The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Twelve. New Year's Resolutions.

Thanks for all your hard work across the 12 Blogs, Laurie Pink. Please go and visit her Flickr site here where there are more Paul and Mike cartoons to be had. And a picture of a newt on a chair.

I think we have a definitive ruling on the issue that's been taking up a lot of our time since yesterday: David Howe says that, according to the scripts and contemporary documentation, it's spelled 'Varga'. I love how that got as far as Gallifrey Base, like it might be a spoiler for the next season of Doctor Who. I doubt Brian would have raised it if it was.

And there's a resolution to another of the stories mentioned during our time together this Christmas: Anne K.G. Murphy and Brian Gray won the Transatlantic Fan Fund, and will be coming to Eastercon in 2010! Thanks to anyone who voted for them.

And we have another Christmas straggler reporting in!

Gail Simone: 'For this holiday, we decided to take off to Iceland, a part of the world we've never been to before. It does sound a bit nippy and brisk, and there's only four hours of daylight this time of year, and viking cuisine seems to primarily be fermented testicles in poison-flavored aspic, and I'm told that every once in a while someone dies a few feet from safety in whiteout conditions, but other than that, I'm sure it's lovely. More seriously, we plan on riding horses over the lava fields, visiting the Blue Lagoon, seeing all the museums and just generally enjoying the land Bjork called home. If I get frostbite of the brain, I'm having Paul write all my Secret Six issues in the coming year, mainly because I think it'd be hilarious to give Bane a British accent.'

Hmm, frostbite on the brain, eh? That's all it would take... 'Scandal Savage would enjoy Yorkshire Pudding. Fewer calories than might imagine.' Seriously, Gail, any time! Thanks to Gail, and to all those who were kind enough to share their Christmas and Millennium thoughts with us.

And if you're doing some Christmas Eve comic shopping (well, you might be!) please do bear in mind that the Dark Reign: Young Avengers collection by me and Mark Brooks is in your comic shops today on both sides of the Atlantic.

I wasn't quite sure what to say today. I'm pretty much exhausted, to be honest. In a lot of ways, I think that's why I do the 12 Blogs. There's part of me that's kind of a workaholic ('I'm Batman,' I once whispered to my rather startled wife). He isn't truly comfortable unless he's fending off the terrible things that might happen in the future by doing something about them, right now. That's also why I'm often up so early. (You should see my dreams: right on the nose, with no Freudian masking at all, rehearsals of worst case scenarios. Last night I was being refused entry to a convention!) So towards Christmas, when things are going to be really busy anyway, I crank it up a notch, and thus can feel honest and relieved during the days of lying around eating stilton that follow. (I probably should do something useful, instead of merely striving to entertain. Next year I'll try to explore that.) I think any freelancers reading this might recognise this condition.

This year's been an extreme rollercoaster of the above, most of which you didn't hear about and probably never will. A couple of huge things looked like they were going to happen, and then went away. Both may well hove into view again, this being showbiz. One of the losses was my own damn fault for not being good enough, one was just the weather. My response to that first loss was, after a lot of self-directed anger and falling into rivers and cutting holidays short because I was too stressed to enjoy them, a tremendous focus. I finished two novels, one being the new one, the other a drastic edit of the book I once thought I'd have to abandon. I held onto the back of a bucking TV pilot, and now have something in the can, with my name on it, that I'm incredibly proud of. (You may or may not hear about it, depending on whether it goes to series.) I kept being offered exciting stuff in comics. I worked on my craft. I punched and punched and punched and didn't honestly look up from that until now. And all the time I'd come here and blog in that bantery tone of voice I do. I was generally a happy drunk at conventions as well, apart from one or two moments when I really wasn't. I think, judging by where I am at the end of the year, that long stretch of furious action paid off. But here's one New Year's resolution: I hope I can manage next year a lot more calmly.

One thing I did find this year was tremendous comfort in the bosom of the audience. No, I mean as a group. (Honestly, your minds.) It's that feeling I got when I went on Twitter the other day and answered every question, when I got on stage at Worldcon and FenCon, and looked out at the sheer number of people. I was more comfortable up there than at almost any other time in my life. (At Lord's watching cricket: that's the most comfortable.) I could have set up a little tent and lived on those stages. I think interacting with crowds like that made me feel so much better because it reassured me that I could still do, at least in its most basic form, my job: communicating with people.

A few years back, I made three New Year's resolutions: to have published at least one issue of an American comic book; to get another novel out; and to have a TV show produced upon which I had a creator credit. The first one has already happened, and I hope that maybe next year will see the other two. I've sold my house, my wife is free to pursue her calling. I have loads to be happy about. The disappointments of this year are actually tiny in context, even kind of selfish. 'What's he got to moan about?' you may well ask, and you'd be right. But I'm sure Arthur Miller sometimes woke up beside Marilyn Monroe, looked across at his awards, and thought: 'Bloody Shakespeare.'

Something I touched on above has become an issue for me lately. I've sometimes taken care, writing on this blog, to be non-controversial. I think I was afraid I'd alienate a part of the audience. This coming year, I'm going to try and be a bit more open. I think many of you might like to hear an actual opinion, and that all of you are grown-ups who don't necessarily have to agree with me in order to stick around. It's not that I have a particular political axe to grind: my problem generally is that I'm stuck halfway between most sets of opinions, with personal beliefs from the left, right and middle, and so always seem to end up with a gang of folk who are horrified that one of their own might think that! While they might have been entirely comfortable had I been one of the other lot. Now you guys are going to hear all about it. That's my second resolution. You lucky people!

Some, hopefully not much of, the above may involve a certain amount of theism. I still don't like to talk about religion openly. I like to think it's because I don't want to bore people or convert them. But actually it's because I'm afraid I'll look like a weirdo. But you know: I am a weirdo. I think a lot of Anglicans might enjoy saying that out loud. We're not the norm any more, we're not in charge, and we should stop being the last people in the country who insist that they're completely sane. I think that's actually more honest and attractive to people, that theists are weird folk who do weird things, and not, you know, clean cut lads and lasses who like a game of footie when they're not busy oppressing gay people. (You're going to be bored next year by my yelling about equal marriage rights too. I want gay priests working for gay bishops marrying gay people in churches.) Oh dear. I've started already.

Over the years, I've been offhand, cruel and dismissive to my friends, and those who might be my friends, far too often. I spent my teens and twenties doing that as a career. Even with this year's focus (did I really say 'punching'?) I've started to much more seriously appreciate the brilliance of other people. Since moving to this town I've had the honour of making loads of friends who have nothing to do with the media worlds I move in. Soon, as well as keeping that lot, I'll have to start again in a new town. There are still some situations where I'm socially awkward. (Bloody read-throughs for one thing. I love hearing a script read by actors, but I get so conscious of all the power structures in the room that I can barely speak for twitching.) But that's getting better. In this regard, I may be rather more normal than I thought I was. I actually have to make an effort, every now and then, when I'm down the pub, to remember to hold on to a bit of geek outsiderness. That change has been so valuable to me. So my final resolution is this: to take care to be kinder to my friends, and not repeat the occasional cruelties of even the most recent times.

Phew, that all got a bit serious, didn't it? I'd originally wanted to talk about what I hoped for from the world in the next decade, but in the end I suppose I could only speak for me. (And, having anticipated, in the forward to one the X-Files guides I contributed to, that the 2000s would be a 'party decade', I rather doubt I have a gift for prophecy.) Finally, I want to say something about my central belief system. By which I mean Doctor Who. It's always a wonderful moment, especially for the children watching, when a Doctor regenerates. This time it's going to be enormous, as perhaps the UK's leading TV star vanishes to be replaced by... the UK's next leading TV star. The appeal for me, and I'm sure for many of you, is that feeling of mythology. That archetypes are being tweaked here. Through heroic sacrifice, the old man dies and the new man is born, with the new decade. I'm sure the timing there isn't just down to the TV schedules. I look forward to the romance of that change, and the huge public reaction, and the fans who loudly mourn for their departed gallant... only to be swiftly charmed by someone new, doing what seemed like it could only be done one way, in another way. It all always happens. It's all always a surprise. It's great. And it speaks to me of old and deep things, and it suits the turn of winter. And can I just say, Russell, you were brilliant. Sincerely. Thank you so much. And Steven: go get 'em, mate.

Until New Year's Day then, thanks for being such a lovely audience for the 12 Blogs, have a great Christmas, and I'll leave the last word to another master storyteller, as Stan Lee reads 'The Night Before Christmas'!


The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Eleven. Millennium Eve.

First up, esteemed Doctor Who script editor Brian Minchin, needs your help, should you be of a particularly fannish bent. He needs to know, and I doubt we need read anything about the new season into this, the correct spelling of... those alien plants that begin with V, that pop up in 'The Dalek Masterplan', or whatever that serial is called now. You know. It should be obvious, but it's not. All suggestions gratefully received, and hopefully we can get some sort of consensus sorted out.

Matthew Badham has an interview with me up at Down the Tubes. It was done quite a while back now, but goes into some detail about the process behind Captain Britain and MI-13. You can take a look here.

The podcast of the second half of the panel I did with various other comic creators at Sci-Fi London is here.

And my big news this morning is that Marvel have announced that Leonard Kirk and I are teamed yet again, this time on a back-up strip in Avengers Vs. Atlas #3, coming out in March. It's Venus answering her mailbag concerning various super heroes' romantic troubles. And it lets Leonard draw the Agents of Atlas again.

Now, the idea for this particular blog entry... well, let's let Laurie Pink do the honours...

It came from an email that SFX Magazine writer Nick Setchfield sent to me, remembering what we were doing nearly a decade ago, on December 31st, 1999. Here's what he said:

'I wasn't entirely sure that it was going to be extraordinary until the last couple of minutes - we had been mazing our way through drizzly suburbia, and extraordinariness seemed a long way away. I was resigned to remembering the turn of the century as a bleakly amusing sit-com moment, preparing to dine out on the sweetly British anticlimax of it all. I was mumbling a litany of the 20th Century, from Marilyn to penicillin, the Wright Brothers to Apollo, Sinatra to the four minute mile, but it felt as though I was taking the piss, too keen to make something momentous out of the seeming mediocrity of it all. As a kid I'd always wondered where I'd be tonight and I was beginning to feel cheated.

And then we saw the hill, somehow hidden away in the streets. And suddenly, with the century flatlining around us, a magic kicked in. There were silhouetted figures in the distance, bundled up against the dark and the cold, and it felt like the apocalypse with woolly gloves and cocoa. A very Radio 2 kind of apocalypse.

I scrambled up the hill, Mark calling "Come and join us" as if he was some emissary of the saucer people. Yeah, anything's possible now, I thought.

The view was incredible - Bath was a fabulous array of cosy lights, warm windows, bright homes, firefly streetlights hazing in the damp night. Great drifts of mist swept past us as I choked my flu-wracked guts up, my head still buzzing with Vodka. Tom scared the dogs on the hill. Shit. The end of the century. It's something special after all.

Someone had a radio on, and as the millennia did the baton relay, they muttered "Bloody hell - where are the chimes? Why aren't they playing the chimes?" I didn't care. I had Big Ben in my spluttery soul. It was a new millennium. I could only imagine it as a new century for the moment, but that was cool enough.

We swigged champagne from plastic cups, Mark pledging to down champers every day of his life from now on. Viv gave me my first kiss of the next thousand years and I discovered that the torch I'd borrowed from Dave was powerful enough for Bat-signal fun in the sky. Fireworks erupted across the horizon, gunpowder blossoms in the rain. All my cynicism had been coughed up, or sneezed away in the tattered loo roll I'd swiped from Steve's and Viv's, the same loo roll that was drifting like albino confetti from my pockets. This was good.

Paul and I discovered a dark pagan bush that we could have sworn wasn't there in the previous century. Perhaps reality was pulling off wonderfully subtle sleights of hand all around us, in the same way that mass consciousness was laughing at the pedants and saying "No, the new millennium begins here and now..." and making it real.

We left the hill, Paul bravely yet insanely bombing away over the treacherous mudslide of the field, laughing at the laws of physics as his coat tails reached for flight before gravity grabbed him back to the streets. It was Steve who fell over, mere feet from the gate and the reassuring world of concrete and tarmac beyond. And at the sight of my chum's mud-slicked arse and elbows I pissed myself for the first time this millennium.'

And that made me think of asking a bunch of other people, again, from the three worlds I move in, SF, Doctor Who and Comics, how they spent that night. Because it's been an extraordinary, and traumatic, ten years, and it seems to have flown past. Let's start with the Who folk:

Russell T. Davies: 'December 31 1999 - and doesn't that sound like a million years ago? - I had a stinking cold. My ears and head were stuffed full, like I was trapped inside a sleeping bag. So we went to my old mate Alex's for dinner, visited the neighbours at midnight, fireworks went off in the rain... and all I wanted to do was go home. Then I did. And that was it! December 31 2009, I'll be in Manchester, with my old fella and two mates I've known since school, Tracy and Bobby. We'll play cards all night, which we've done for the past 7 or 8 New Years. We play a card game called Beanie, which has evolved rules so strange and obscure that we're like those twins who grew up in a cupboard and invented their own language. Last year's game had to be abandoned at Level Ten, because everyone was so drunk. I've never forgiven them. This year, it's Beanie: The Revenge. I am so going to win. Ha ha, I'm so looking forward to that now!'

Steven Moffat: 'Ha! And I REMEMBER!! And there's a PHOTOGRAPH! Well, somewhere. Sue and I went to Rowan Atkinson's Millennium party, 'cos that was the year we did Curse Of Fatal Death. And he'd styled the whole party after Doctor Who! You entered the big tent though a Police Box! And I got Sue to photograph me leaning out of the TARDIS - looking, it must be said, a bit pissed. Ahh, how the fates were gathering...'

Noel Clarke: 'Ten years ago on new years I was fresh off my first acting job and hanging out with my buddy Geoff, walking the streets of London as best we could in the crowds. It was a bit of an anticlimax as he was single and the girl I was with was laying in bed sick with the flu. We watched fireworks then grabbed our then traditional Burger King which was always the first meal we ate for the New Year, and trudged home.'

James Moran: 'Ten years ago, I was celebrating my first Christmas together with Jodie, who had just moved in with me. I was considering giving up writing, because I felt like I was fooling myself, just a talentless loser who would never achieve anything. My writing was bringing me nothing but rejection letters, and I worked full time in a depressing, soul destroying company. But I was in love (still am), happy, and optimistic about what the new Millennium might bring. Jodie convinced me to keep sending my work out, and so I did. I had no idea what was in store for me... Whatever happens, whatever you do, NEVER give up, and ALWAYS put your talents to good use. You're amazing, every single one of you, and you all bring something special to the world.'

Murray Gold: 'Good lord. I was on Primrose Hill I think. With my then girlfriend- the ex-future Mrs Gold. I was watching the lights in London to see if the Millennium bug would turn them all off and throw us into medieval turmoil. Ah yes, the Millennium bug. Was mentioned in Nostradamus don't you know. Of course we'd never fall for a cataclysmic prediction like that again, would we? This year, I'll be in New York with my Mum and Dad, some friends, and, quite possibly, the next ex-future Mrs Gold. Happy days. :)'

Gary Russell: 'My Millennium Eve was spent on a very cold but cheerful Devonshire beach, watching fireworks with friends and giving my boyfriend of the time a lovely big public snog (as someone not fond of PDAs, (I think that's 'Public Displays of Affection'-Ed.) I don't
think he was too happy but at the same time, snogged me back - awww, bless!) So it was very romantic and I can truly say I kissed someone as fireworks exploded overhead. We'd made an easy decision *not* to do anything in our hometown of Londinium - I could only imagine wincing in shame if the Thames fireworks had gone tits up and anyway, I preferred being out of the city. New Year's Eve is my fav 'festival' (I'm an avowed Christmas loather) so I always try to do nice things then. Millennium aside, this was one of my fav NYEs ever. And no planes dropped out of the sky, despite what the Millennium Bug leaflets warned us about, so that was a bit of a bonus! PS: And Vaaga Plant, Varga the Ice Warrior, I reckon.'

Lindsey Alford: 'Millennium was spent on Stanage Edge with my sister and friends, watching the fireworks over Sheffield. I think there was some vodka involved too. And a woolly hat. Ten years! Was that really ten years ago!?'

Brian Minchin: 'I shall be with Lindsey Alford in Berlin on New Year's Eve, arguing over the correct spelling of 'Varga plant'. Any help much appreciated. Or alternatively, I shall be meeting a deadline for my Doctor Who novel while Lindsey necks Gluwein in the square below.

Lindsey Alford: '...and I shall be in a techno club with several topless German blokes, and a glow stick, while Brian meets his novel deadline.'

Simon Guerrier: 'Ten years ago I went to the Fitzroy Tavern for Christmas drinks with some other Doctor Who chums - including you, I think. It was a good boozy night and we discovered that I didn't live all that far from some friends. They invited me there and then to a dinner they were having in the first week of the new year, at which I was promised Pretty Girls. And that worked out rather well - I met some of my best friends at the party. And also the Pretty Girl who's now my wife. She doesn't like me to mention that this is all down to Doctor Who.' (That's not Millennium Eve, though, is it?-Ed.) 'It's sort of the Millennium. And it's 'Varga'. I think.'

Louis Trapani: 'On Millennium Eve, I with my brother watched the celebrations across the world as each time zone welcomed the new Millennium. We had just lost our father earlier that year and felt it was the dawn of a new day, a new age, offering new hope. Having lost my brother since, that memory will always be with me. This year, I will be spending the holidays with family, taking nothing for granted.'

And here's one visitor from telefantasy that's not Doctor Who, the showrunner of Robin Hood, no less...

Dominic Minghella: 'Following my brother Anthony's death I have been digging out old video footage, and came across something special I didn't know I had caught on film. (No, nothing like THAT.) It is a moment on Millennium Eve in which my daughter Louisa took her first steps. We just happened to have the camera running. Now, I watch the film with her and she is nearly eleven, improbably tall, impossibly beautiful. Still a bit wobbly on her feet, mind. This year we'll be in our house in Italy. It is very low-key and the perfect antidote to London. There is no commercial nonsense in the Umbrian countryside. But they do like their fireworks. At Capo d'Anno (New Year) the whole valley lights up and it is magical.'

Thanks, everyone. Next, let's check it with the folk from the world of science fiction...

Geoff Ryman: 'I spent the Millenium in the best house in London. Christopher Wren lived there, it's next door to the Globe, it looks directly across the river at St Pauls, it's on many many floors and has two different roof gardens at two different levels, one looking out directly over the Thames. The just-inside-the-front-door room has the original wood panelling on floors, walls, ceiling.

My Dad had died in 1998 and my Mom was rebuilding her life. She came over for the Millenium celebrations. We ducked under the house's low wooden beams, had some liquid cheer, and Mom bonded with my host's mother, long long chats. About 10 minutes to midnight we all climbed up the metal staircase to the river-facing platform, and the fireworks started.

Fireworks are like ice cream or sex. You sort of remember them, sort of don't. I believe these were pretty darn good, great flowers of light. But they'd said it would be a river of fire, something clever on the surface that would ignite or something silly. And it never happened. And so, curiously, a sense of disappointment.

Partner, me and Mom stayed way late, and thought we'd go out and get a taxi. There was no Millenium bridge across to St Pauls then. We were on the wrong side of the river. We walked to I think Southwark tube, to find an American-sized wheatfield of people all in rows waiting outside. So we walked. It was freezing, my Mom is Californian and she was in her 80s. I have never seen so many glass bottles underfoot in my life. All of London had been drinking a toast all along the river. Clink clank rattle smash, stale booze smells everywhere esp on shoes, good shoes, which were getting scratched by broken glass. The crunching sound was a bit like walking on Canadian crunchy snow.

Singing groups of other otherwise professional looking folk marching in tipsy unison, drunken juveniles heaving in corners, ebullient groups of nurses weaving unsteadily in amorphous groups, kids still skateboarding under the Queen Elizabeth Hall ... and closed footbridges. To our dismay, bridge after bridge was closed. So having been East we had to walk way further West than we needed or wanted to. It was fun seeing London -- and its people --- all lit up. But that was the longest 3.00 am walk I've done in ages. Mom was a trooper, very proud of herself for staying the distance. We stumbled in about 4.00, frozen but entirely sober by then. So one benefit. No Millenium hangover.

Mom is still with us, though she no longer travels these days. My partner had a series of bad luck accidents including two cases of deep vein thrombosis and two hip replacements and he could now no longer walk that distance either. Air had not come out, the Cambodia novel was still in research phase, I was working full time in the Cabinet Office on internet issues. I was still going regularly to Paris and hoping to go to Brasil... it really was ten years ago. My current students were children. The Labour Government was popular. It was yesterday.'

Lois McMaster Bujold: 'Since I have reached the age where I pretty much don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, I have to mentally reconstruct Christmas 1999 by deduction. My son would have been suffering his last year of high school, and my daughter would have still been living in town, so we doubtless had dinner here. In which case we had garlic mashed potatoes, in which case the disposal choked and backed up the sink drain with the peelings. (The best solution, after many other high- and -low tech experiments: a plunger.) At any rate, that’s a strong statistical likelihood.

Better documented is what I was working on: my computer file records reveal that I started Chapter 26 of The Curse of Chalion on December 21, 1999. (And Chapter 27 on 12/29.) It likely still had its working title, or rather, file label, of Cazaril in Castile at the time, as the final title was scraped up later, at submission.

I do remember watching some of the Millennium New Year’s around-the-world celebrations on the TV. The world almost managed to make a clean sweep of no war fighting anywhere for one golden day, and I was sorry it just missed. Try again next Millennium, I guess.

Happy Holidays to all!'

Jon Courtenay Grimwood: 'Ten years ago I was, 1) thinking of moving out of London, 2) making up a long-standing quarrel with my family, 3) desperately scrabbling to finish writing a novel while, 4) eating too many mince pies and drinking too much alcohol. This year I'm, 1) wondering whether to move back to London, 2) missing my kid who's moved to the Far East, 3) desperately scrabbling to finish a novel while, 4) drinking too much alcohol and eating too many mince pies... There's probably a logic in there somewhere!'

Sean Williams: 'I can't remember exactly what I was doing on Faux-Millennium Eve, but that may have been the year I spent camping with some mates in the Adelaide Hills, being nerdy and *not* taking drugs while everyone else raved on. Maybe that's why I can't remember. This year Amanda and I have managed to shunt our families to the Eve and Boxing Day, so (after a small amount of work in the morning, as always) we'll have a picnic with the kids and then go for a swim at the beach. Then we'll have some friends over for laid-back drinks in the evening. If we can
pull that off, it might be the best Christmas ever.'

Patrick Nielsen Hayden: 'On New Year's Eve 1999-2000, we saw the calendar turn over at a party at Eleanor Lang's apartment in Battery Park City...then wandered out into the New York City night with our old friend Jon Singer. Lower Manhattan was bubbling with good cheer as we walked between the towers of the World Trade Center and down into Wall Street. Twenty-two months and two world-altering catastrophes later, we walked almost the same path with Jon, again at night, sulfur area lights cutting through the wreckage's haze. The two walks are inextricably linked in memory. May the coming ten years be a better decade.'

Marc Gascoigne: 'Millennium Eve ten years ago: in the time it took the bells to chime from one to twelve... I got hit on the head by the spent case of a massive firework; I proposed to Maggie with the immortally romantic line "So, are we getting married this year or what?"; and I magicked up a bottle of champagne I had somehow managed to hide in my coat all evening. Damn, wish I was that good these days.'

Lee Harris: 'Ten years ago, we were free, my wife and I. I remember us walking through York city centre earlyish on New Year's Eve, wondering where to go, and finally settling on a decent little pub near the river. I don't remember much of the evening, as the beer flowed quite freely, though I do remember winning a bottle of champagne for being able to work out the sum of all the numbers on a dartboard quicker than everyone else in the pub. I seem to recall the bottle didn't even make it as far as the pub door. Good times... This year we'll be staying in, as we have for the last 5 or 6 years. Having young children does that. We've lost the freedom to go out when we want, to watch Christmas TV as it's broadcast, and to partake of too much wine, but you know... what we've gained in return is worth so much more. So yes, we'll be staying home - and we couldn't be happier about it.'

John Picacio: 'There's a difference doing what you like and doing what you love. Ten years ago, all I wanted for Christmas was a fulltime career as a professional illustrator. I was working fulltime in a residential architecture office, and making decent money. I liked architecture, but I loved sf/f/h and I loved illustration. When I would leave the architecture office, I would go home and obsess over everything illustration -- drawing, studying other artists, building a portfolio, haunting bookstores, studying book spines and indicia pages for potential clients, drawing some more, etc. It was all I wanted.

"Apocalypse" was spelled "Y2K" back then. It was all the rage in publishing, wasn't it? I didn't have much of an illustration career at that point, but what assignments I did have were Y2K-centric. I'd just finished a Y2K illustration for The San Antonio Current and I'd recently seen one of my first major book covers hit the store shelves -Millennium Rising by Jane Jensen (Del Rey) - a book about the coming of, yup, the Apocalypse.

At that time, I didn't have many friends who pursued what I did. I was flying periodically to New York City, knocking on publishers' doors, and mostly receiving polite rejections. It would be another year or so before I meet core friends like Lou Anders, Chris Roberson, and Alan Beatts who would be some of the most inspiring and best friends I'd ever meet, and even longer before I cross paths with another great friend, Paul Cornell. (Ahem -Ed.) All I wanted for Christmas '99 was to "break in" as a professional illustrator and be a fulltime art pro. If that guy back then saw what I'm doing today, he would be dumbstruck with joy. Today, I still feel like I'm breaking in. Every cover job feels like a new proving ground. Every cover job feels like it could be a new beginning. All I want for Christmas '09 is to get better at what I do. I'm eternally grateful for my friends, and for what I have. May everyone's holiday be as fulfilling. Happy Holidays, and a better 2010 to Paul, Caroline, and everyone out there.'

David Bradley: 'The countdown to 2000 threatened to be a spectacular blowout, a party by which all subsequent parties would be measured... but in the end I spent it playing Trivial Pursuit with elderly in-laws in a tranquil part of Wales. Thinking back, that left me with a greater sense of satisfaction and fonder memories than many of my contemporaries, who paid a fortune for beers they'd thrown up even before the London fireworks went off. This year's Christmas and New Year period promises to be similarly slipper-clad, with my two Grandmothers heading our way. I understand they're looking forward to tuning into Doctor Who, which is just as well since I'd have felt bad turfing them out into the snow for an hour.'

Thanks, everyone. Now let's turn to some folk from the world of Comics...

Bryan Hitch: 'Ten years ago I was trying to tell the millions of mistaken revelers that the real Millennium started twelve months later than they think it did since there was no year zero. I celebrated a solitary and standard New Year with an excellent and hideously expensive bottle of wine and, twelve months later the best Millennium party a lone reveler could manage with one firework, a ballon and two party poppers.'

Mike Carey: 'On Millennium eve, I was staggering drunk through the streets of Worcester Park, carrying in my hands - for reasons that never did become entirely clear - the wing mirror of my car. Maybe I was trying to build a home-made heliograph to signal Happy New Year to people in Cheam.'

Mark Waid: 'This depends on how you're defining "Millennium Eve." If by "the rollover to the year 2000," I can honestly say I was having the time of my life. I was living in New York at the time, and I'd some months before foolishly, stupidly, probably drunkenly promised the lovely young woman I was living with that we'd be in Times Square for that particular New Year's Eve, as was her fondest desire. No, I can't tell you why I ever, ever, ever thought that was a good idea. But I can tell you that as I visited my favorite comics shop in town, Midtown Comics on 40th and 7th a few days before Christmas, it suddenly occurred to me that YOU COULD SEE TIMES SQUARE FROM ITS ROOF. So I rented the whole store for the night of December 31 and we celebrated there, the whole vista before us. I invited a few friends, including Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor, and we got to partake of all the noise and energy and revelry of New Year's in Times Square from two blocks away, with access to bathrooms, food, and full mobility. It was an amazing night and augured a very successful, very tumultuous decade. If, on the other hand, you define "Millennium Eve" more rightfully as the shift from 2000 to 2001--as all educated people do--then I was in Clearwater, Florida, a freshly signed CrossGen editorial contract in one hand and, in the other, a bottle of vodka that couldn't even begin to erase a tenth of the regret already brought by that signature. But the first one's a better story.'

Dan Abnett: 'Ten years ago, I was spending my last festive season in a very large, very old, very haunted house as part of an extended, bohemian collective of housemates. The New Year would see me buy my own very old, much smaller, but still very haunted house to live in with my wife and daughters. A pivotal moment. Oh, and ten years ago I’d just published my first novel. In late 2009, I published my thirty-sixth. I think I deserve a sit down and a mince pie.'

Matt 'D'Israeli' Brooker: 'Ten years ago I spent the new year at my one and only country-house party, outside Oxford. We played "Sardines" and everything.'

Kieron Gillen: 'I was in Bath. We didn't book a party, myself and the two people I combined to create Kid-with-Knife in Phonogram wandered the streets with Vodka, looking for adventures. In Bath on New Years, there's usually a little bit of street elements, culminating in the gathering in front of the Abbey - where Egbert, one of those abstract-first-kings-of-England-sort-of-guys was crowned.

This year, the streets were dead. We seemed the only people wandering around, because everyone else was staying at whatever party they had threw serious cash for. So we had the atmospheric spa town to ourselves.

I ended up at the Abbey, but the moment I remember is after the main-half-of-Kid-with-knife had gone home after vomiting messily all over some piece of beautiful architecture, and other-half-of-Kwk and I stood on the Weir bridge and told each other secrets.

That's the bridge where the ghostly Beth appears in Phonogram: Rue Britannia, by the way.'

Tony Lee: 'It was a simple request; Paul asked me to write a few sentences for my 'twelve blogs of Christmas', something involving my plans for this coming Festive season yet also involving the Millenium Eve Christmas of ten years ago. But I don't think he realised when he asked just how connected the two of these are for me...

As I write this, I'm sitting beside the Red Sea in Egypt, on a well earned holiday. It's my second visit to Egypt; my first, you've guessed it was booked, Christmas, ten years ago.

Christmas Eve 1999 was a time of change. I was living in London, but was seeing a girl named Tanya in Birmingham. The relationship was going strong, it was our first Christmas together and I was planning to move up there, move in with her the following spring. Every Christmas Eve she (and her housemates) would have a party and on this particular year, in the early hours of the following day I returned home to spend Christmas Day with my parents. It was the end of an era, the last time I would do this, for the next Christmas I was indeed living in Birmingham and, even after Tanya and I broke up (deciding that we were better as bestest mates), I stayed living in Birmingham in a shared house with another friend, Craig, still spending every Christmas Eve at the traditional party and then Christmas Day at Tanya's with a growing collection of friends who also had nothing to do on the day itself.

During that time, that decade spent in the Midlands, my mother passed away. And from that point, no matter what happened, Christmas in the Lee household was never going to be the same again.

But the question was to discuss ten years ago as well as this coming Christmas, and once more I'm at a time of change. In 1999 I was looking to move from London to Birmingham and ten years later, (only five months ago in fact) I moved back to London from the Midlands, moving in with my beautiful fiancée Tracy. This Christmas Day will be our second together but the first spent with each other - and the first in a decade that I don't spend in Birmingham; instead we shall spend it in our home, our first Christmas together, opening presents beside our newly bought tree in the morning and then a Turkey dinner with my future in-laws at their house. The following day will be spent visiting my mother's memorial and hopefully not only catching my father, but also some close friends for Boxing Day cheer, later in the day.

As it was ten years ago, this Christmas is a time of new beginnings and upheavals, of new traditions and old friends. But in all this, one thing will stay the same - this Christmas Eve, Tracy and I will be travelling up to Birmingham for a certain Christmas Eve party. It's still held by Tanya, but now her partner Ant is her co-host.

Because although upheaval and new beginnings can be magical, there's nothing like a good bit of tradition at Christmas. Merry Christmas, everyone. And Varga Plant, that's how I've always spelled it.'

David Monteith: 'On Millennium Eve I was in Jamaica in a small town called Black River where
my parents live. What makes it so amazing is that the whole town was on the streets from 10pm till about 5 or 6 in the morning. Music was playing,
shops were open, food was being sold. Brilliant community party feeling. There's nothing like Christmas and New Year in Jamaica.'

Barry Nugent: 'I spent my Millennium Eve having a laugh and drinking way too much with some old mates down in London (not all of us can go flying off to Jamaica). One of the things I remember about the night was discussing an Ocean's Eleven style robbery involving the Bank of England, nerve gas and the Y2K bug. Just another reason why I really should not drink.'

Myself, I'm wondering why there's any controversy at all over the spelling of that plant. But if you have thoughts on the matter, please share them with us in the comments. Tomorrow, in the last blog of the 12, I'll be talking about my own resolutions and hopes for the coming year, and decade. More fun that it sounds. Hopefully. Until then, Cheerio!

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Ten. A Twilight Christmas.

The first order of business this morning is to thank Laurie Pink, who desperately replaced a broken graphics tablet in order to keep pace with the 12 Blogs. It was touch and go yesterday, with me waiting on her to deliver, just like, as she said, something out of Press Gang. So, cheers, Laurie, glad you made it.

I met Lauren Beukes at this year's Worldcon, and she immediately became part of the enormous drinking army with whom I associate. Moxyland was one of my favourite novels this year, despite me having come to associate it with falling out of a canoe. I only have to glance at that rather handsome cover now and it's all 'can't breathe, must reach... surface!' But that's hardly her fault. I was just reading the book before and after. Her Book SA site can be found here.

I'm not one to mock Twilight, mainly because I don't believe in having a go at things for which I'm not in the target audience. And I strongly feel that authors who achieve enormous bestseller status haven't inherited those riches from their parents, they didn't find that success in a ditch, they've worked hard and actually done what the vast majority of us hacks would if we could only work out how. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying an artful pastiche that works from inside the text, and frankly (sorry, Lauren) could have been written by a frustrated Twilight fan. Enjoy!

A Twilight Christmas
by Lauren Beukes

‘Bella.’ The whisper pierced my sleep like a knife. I woke to his sweet breath lightly tickling my ear. Edward was leaning over me, his flawless marble skin pale as the moonlight streaming in the open window. The curtains stirred like moth’s wings in the icy breeze of a winter night.
‘Edward. What are you doing here?’ I sat up, rubbing the dried drool from my mouth self-consciously. ‘Didn’t we talk about this?’ This sneaking in to watch me sleep thing was getting kind of old. It was only romantic if you didn’t think about all the things you do when you’re asleep. Snore. Sleep-talk. Sleep-fart.
‘I couldn’t wait. I’m sorry, my love.’ He pressed a small package wrapped in gold into my palm, curling my fingers around it. ‘It’s 12:01. Christmas officially.’
‘What is it?’ I said, turning the present over. It was hard to make out in the dark. But it was vaguely jewellery box-shaped.
‘Open it,’ he pressed me. I knew I couldn’t say no to him. I never could. I was powerless against Edward Cullen’s steely will.
I reached out to turn on the light so I could see and knocked the lamp off the bedside table. It hit the floor and the bulb exploded, a thousand glinting shards sprinkling the carpet like razor-sharp confetti. ‘Dammit, I’m so clumsy!’ I swung my legs out of bed with every intention of fetching a dustpan from the kitchen.
‘Careful!’ Edward commanded. But it was too late. Unthinkingly, I’d already fallen out of bed and clumsily trodden on the carpet. The tiniest snag of glass embedded itself in the pad of my foot.
‘Ow. Crap.’ I lifted my foot into my lap to examine it. There was a bright bead of blood welling up around the shard, like a single red teardrop.
Edward’s eyes blazed. ‘Let me,’ he said. There was something in his voice.
‘Are you… sure?’ I said. There was a hitch in my chest. I’d been waiting for this moment since forever. Since I’d first gazed into those impenetrable amber eyes all those pages ago.
In answer, Edward pushed me back onto the bed and knelt between my legs. He lifted my bare foot to his mouth. He brushed my heel with his cold lips. I shivered. He gently made his way up, kissing the sensitive arch of my foot and then just when I thought he was going to press his mouth against my wound, he skipped over it, to lightly run his tongue across my toes. It felt like freezer burn. I writhed in an agony of anticipation. Then he leant back and with the greatest tenderness plucked out the sliver of glass. A twist of blood ran down my skin. He cupped my foot, brought it back up to his mouth and… hesitated.
‘Do it. Edward. Please. My love. Do it!’ Butterflies danced and whirled and cavorted in my stomach. I tried to pull him back down to me, but he thrust my arm away, leaving bruises on my wrist.
‘See, I’ve already hurt you,’ he said, his eyes wounded, even though I was the one with the fingerprints on my arm here.
‘I don’t care!’ I begged. I practically shrieked. ‘Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.’
‘Bella. I -’ He turned his head away.
Deeply chagrined, I turned to him and implored those dark eyes. ‘Please. I want this. I want you.’
‘I can’t. You don’t know what you’re asking. I love you too much. It would be…wrong, Bella.’
‘To make love to me? To turn me? I know what you are. I know what I’m asking. Why can’t you trust me?’
‘You are my life. You are life itself. I cannot take that away from you.’
‘Ngggggh!’ I rolled over in disgust to face the wall. I willed the tears to come. They wouldn’t. I’d cried too many times over this already, felt the bitter sting of chagrin, over and over and over, till I almost made myself sick with it. It was always the same story.
‘Bella, you have to understand.’
‘Do I?’ I snapped, pulling the pillow over my face. I was still clutching the damn box in one hand.
And then the sky caved in.

Or that’s how it seemed at first. I sat up in shock. Edward leapt away from me, poised to fight. There were more crashing sounds from the roof. A clatter and a long scraping sound, as if of the world’s largest sword was being drawn from, like, the world’s largest scabbard.
‘It’s that gorgeous werewolf of yours again!’ Edward snarled. ‘This time I swear, nothing you can say will prevent me from tearing his lupine throat out.’
There was another thump and a bump. Now they seemed to be coming from inside the walls. I clung to Edward in terror. And then there was a terrible crash and the sound of something big and rustly and adorned with tiny bells being knocked over. The Christmas tree. Dad and I had hung the decorations this afternoon before he went on shift. Well, I hung the decorations and he just watched and drank a beer, until I tripped over a chair and he had to help in case I broke a leg on a bauble or something.
‘The living room!’ I yelped. Edward burst through my bedroom door and tore downstairs. I limped after him, still holding the gold box.

I emerged into the living room to find Edward still snarling, but with a confused, impenetrable glaze in his eyes, looking down at a large pudgy guy with a beard and a red suit, covered in a dusting of soot and sitting among the remains of our Christmas tree. There was a large bulging sack beside him.
Santa Claus stood up and dusted himself off. He seemed pissed off. ‘A Christmas tree right in front of the fireplace? Really? Do even you know what kind of fire hazard that is?’
‘We weren’t planning to light it…’ I said, defensively.
‘Who are you? What do you want in this house?’ Edward moved towards Santa, his teeth bared, his fists clenched at his sides. He was restraining himself for now, but only barely.
Santa shook out his hat and replaced it jauntily on his head. 'Hey there, I’m Santa. Although you might also know me as Father Christmas, Grandfather Frost, Papá Noel or Baba Chaghaloo. And I’m here to see the little lady. So buzz off, Twinkles.’
‘“Twinkles?”’ Edward said, incredulously. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’
Santa sighed. ‘Didn’t we just go through this? Is your brain made of marble too?’
‘But you’re a myth,’ I muttered.
‘Exactly!’ Santa grinned, ‘And way I hear it, Bella Swan, you’re practically the village bicycle for mythical creatures – romantically at any rate. That’s why I’m here!’
‘What?’ I was dazed by the accusation. ‘Who said that? I’ve never even had sex.’
‘That’s what I hear too. Don’t worry, I can help you with that.’
It was too much for Edward. With a strangled noise he leapt at Santa, his lips pulled back to reveal his fangs, bright as steel. I screamed. The gold box dropped at my feet.
‘Wuh-oh!’ Santa said, raising his eyebrows theatrically. He ducked down, grabbing onto his sack as if he was planning to crawl in and hide.
It all happened in a blur. As Edward was on him, he yanked open the mouth of the sack and it swallowed Edward whole. Then he quickly closed it up and tied it shut with ribbon and sat on it. Underneath his bulk, the sack squirmed in fury.
‘Now, we can talk like civilised myths and humans. Hi. I’m Santa.’
‘You already said.’
‘Oh, that’s right. And you’re Bella. And I have an interesting proposition for you.’
‘Won’t he suffocate in there?’ I said, indicating the writhing sack.
‘Who, Twink? Nah, he doesn’t breathe, remember? He might tear up some toys, but you know, the elves can always make more X-boxes and Bratz dolls.’
‘Oh,’ I said, numbly.
‘So you wanna hear it?’
‘Do I have a choice?’
‘You always have a choice. Don’t worry. There are no unreasonable expectations. It’s just a date.’
‘A date?’ I said, amazed. ‘But you’re really, really old.’ I was close to tears.
‘Hey now.’ Santa snorted. ‘I’ve only got a couple of centuries on Gary Glitter here.’ He bounced a little on the sack for emphasis before realisation sunk in. ‘Oh wait, you thought…’ He started to laugh. The laugh turned into a guffaw, which turned into a fit of chortling. Tears sprang from his eyes. He fell back on the sack and kicked his red boots in the air in merriment, never mind that he was squishing Edward in the process.
I got mad. ‘Enough with the LMAO, fat man,’ I snapped.
Santa sat up, wiping his eyes. ‘Ah, see, there’s the spunk. Knew you had it in there somewhere mopey girl.’ His ruddy cheeks were bright red with the effort of laughing. ‘I’m sorry. You thought I wanted to get with you? Oh, that’s just priceless.’
‘That’s kind of what you were implying,’ I said, coldly.
‘Oh no, no, no. I’m a happily married man. Mrs Claus and I have been together since, let me think, well, at least since Coca-Cola. And she’s a wonderful woman. Marvellous woman. And the things she can do - well never mind. No, little emo girl, you’ve got the wrong idea. I’m not here on my own behalf, I’m here on someone else’s.’
‘Who?’ I couldn’t imagine. The elves? Rudolph?
‘Look. I know you’re a young woman of, shall we say, kinky tastes?’
I gave him my best death stare. It had improved since I started dating an actual dead guy.
‘There’s no reason to be embarrassed. We all have our peccadilloes. Believe me, I know, I’ve seen those grown-ups’ Christmas presents wish lists and let me tell you, they’re more naughty than nice.’
I kept up the death stare.
‘I’ll cut to the chase then. He’s just your type. Tall, dark and scary.’
‘Who. Is. It?’ I said, enunciating the words very carefully.
‘You’re right, you’re right. I’ve been terribly rude.’ Santa looked resigned. But then he rallied, stood up off the sack that was now ominously unmoving and gestured dramatically towards the fireplace like a TV gameshow showgirl. ‘May I present, without further ado… Krampus!’

Nothing happened for a long moment. And then a demon peeled out of shadows of the fireplace. He was seven foot tall with broad shoulders and rippling muscles. His carved Adonis-like abs slid down into coils of fur that obscured his manly groin. His cloven hooves went clip clop on the wooden floorboards with a terrible certainty. Thick, dark ram’s horns curled round his face. Steam flared from his nostrils as he raised his goat’s head the better to take me in. I could feel his weird sideways slit eyes traversing my body.
I gasped and took an involuntary step back. ‘The devil?!’ My heart clenched in fear. And then anger surged through me. ‘You want me to go on a date with the devil? Are you out of your frigging mind?’
Krampus blinked. The majestic frame slumped slightly. It made him look strangely… vulnerable, and yet, at the same time, not. I felt something flutter in my belly. No, lower than that.
‘Heeeey,’ Santa said. ‘Go easy on a guy. Krampus isn’t the devil. He’s a festive season demon. Austrian by birth. He accompanies me on my rounds there. I reward the little children who have been nice. He punishes the naughty ones by beating them with sticks or sticking them in his sack.’
‘Never heard of him,’ I snapped.
Krampus deflated even more. ‘Really?’ he said, in an elegant Austrain accent. ‘You have never heard of me? With my rusty chains and my bells and my birch rod? Scaring the women and children?’
‘I blame the commercialisation of Christmas,’ he sighed. There was something strangely alluring about his melancholy.
‘Anyway, he’s very good at his job,’ Santa cut in. ‘And the rest of the year, he’s a demon of leisure!’
‘I like to travel,’ Krampus said, perking up. ‘To intriguing places. Wandering the ancient streets of Stone Town in Zanzibar. Running the Iditarod in Alaska under the northern lights. Cove-hopping in Croatia in my private yacht.’
Santa chipped in helpfully, ‘Also, he’s into light S&M.’
Krampus covered his eyes and shook his head, embarrassed.
‘Whaaaat?’ Santa said, nonplussed. ‘A little safe consensual whipping between consenting adults is a groovy lifestyle choice.’
‘What makes you think I’m into S&M?’ I said, coldly.
‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ Santa said, hastily, shifting his gaze away from the bruises on my wrist where Edward had gripped me.
I folded my arms. Krampus was, admittedly, very attractive and Adonis-like for a goat-faced demon. But I was still unconvinced. ‘Give me three reasons I would want to go on a date with this guy.’
‘Well –’ Santa started in. ‘First off, he’s not gay.’
‘I want to hear them from him.’ I pointed at Krampus.
‘That is fair,’ Krampus said. He stepped forward, looking very serious. Or maybe that was just his look. It’s hard to have emotional range when you’re a goat. ‘Well, first of all, I can still sparkle for you.’ He snatched up a strand of silver tinsel from the crushed tree and modelled it round his shoulders like a feather boa. Hmmm. A demon with a sense of humour. That was more than Edward had. And I had to admit, that tinsel was, well, sparklier, than Edward’s skin.
‘Go on.’ I said, warily.
‘And I know you’re used to travelling in style in a Volvo. But I can offer you a flying sleigh that can circumnavigate the entire globe in the time it would take you to drive through Forks. Have you ever seen the lights of Manhattan from the sky?’
‘Not to mention your private yacht,’ Santa interrupted.
‘I usually save that for the second date,’ he grinned, raffishly.
‘And?’ I said, although I had to admit to myself I was beginning to get interested. I could barely tear my eyes away from all that sparkly tinsel, the way it highlighted his killer abs.
Krampus looked down, coyly and then tilted his head so he was looking up at me through his very long goaty eyelashes. The butterflies were back, and I kind of liked how they felt. ‘And lastly, I will totally, absolutely have sex with you.’
Santa’s sack burst to life, writhing and twisting in outrage, like there was a hurricane inside instead of an about-to-be cuckolded vampire. There were muted screams and curses coming from within. Krampus and Santa looked down at the sack in alarm. It was bucking across the floor. There were tearing sounds. A pale, perfectly sculpted finger wiggled through a rip in the fabric, started wrenching its way upwards, like a ladder in a stocking, widening the tear.
I felt more conviction than I ever had in all my eighteen years. I stepped forward and picked up from the mantelpiece the heavy ceramic urn containing the remains of grandpa. I raised it above my head. ‘Just so clumsy,’ I said and then brought the urn smashing down on the sack, around about where I estimated Edward’s smug face would be.
The sack abruptly stopped moving.
Krampus and Santa looked at me in astonishment.
‘Let me just fetch my purse,’ I said, smiling prettily.
As I ascended the stairs, I stepped on the little gold box, crushing it beneath my heel.

The End

Tomorrow, we'll be looking back ten years (ten years!) to find out what a lot of our correspondents were doing on Millennium Eve. Until then, Cheerio!

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Nine. Giving Them What They Want.

And on the Ninth Day of Christmas, Laurie Pink gave to us...

Okay, so, first up, a bit of festive promotion. The panto written by my old friend (and Dalek operator) Nick Pegg this year is Sleeping Beauty at the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex. Nick has a way of making quality modern fun for adults and children alike, while remaining rooted in panto tradition. 'Magic for young and old,' - Barking and Dagenham Post.

And a big thank you to Scott Grandison of the Comic Book Outsiders podcast, who paid over a hundred pounds in the Geek Syndicate charity auction for my Captain Britain and MI-13 item. The cash will be going to the family of fellow podcaster Eric Martin, who died earlier this year. The whole auction has raised nearly £2000, which is a cracking effort on the part of the Syndicate. Well done, lads.

Here's something you can help with: SF legend John Brunner's widow, Liyi, has a story, 'Love Never Dies' in the BBC's My Story contest. Why not take a look, and see if you'd like to vote for her? The story can be found here and you can hear more about it from Cheryl Morgan here.

And here's one straggler from the other day, telling us what they're doing this Christmas:

Melinda Snodgrass: I never want to travel at Christmas because the holiday in New Mexico is so magical. Snow on the mountains, and predicted snow for Christmas Eve which will make my annual trek to see the luminarias/firelitos all the more beautiful. They're such simple little things, a brown paper lunch sack with sand and a candle inside, but the candles flicker gently in the breezes, and send a warm glow across the ground and shafts of light up walls. When you add falling snow it's breathtaking. I love New Mexico for bisochitos, they're a Mexican holiday cookie and they are so flaky from lard (they have to be made with lard) that they just explode and then melt in your mouth. The smell of steaming tamales and red chili, and the rich scent of pasole and ham simmering on the stove. I add to this my great-grandfather's homemade egg nog, the company of dear friends, and it's all the gifts I need.

Many thanks, Melinda.

Incidentally, I heard today that I've sold my house, and that Gardner Dozois has asked for my story 'One of Our Bastards is Missing' for the next Year's Best Science Fiction. It's good to be ending this year on so many good points. Please forgive this moment of smugness.

For today's larks, I'm rather (ripping off) following in the footsteps of the Angry Robot website, whose owners decided to take a look at what words people had been entering into search engines to find their site. They, however, were content to simply list those terms. Myself, I think that if someone's come here seeking something, then I'm failing in our mission if we don't at least have a crack at providing it. So, let's see what we can do. All of the following have been genuinely put into a search engine, and led to someone arriving at this site, presumably hoping it could help.

'Weekend off': Well, with Christmas coming up, I don't think you need my help with that now, but since you asked in June, I can but apologise. I hope you got it.

'Nicknames for Paul': At school, I was called 'poof'. Probably because I was interested in girls. Is that any help?

'I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed': I can only hope you remember that being said about this blog.

'Captain Shame': I am seriously going to name a Marvel villain that. How's that for service? Did you find whatever mate that was? What had he done?

'You look lovely': I do say 'lovely' a lot, don't I? You look lovely too! (Again, I'd love to know why that's in a search engine.)

'Paul glad car accident': That's just disturbing. I suppose I am glad to still be here, so, erm, hope that does.

'Tired but happy': Glad to hear it. Nothing much more I can do to help.

'Bobby Shaftoe': Has got people here for the last six months on a regular basis. Why, I have no idea. But we're here to help. Bobby Shafto was an 18th century politician (who moved, like my Dad, from Durham to Wiltshire, which might explain how I knew the song as a child), who had a song written about him which was published in 1805. Initially a rather straightforward chronicle of his life's events, it was adapted into an electioneering song by him, and possibly his son and grandson. (There is some doubt as to which of the three it was written about.) A character named Bobby Shaftoe is also a character in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. Hope that helps.

'Very kind of you': No, very kind of you to come along.

'What's on in Dublin this weekend?': Racing at Leopardstown, a Titanic exhibition, and Robin Hood at the Olympia Theatre. Next!

'Damn, damn, damn': Hope that got better for you.

'Robin Hood slash': It's not beyond the bounds of possibility, is it? I refer you to the second episode I have a writing credit on, and invite you to speculate far too much.

'This weekend in London': What am I, Google?

'Awkwardness': Sorry, this site must have been a tremendous disappointment to you. Hmm, I don't know, though.

'I'm glad to hear from you': No, we're glad to hear from you.

'Wife with black': ...Well, okay.

'Wife blacked up': Not so much.

'Undeserved': We're at the top of the list for that?

'Anticipation guy': Does he arrive before Scale Guy and say he's on the way?

'Michio Kaku wife': I'm not sure if this charming academic is married. Why the interest? Do I sense a little crush?

'John Clews': John Fletcher Clews Harrison is an English historian. Is that who you were after?

'What-Is-The-Best-Reward-Can-You-Get-From-The-Old-Man-Tang-In-The-Rat-Fangs-Quest-If-You-Are-Lucky-Enough?': Either a Purple Bag, or a Brass Heavy Ring. Which is best is kind of subjective.

'Sunny morning': I think you may be overestimating my powers a tad.

'American actor in the longshot': That might be Paul Sorvino, but that's a bit of an, erm, well -

'Birmingham triumph': I think that first Birmingham would need to invade and subdue something.

'Montreal power': Perhaps Montreal?

'Robert Bowling nickname': How about 'Bob'?

'Blacks do my wife': I'm not even telling him about these now. And... what could you hope to gain from putting this into a search engine? What did he think he might see?

'Bloody mannor': It's next door you want.

'I'm flattered, Raney, but I can't. I'm so, so sorry': I think I may have stumbled on something from Tom Raney's private life, here. But the use of the surname makes it sound like he may have been in a war of some kind. Or is someone writing Doctor Who slash about him?

'Who changed radio?': In general terms, the BBC, in putting pirate broadcasters on a legal footing, and inventing speech radio. If you're staring at a new appliance and seek a solution on the internet, may I suggest that you're haunted? But very nicely. Though I'd hesitate before switching it on.

'Mission: Go to McDonalds wearing all black and ask with a serious face if the ninja convention is meeting today': This is why this was posted so late. 'No,' was the answer, delivered with an equally serious face. But perhaps some sort of secret sign.

'Try that': Not again, thanks.

'Let's try': No, really.

'Hugo for men': That's what feminist critics have been saying for a long time.

'Hugo gaes': And don't get me started on that.

'Men today': Well, indeed.

'I'm going to New York': Good for you.

'I'm from New York': Now you're just boasting.

'All sorts of stuff': I hope you were satisfied by whatever you found.

'Wife in black': You people are obsessed.

Tomorrow, with any luck, we'll have some exclusive fun fiction from Moxyland author Lauren Beukes. Until then, Cheerio!