Captain Britain and MI-13: Secret Invasion and just Captain Britain and MI-13... well, I'd have been on the voting ballot. (And there was also just one for Captain Britain and MI-13: 'The Guns of Avalon', which is the story collected in the trade paperback titled Secret Invasion.) That first story was the only one that qualified for the category, time-wise, so my point was that people voting for the strip by name were pretty much de facto voting for that.

Now, I queried this with the Hugo organisers by email, and they very swiftly got together, considered my case, and gave me an official response, which was that, considering some people nominated in error for Cap stories that weren't eligible, then there was no way of knowing that those who nominated just the title of the strip were in fact opting for the story in question. Girl Genius, the winner of the category, also had some nominations declined on the same basis.

I take their point, I think they've shown consistency, and I think this is as fair as they can be under the rules as they stand. They were also very quick to reply and polite. And I also think that it's important that people who contest awards they care about should show visible deference to the authorities involved, rather as a batsman who's declared to be out should submit to the decision of the umpire. So the matter's closed.

However, for the future, I do think this is going to happen again and again. Fans of ongoing comics tend to refer to them by their overall title. I'm a huge fan of Ed Brubaker's current Captain America, but while I could point you to single big event stories like 'The Death Of'(or is it called 'Fallen Son'?) I couldn't offhandedly pick story titles out of the current continuing excellence, not as easily as I could refer to the title of a favourite episode of a TV show. It gives those who put out their comics as single, easily identifiable volumes, a slight advantage that the Hugo organisers surely do not intend to be there. And what if, for example, I enjoy a particular ongoing SF newspaper strip? The title of the current story might have been announced in one panel six months ago.

Also, this will mean that I'll have to tout my wares come Hugo nomination time in rather an unseemly fashion, just to make it very clear to potential nominators the exact wording they have to use. It'll look a bit awful, frankly.

Finally, I think the Hugo team need a comic specialist to call on. They didn't know about the 'Guns of Avalon' thing, and thought perhaps another Secret Invasion title not by me might be something to do with this whole problem. (Which isn't to have a go at them at all: who knows such fine detail about a fandom not their own?)

As anyone who talked to me about this before we knew about the data would understand, I think there are problems with the category in general, which at the moment is the Hugo for the only comic SF fans have heard of. (No Scott Pilgrim, at a Canadian convention. No Umbrella Academy. No League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. No FreakAngels. No manga. A nomination for Joss Whedon's eighth best comic of the year because it's got Serenity on the cover.) All of which now sounds a bit Adam Roberts bitter, which is awkward. But this can all be fixed, as I think the Short Form Drama category has now made it through a choppy period (you know, awards shows and acceptance speeches being nominated) to represent the mainstream of what good SF drama is out there. This category can do that for comics. (By which I seriously don't mean 'it should have Cap in it'.) I'm glad it's still on the ballot.

And next year? It's Captain Britain and MI-13: Hell Comes to Birmingham and Captain Britain and MI-13: Vampire State. And you'd best get the spelling right, just to be on the safe side.

Dark X-Men: The Miniseries

I'm having a fantastic time at Worldcon in Montreal, preparing to present both drama category Hugo Awards this evening. We're in that pause as the convention draws in a breath ready for the ceremonies and parties of tonight, and everyone starts getting excited.

So I'm delighted to announce that, one country down, something has happened to distract me from my nerves: Marvel have announced, at Wizard World Chicago, that me and Leonard Kirk will be working together again, starting in November, on a miniseries featuring the Dark X-Men. I'm very excited about the project, and to be working with editor Nick Lowe and Leonard again. The band's got back together. Here's the cover for the first issue, with certain characters missing...

Now to get back to rehearsing my Hugo introductions. I'll have a full Worldcon report shortly, and will Twitter who wins! (Especially swiftly if Doctor Who makes it four in a row!) Until then, Cheerio!

Wooster at Worldcon

Or Jeeves and the Big Dumb Object.

'I've started to Twitter, Jeeves', said Bertie Wooster, gazing out over the slightly too French spectacle of Montreal from the rather too big window of his rather too high up hotel.

'It was, sir,' said Jeeves, 'only a matter of time.'

'Can't quite get the hang of one hundred and forty characters or less, and by the time you've added hash worldcon oh nine and anticipation SF to the thing you've so little room left you might as well pop round in person and crack open the sherry.'

'What are you twittering about, sir?' said Jeeves, with a stony look on his face that suggested he'd placed the emphasis exactly where he wanted to in that sentence but it had been a close run thing.

'Well, this Hugo Award thing I'm presenting. Semi Best Watchermacaulit. Great honour. Feel I should talk it up.'

'I have, sir,' said Jeeves, 'laid out your evening wear for the occasion, and have taken the liberty of writing a few notes that you might wish to puruse in the moments before stepping out on stage.'

Bertie peered at him suspiciously. Whenever he heard about Jeeves writing anything, he remembered the occasion when he'd had the fellows from Tor over, and while his own monograph Night of the Space Robots had somehow failed to materialise in any anthologies, Jeeves' half-hearted lunge at the same subject matter was now represented in many of the Year's Best collections. 'I shouldn't think I shall need cribs,' he said airily. 'I was chatting about this to that Father Christmas chap last night-'

'George R.R. Martin, sir.'

'That's the chap. Too many Rs. I said that to him too. As well as offering some very prescient critique on those books of his. Didn't drag the poor fellow through it, short and to the point.'

'What was your point, sir?'

'Just that a lot of time and trouble would have been saved if the giant eagles could have just taken the blinkin' ring to Sauron's abode in the first place. You could tell I'd touched a nerve. By the end of it he looked quite surprised. Anyhow, he said that Locust was going to win. I shall add that to the list for today's larks. Must find a copy.'

'I look forward to that, sir. Now, sir remembers that sir has a panel today?'

'Yes, something about reforming Worldcon.' Now this was more Bertie's subject. He was keen on the reform of almost everything, especially if doing said reforming involved say, light chatter over golf and entertainments in the evening with like-minded folk who got everything done and then wanted nothing more than to tell one about it. 'Did the rounds on that subject last night also, a Wooster is always prepared. Miss Morgan briefed me top to bottom. Basically: I'm all for it, as long as it doesn't involve young gels with the hots for him with the hair setting fire to things.'

'I believe I glimpse your meaning, sir.'

'It's all very well, letting the sex get involved in planning these Worldcon hoo hahs, and running the Science Fiction Writers of America, Jeeves, I discovered last night! I expressed me incredulity to the damsel on a number of occasions, popped back to check, but it seems she really does -'

'Indeed, sir.'

'- but what we don't need is a lot of them, a pile of them, an anime of them, as the Greeks would put it, cluttering up the corridors and stopping old chaps with beards down to their knees from hobbling over to 'Whither Elves' in Room C289. For that I will not stand.'

'I have taken the liberty of summarising sir's thoughts on that subject too, sir, on a piece of paper which I have similarly dared to slip into sir's cuff.'

Bertie, buoyed by the thought of breakfast, decided to indulge his man's aspirations for the moment. Best to let him think he was making a contribution. 'Top hole, Jeeves,' he said, 'top hole.'

With Great Power, from Montreal to Chicago

Right, first up, a really satisfying announcement. I have a short story in a superhero-themed short story anthology, edited by Lou Anders, coming out next year. It's called With Great Power, and as you can see from the list of authors -

I'm in really good company, with the best SF writers mingling with the best comics writers, and a number of folk who do both: Ian McDonald; Stephen Baxter; Mike Carey; Bill Willingham; Gail Simone! It's time for this anthology, I think, which seeks to be a serious collection of modern superhero prose, a bit of a first, I think. And I'm also very proud of my own story, 'Secret Identity', about the masked magical hero of Canal Street in Manchester.

I finished the novel. Phew. That is, I finished the first draft of it. I'd said to myself that I'd get it done by the end of July, last Friday. But then my Agent told me he was off for the weekend at 1pm on that day, so my working week became something like the end of a romantic comedy, as I mentally 'rushed to the airport' to get it in. And I did! At 12.55pm! 'Don't rush it,' he said, 'you could just send it to me on Monday.' But I think deadlines are important as a motivational tool. And I didn't rush it. And I'm still happy with it three days later, which is almost unique in my experience. And during that I also finished two comics, and... so I'm tired now. So very, very tired.

So it's perhaps for the best that I'm off to Worldcon in Montreal on Wednesday. Then back for a week, then off on holiday, completely out of contact, doing no work, just walking through a lot of forests and possibly falling asleep every now and then. Yes, even in daytime. I'm hugely looking forward to Montreal. Many old friends, great conversation, that sense of being part of a continuing tradition. I have all my dinners sorted (including a night out with my Wild Cards comrades), and I'm looking forward to a juicy list of panels. Only one of them looks like a fight in waiting (the one about whether genre TV promotes 'dangerous old-fashioned ideas', while of course SF prose is the most liberal genre, and who's judging all this anyway?) But even that will probably turn out to be populated by nice people. The highlight for me is my presentation on Kate Bush as a fantasy author. Researching it has meant going back into Kate's canon, especially reading lyrics, and it's given me yet another new appreciation of her. (I'll post some version of it here after I get back.) And of course, I get to present a Hugo Award, bilingually this time. I did wonder if it would be funny to go 'and the nominations are... ma grandmere est dans le fenetre avec le singe...' like I'd been given a rubbish translation, but I suspect that might not go down so well on the night. And I'm hosting Just A Minute again! (And, it turns out, at FenCon. It's becoming something I do.) I intend to blog and tweet about the convention as much as possible, but I suspect there will also be times when I'm just enjoying being in a dinner jacket with the Anders/Roberson/Picacio's rat pack.

Would anyone like to buy a flat? Gorgeous small town Oxfordshire lifestyle attached. Relaxing churchyard view. The best friends anyone could have. An incredible music scene for a town so small. And we're leaving all of it behind shortly. Apart from Caroline popping back every week (and me with her) to rehearse with Boogie Me, the rhythm and blues orchestra she plays with. It was our last Fifteen Minute Club (our town's regular talent night at the Crown coaching inn) last night. I read from the novel. Caroline played bass and sang as part of the duo Both Feet Forward. The pub was packed to the rafters, and a great many of the local bands and singers who've made this place what it is performed excellently, energised by the crowd. I'm really going to miss that.

I'm told there's going to be an exciting comics announcement concerning me at this weekend's Wizard World convention in Chicago. Obviously, I'll be blogging that when it happens.

And there's a new interview, concerning the end of Captain Britain and other current comics projects, here:

If you're going to be in Montreal, do say hello. Until then, Cheerio!