Gallifrey One 2010

I'm running around finishing what I need to finish (a Pulse plot included) before flying off to L.A. tomorrow for the 21st annual Gallifrey One convention. This is my thirteenth year of attendance, without a break. I keep going back because of the unique atmosphere, a calm, loving mixture of business and pleasure. Gallifrey manages to maintain an ambience where guests and attendees can mingle freely, where things which seem difficult in cold Britain become somehow easier to manage. I think just being in California helps with that. It's become not only the world's greatest Doctor Who convention, but also a place for comics and SF fans, and, increasingly, costumers. Here's my schedule:

Friday:

1pm: Doctor Who in the Comics (panel with Gary Russell, Tony Lee, Pia Guerra, Matthew Dow Smith and Richard Starkings). Should be a hoot. Loads to talk about.

4pm: Autographs.

6.15pm: Opening ceremonies.

Saturday:

11am: Kaffeeklatsch with me and Phil Ford. Where people who've signed up in advance get to sit down with me and Phil and hear us babble about stuff. Like any night in the bar, really.

1pm: Fan Reactions to Character Deaths (panel with Tina Beychok, Kate Orman, Racheline Maltese, David Wise, Tammy Garrison). Could be blood up the walls. Some heavy hitters on the panel, so we're going to be doing crit. I've got some stuff to say that some in the audience won't want to hear. I love panels like this, where the issues get aired. Racheline and I have gone down this road before, and last time I enjoyed it a great deal.

3pm: Remaking Books and Comics into Television and Film (panel with Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Mark Waid, Pia Guerra, Marv Wolfman, David Gerrold, Paul Salamoff and Arne Starr). This year's first rendition of the Traditional Ill-Attended Comics Panel, but with a few more legends added and a new media focus. These are usually great fun, and comics fans are always surprised by how starry a sideshow it is in a con about something else. I mean, Marv Wolfman?! Last year, over doughnuts in the Green Room, I met Wendy Pini.

4.30pm: Autographs.

Sometime after 8pm: I'll be running my annual game of Just A Minute with celebrity guests while the Masquerade is being judged. It's always great fun, and I don't have to work very hard, because competitive actors, flailing writers and the format make the comedy.

Sunday:

Noon: Expanding Your Horizons (panel on SF literature, with Sam Stone, David Gerrold, David Howe, Kate Orman, David Wise). Great to see Gally trying something like this. I wonder what sort of an audience we'll get?

1pm: Seventy Years of Marvel Comics (panel with Marv Wolfman, Tony Lee, Gary Russell, Arnold T Blumberg, Josh Fialkov, Arne Starr). Another variant on the Traditional Ill-Attended Comics Panel. I've been to two panels with this title in the last year, and both ended up in enormous rows. I can't see, this being Gally, this one making it three in a row, but I might just start one to complete the set.

And that's it. The rest of the time, you'll probably find me in the bar or at the parties. If you're going, do say hello. Until then, Cheerio.

Ten Things for the Weekend of the First Locomotive

Which is a vaguely Soviet-sounding way of differentiating this latest Ten Things column. The locomotive in question was Richard Trevithick's first steam loco, which ran on this day in 1804. What a lovely day! What a lovely day for going up to an online detractor of Owl City and saying 'so you say "they ripped off The Postal Service"? Go on then, whistle me a Postal Service tune.' I say, missus!

Yesterday's Twitter request for items for this column was weirder than usual. And that's saying something. I suppose some of you might be interested in an online tennis magazine. Seriously, if you are, say the word, I've got that stuff waiting in the wings. And again, some good stuff got left out, so don't feel snubbed if it's not in the following list. I've only got room for a few each time, and I try to offer a variety of stuff. So you may well get in next time. Here we go.

1: Author Michael Carroll has provided his fellow scribes with an invaluable service in the form of these Name and Title Generators, which automatically come up with character names (Alexis Worthen), superhero names (Kid Widow) and fantasy novel titles (The Duchess's Quarterstaff). I'm severely tempted to make use of them. And to write that fantasy novel.

2: Brian Cox teaches a toddler Hamlet. I think 'yeah' is a perfectly good response to 'to be or not to be, that is the question', myself. Found by Teresa Jusino.



3: Emma Vieceli, who you may remember from last week, has now had the first appearance of her art in Marvel Comics announced, alongside my fellow Clockwork Storybook member Marjorie Liu and the legendary Ann Nocenti, in Girl Comics #3 out May 5th. I'm keen to support Marvel's efforts to bring more female creators into the field, and always pleased to spotlight Emma's work.






4: Similarly, the brilliant Tommy Lee Edwards has been in touch, telling me that there's now a website for Turf, the comic he's drawing and Jonathan Ross is writing. The site features graphics, covers, sketches and videos, and is all the insight you could want into the run up to publication of what's going to be one of this year's most talked-about titles. And Tommy's realistic, emotional line work is as gorgeous as always.






5: Amazingly creative modern Doctor Who fans part twenty-nine: this chap (I assume 'Mechmaster' is a chap) has produced some brilliant not-for-profit Dalek Images including a lovely-looking comic strip. This courtesy of Paul Castle.





6: I'm honoured to have had my novelette 'One of Our Bastards is Missing', originally published in the Solaris Book of New Science Fiction #3, selected not only for Gardner Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction #27, but also for David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer's Year's Best SF #15. Doing this double, in the company of so many friends and peers, is another one of those things that, as a young SF fan, I dreamed about. And the contents lists of the two books offer a bunch of stories ripe for Hugo nomination.

7: As does the Final Ballot for this year's Nebula Awards. This is the second venerable SF awards, voted on by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America, whose ranks I joined last year. The Nebulas feature a very open voting process, where what's currently nominated in each category is visible to SFWA members as a rolling online list, while one can change one's online ballot at any time. Titles fall in and out of favour, voters cluster around electable material, discard personal favourites that aren't in with a chance. Generally, the cream rises. This sporting contest was, frankly, worth the membership fee all by itself. And it's produced a very healthy and forward-looking shortlist, in which I'm particularly pleased to see China Mieville's The City & The City and Paolo Bacigalupi's 'The Gambler' and The Windup Girl. The SFWA is in the process of reinvention, re-establishing themselves as a modern force in the genre, and this shortlist, and the ease of the process, is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.

8: The latest issue (#5) of SF fanzine Journey Planet , edited by James Bacon, Claire Brialey and Chris Garcia is out now, and available, with its predecessors, as an online PDF file. This issue is something of an alternate history special, and includes contributions from Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Scalzi and Paul McAuley. It's good to see such meaty fanzines, with loads of wholemeal analysis and original fiction, still out there, but with such useful evolutionary adaptations to the modern world. And ta whoever it was who sent me a copy in the post with no covering letter. (Hmm, this was welcome, but what else did I drunkenly subscribe to?)



9: Comic Twart is a group blog of comic artists, where they choose a character every week, and all draw it, in a range of different styles. (Pictured: The Black Beetle by Ron Salas.) Contributors include Declan Shalvey, Dan McDaid and Ramon Perez. These guys are pros, the standard is high, and I'm fascinated to see what comes next.







10: And finally, it's time for the Horse Related TV Show of the Week. This time, it's the Mother of All TV Horse Shows. It's -



Black Beauty. (Yes, I know, more weird search queries ahoy.) The iconic strength of this sequence still astounds me. Or, to put it another way, if I may, gentlemen... squeeee!!! I associate this with eating jelly and angel delight on a Sunday afternoon in some golden and perfect corner of my childhood. I think the resonance is somewhat down to living then at the bottom of downlands that had a white horse carved on them, in an area when impossibly out of reach people would trot by on their horses. But there's no bitterness to the vision. Like all these shows, it's a bit of a British agrarian dream, which I gladly bought into. The theme, by Denis Andrew King, actually gets more impressive in the full version, which morphs into a reflective, melancholy stretch that sounds like Vaughan Williams by way of the New Seekers. All in all, phew. And to anyone not sharing in the Proustian rush of these sequences, don't worry, there's only a couple left.

There won't be a Ten Things next weekend, because I'll be at the Gallifrey One convention in L.A. and after the SFX Weekender I've learned my lesson about making such attempts. Gallifrey is shaping up to be excellent, I already have three rather extraordinary sets of dining companions sorted out, and I'll be blogging my panel schedule midweek. Until then: Cheerio.

The Last Black Widow Day

Black Widow: Deadly Origin #4 is in US comic stores today, British comic shops tomorrow. It finishes off a miniseries that I'm very proud of, and you can see the first six pages of it here.

In other news, acting upon the suggestion of panto writer and Dalek operator Nick Pegg, I've become a vegetarian for Lent. So today is day one of forty, and I just bought some veggie mince. I gather my wife is with me in this mad scheme. But I alone face breakfast in America without bacon. At the Gallifrey convention, I may just eat baked goods in the con suite all morning.

Until this weekend and, hmm, a new Ten Things for which I'm ill-prepared, Cheerio!

The Next Cap Appearance


Deadpool Team-Up #893, out in May, written by Rob Williams, drawn by Matteo Scalera, cover by Humberto Ramos. All the while I was writing Cap, Rob was sending me death threats about how it should be him. And now it is. Phew! He's been kind enough to show me a couple of pages of script, in which another member of MI-13 appears, and I didn't feel the need to comment on a single thing: Brian is in good hands. So that's two MI-13 appearances this year accounted for (and another I hadn't counted, in the last issue of Dr. Voodoo) and two to go. You'll have to wait a bit longer for the rest. Cheerio!

Ten Things for the Weekend: Valentine Edition

Okay, so nothing particularly romantic about this weekends Things, but I like a theme. Before we get to that, however...

The Week in Follyfoot.

The latest edition of The Word Magazine includes a piece where Giles Smith shows his kids the various 1970s TV shows featured on the new Look Back at '70s Telly DVD from Network (who also do a Complete Follyfoot, I note). Said kids are all sarcastic about what they see. Until, I quote: '"Well, obviously the horse is going to live," said my ten-year-old. For several minutes after the vet had done his business with the gun, a cold silence hung in the room... When was the last time a sore-ridden horse got taken out and shot on Drake & Josh?' (Sorry, perhaps I should have said, spoilers for 1971.)

And on that cheery note, to the Ten Things:

1: The World Science Fiction Convention in Reno in 2011 has announced a reduced Young Adult Membership Rate, making access to the SF community a lot easier for the very people we should be appealing to. Colin Harris tells me that the 2014 bid for a UK Worldcon will also be offering a cheap YA rate. And mention must be made of the campaigning James Bacon's been doing on this issue, and on the bigger matter of getting more people, and especially young people, to come to Worldcon, the heart of the genre. Well done, everyone.

2: Dragon Heir is Emma Vieceli's ongoing comic project, drawn in a manga-influenced style, now up to nine issues, with the first six collected. As part of the Sweatdrop Collective, Emma is one of Britain's leading comic artists drawing in that style, and this is her labour of love. Summing up the series, she tells me: 'Protus, one of four Dragon Heirs, sets out on a journey to gather the Heirs and take them all to the location chosen for Spiratu's Ritual of Transcendence. This act will leave the four young men free of the dangerous Dragon Spirits they have harboured since birth, and free to begin their mortal lives with Spiratu's blessing. However, in a world where fate has spawned not one but two sets of Dragon Heirs, what guarantee is there that a prophecy so ancient can be fulfilled at all? For the Heirs, it's a race against the powerful spirits that consume them each from within, but when the very foundations of a society's faith and structure are threatened, the true consequences of failure could be far greater than any of the prophecy's players can imagine.' If you enjoy manga and high fantasy, it's well worth a look.

3: My friend Gerard Johnson, who plays keyboards, engineers for, and hangs out with Saint Etienne, and has recently been working with former members of Yes in The Syn, has a new project, The Electric Opera, electronically funky, in a bit of a Daft Punk way. You can hear tracks on this rather fine site, get downloads from Gerard's previous outfit, Funky Monkey, and generally access The Electric Opera's groovy world.

4: Reminded by the free transfers on the front of Vworp Vworp, I want out in search of previous such Doctor Who ephemera. Proustian rush ahoy for anyone of a certain age, with these Background Scenes and Boards and Game Pieces from Weetabix's two Doctor Who promotions, around which my world revolved for a few months in the mid '70s. 'Speared by Blor, miss two goes!'

5: Similarly, but dealing in the nostalgia of the future, Doctor Who Figures Online aims to be a one stop resource for everyone who enjoys the little fellows, and perhaps has a spare Tom Baker head. The design's a bit busy, but it's all there, with a forum, checklist, figure reviews and... photo comic strips made with figures! Including the Ninth Doctor on a motorcycle! Ah, if only they'd had this sort of stuff back in the days when I had to eat so much Weetabix.

6: And Ainah, in a heartwarming 'love letter to Doctor Who' has had rather a large Tardis Tattoo inscribed on her back. Let's hope the BBC lawyers don't go after that one. Messy.

7: Acclaimed British SF critic Niall Harrison has seen fit to include my BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Iain Banks' The State of the Art on his Draft Hugo Ballot but that kind gesture apart, it gives, like John Scalzi's Award Suggestions From Readers a sense of what people are considering for the Nebulas and Hugos.

8: Mark Clapham is a critic and writer whose work covers comics, TV and prose. But his latest project is Story Game Reviews where he considers computer games that make especial use of narrative. It's what I most enjoy in games, playing Dragon Age: Origins as I am with great joy at the moment (though my character, with his huge ginger beard and staring sunken eyes, looks like he's just wandered in off the street and is continually surprised to find himself in armour), and trying not to learn too much of the plot of Mass Effect 2 while my wife massacres aliens over my shoulder. It's an important area for Mark to keep up with, and I look forward to his recommendations.

9: The Black Widow: Deadly Origin Premiere Hardcover is out on March 4th, and Forbidden Planet are doing a deal, on that link, whereby you can get it for just over a tenner. A bargain, I think. But then, I would.

10: And finally, the Horse Related TV Show of the Week is White Horses the video for which unfortunately can't be embedded here, but is behind the link. I loved this when I was a little gir - boy, I mean. It was originally a German/Yugoslavian co-production, shown on the BBC in a dubbed (rather than, as often happened with BBC foreign imports for children, a narrator talking over the original dialogue) version. It wasn't quite as passionate (or bleak) as Follyfoot, but then, what is? The tune makes Brits of a certain age think of summer holidays, and all sorts of cover versions, from the likes of Cerys Matthews, have appeared. The original singer was Jackie Lee, who also has our Proustian Proverbials in her grasp with her Rupert The Bear theme. There's a grand sort of yearning to it, that speaks of the British urge for the Golden Age in the countryside in a rather surprising way for something that's attached to something so continental.

Do you know, judging by previous viewings, I rather fear what putting Black Widow and White Horses in the same post will do to my search results. If you've come here for, shall we say, a combination of those two things, I hope we didn't disappoint too much.

Until next time, then, Cheerio!

The Age of Heroes


Age of Heroes (cover above by Greg Tocchini) is an upcoming four issue miniseries from Marvel, which presents a panorama of the Marvel Universe after the events of The Siege are over. And Leonine Leonard Kirk and I are very happy to be part of it! Because Captain Britain and MI-13 (apart from two members who are... busy doing something else) are involved, in one of two short strips I've written for this anthology. (The other one features the Young Masters from Dark Reign: Young Avengers.) So this is the first of (hopefully) four more appearances coming up for members of the team this year, that I know of. (Mark Waid already surprised me by plonking Brian and Dane in Strange.) I'm especially pleased that the other three writers on the title are Corking Kurt Busiek, Delectable Dan Slott and Rollicking Rick Remender.

I can be found talking about all this at Marvel News, IGN and Newsarama.

It's so good to see the gang on a comic book cover again! (Don't know the artist, will find out.) Until next time, Excelsi... I mean, Cheerio!

It's Dark X-Men Day

Just a quick note to say that Dark X-Men #4, by myself, Loving Leonard Kirk and Naughty Nick Lowe is in US comic stores today, UK comic shops on Thursday. A preview of the first five pages can be found here. From which you can work out which classic rock artiste is featured in the character descriptions this issue.

A picture of Nick Lowe as Mary Jane Watson out of Spider-Man (beside Titanic Tom Brevoort as Gwen Stacy), meanwhile, nicked off the Millarworld Forums, can be found here:

Tom doesn't look into it, but Nick... I think he's smiling just a bit too much.

In other news, for UK readers only, my old friend (and former 2000AD editor) David Bishop has his first screenwriting gig on telly today, an episode of Doctors called 'A Pill for Every Ill', broadcast at 1.45pm on BBC1, and available for a week after that on the IPlayer. I did one of these, and it remains a good place to start out in television.

Until Ten Things this weekend, Cheerio!


The SFX Weekender (Partially) Remembered

So if we're looking for a British version of San Diego Comic Con, or, more realistically, Dragoncon, I think we might just have made a start. Those events are Stateside media spectacles, growing out of comics and gaming respectively. But now the former at least is much more about Hollywood. They attract enormous crowds for their guests from TV and film, and comics, gaming and now literary guests follow to where the audience is. The SFX Weekender, held from Friday lunchtime until the early hours of Sunday morning last weekend, at Pontins in Camber Sands, was an attempt to replicate the concerns of SFX Magazine onstage, and thus it incidentally mimicked the profile of those huge events, but this time from the outset. There were actors with big cult followings, big name comics creators, an area for gamers, an anime lounge, and far more high profile SF and fantasy literature guests than the core audience might strictly have thought of as necessary. The blending of those audiences was the most interesting feature of the weekend, especially since, with the autograph queue in the main convention hall, there was a welcome amount of non-deliberate exposure. For example, those queuing early for James Marsters' or Tom Baker's signature would find themselves watching a panel about the Gemmell Awards, or China Mieville talking about writing for young adults.

The format suited me down to the ground. I found myself with a foot in all three of my worlds, talking about books, comics and writing for television. The actors most often appeared in the Main Void area, a vast central space which also housed the dealers, but with acoustics that meant everyone could hear everything.


The special effects people and those with TV episodes to introduce (and well done SFX for getting the next episodes of Supernatural and Being Human) were in an excellent screening area, about half the size, but again well equipped. And the authors, to the consternation of some, were mainly in The Slaughtered Lamb, a Pontins pub with crap beer, with a stage the like of which 'turns' would normally do five minutes on, done up rather nicely in an occult fashion. Unfortunately, when this area filled up with people, while those on stage could still hear themselves, those at the back of their audience couldn't hear the guests, meaning that the size of the crowd who were there to listen to the panel tended to be self-limiting. And unlike in the main area, passing trade wasn't acoustically encouraged to tune in to what was on. I gather that the Gaming Area was what those who came along for that were after, but the Anime Lounge, a great idea, seemed empty most of the time, perhaps because that was the one group of fans SFX had failed to make successful outreach to.

Starting the weekend with dancers dressed as the Bride of Frankenstein leaping around to metal, and then disrobing into something more comfortable, said something about the nature of the expected audience. Nobody was expected to be embarrassed. This is just for us, and we're allowed to have noisy fun. That, I assume, is equally the mark of the other audiences which the organisers and venue cater for, weekenders for Northern Soul and Heavy Metal followers, etc. Which suited the Torchwood Girls, but made the older, more bullied fandoms ill at ease. Following the Twitter feed during and after the event, I think it'd be fair to say that a large majority of the (often new to conventions, often not identifying as a fan of anything in particular) crowd enjoyed it a great deal, but that the venue was a great deal more negatively received. I think some of that was about the cleanliness of the chalets (although mine was spotless, if simply functional) and venue spaces, but equally some of it was about doing geekery in the very domain of the Not We, the land of Normal People.


To some, I'd guess that this never felt like a safe space. But I'd like to point out that the staff in my experience were, every single one, very polite, with none of the patronisation that some groups of fans get from the workers in some hotels. Indeed, the bar security guard got into it, helping my team out in the quiz, and keeping order by being friends with as many people as possible. What was equally important was that the dancers and such weren't a cheap gesture towards mainstream entertainment: they moved through the crowd all weekend, on stilts, or in zombie outfits, having obviously rehearsed a dozen different very SF-specialist displays. In short, this wasn't the mainstream nodding to us via their previously-established format, it was our culture written into the mainstream. Beforehand, I wondered if ancient rockers Dumpy's Rusty Nuts and cheesy DJ Pat Sharp would draw any audience at all. But I heard that a good time was had with them. After geeky comedy from John Cooper and Toby Hadoke, this new breed of cross-polinated fan would quite like a bit of a dance, and they don't necessarily need a geek DJ.

I certainly enjoyed the panels I was on. I was with James Moran and Toby Hadoke on 'Has Doctor Who been good or bad for SF?', which perhaps could have done with someone putting another side to the debate, because, as big Who geeks, we certainly weren't going to. Dave Gibbons, Al Ewing and I talked about the road from comics to films, Dave being as friendly and down to earth as always. (Every report about meeting this man has to confirm, for some reason, that Hollywood Hasn't Changed Him and I'm proud to continue that fine tradition.) I shared a stage with Mark Charan Newton and Paul Kane, talking about spinoffery, and one with Toby Whithouse, Matthew Bouch and James once more, on writing for TV, which turned into mostly me scaring Toby with my love for Being Human.

(Photo by Jason Arnopp.)

But my favourite panel of the weekend was a purely SF one, as myself, Peter F. Hamilton and Mark once again, with audience contributions from Richard Morgan and Justina Robson, and others in a very involved crowd, talked about the differences between British and American SF.

(Photo by Julie Crisp.)

It was the sort of intense, learned debate that you get at an Eastercon or a Worldcon, and it made me feel very warm about the whole weekend that we could get to that point at the very first event of this kind, at the same moment Spike from Buffy was making girls faint in the room next door. The existence and upkeep of this literary thread seemed to be down to the efforts of SFX editor Dave Bradley, who ran about all weekend, fixing stuff, while always keeping the prose at the centre of his efforts.

With SF authors in play, publishers and agents were there too, so I spent my evenings at dinners and parties, again in a properly Worldcon way. The Tor imprint had rented a holiday cottage, where editor Julie Crisp, her efficient and glamourous staff, and four of their authors all stayed. So on Sunday night, me and my agent and Tom Lloyd (stolen from the night from Gollancz, causing Joe Abercrombie to yell 'traitor' at him as we left) went over and had dinner and good conversation with Mark Charan Newton, Peter Hamilton, Adrian Tchaikovsky and China Mieville, who spent the evening drawing sketch requests on postcards. Then we played a pop trivia game, and, what can I say, my Pop Fu is better than Mark Charan Newton's.

So I missed the Awards, at which I gather there were some big announcements and guest appearances, as befits an Awards show. I gather that Forbidden Planet did good business (though only having a few other dealers there was a bit of a shame), that attendance numbers were as big as expected, and that while autograph queues were long, the actors signing were kept happy enough to keep going and spend time with everyone. Saturday's main venue block of Tom Baker, Gerry Anderson, Elisabeth Sladen and Gareth David-Lloyd (with Jeff Wayne on the other stage) was as audience-pleasing as one might have hoped. And the sweat on the brows of the organisers said they'd put every effort in. Maybe the non-actor guests could have been welcomed and looked after just a tad more, but it's off the way of these things that if your lead actors are happy, the audience is happy. In short, it's a bit of a surprise that the first go at this sort of thing went so well. I'm sure the organisers will learn from the effort, that teething problems will be sorted, and that next year, as long as fans can transform Pontins rather than be oppressed by it, we can look forward to an even bigger cross-cultural melding.

Flickr photostreams from the event by Talithabee here and Danacea here.

Oh, and I got my copy of Vworp Vworp! which as you saw in the previous entry, was some consolation as I collapsed without doing a Ten Things from the convention. That plan needs a re-think. Until later this week, Cheerio!

Ten Things for the Weekend -

Oh sod it.



That was far too full a weekend to sort out the Ten Things as well.

I'll have an SFX Weekender report midweek, and then I'll see you for the regular Ten Things next weekend. Cheerio. Snork.

Not Quite So Indomitable

Phew, so, yesterday was quite something, blog-wise. So many pro-gay/trans rights Christians appearing out of the woodwork, so many kind Atheists and Agnostics speaking up in support. I saw, later in the day, Cheryl Morgan pointing out the #godlyforequality Twitter hashtag to someone who was obviously being persecuted, saying here was somewhere they could look to see loads of religious folk who were supportive and wishing them well. One of the proudest moments of my life, that. Seriously. We did something good there. You lot should be proud of yourselves.

So, getting back to my secular life... in other news, you remember Jody Portugal from those photos of people at the Forbidden Planet signing? She's only got her picture in the current SFX magazine too. Is this some sort of bet? I think we should be told.

And I'm honoured to have had my novelette 'One of Our Bastards is Missing', published in the Solaris Book of New Science Fiction 3, included on Locus Magazine's Recommended Reading List for 2009. This is what all SF writers seek for their work, and I'm pleased as punch.

Today my Indomitable Iron Man is out, as I put it to the wife last night. I did wonder why she laughed so much. Indeed, it's in US comic stores today, and UK ones on Thursday, but there may be a bit of a problem. As Ben Fardon the owner of the wonderful Proud Lion comic shop in Cheltenham told me (and if you're nearby, you really should pop along, for a very sociable experience), there was a serious accident involving the truck that was delivering several Marvel titles from the printer to the distributors, meaning that many copies of said titles were lost. So Diamond will only be delivering half the initial orders now, and making up the difference later. So Indomitable Iron Man #1 may be quite a bit rarer than it otherwise would have been. Hint, hint.

At least, as Rich Johnston revealed in his post about the situation, nobody involved was badly hurt. So we're free to feel glee at the idea of there actually being a big comics truck that takes the issues straight to a waiting aircraft, like something out of Chigley.

The issue itself is something I'm very proud of, a one off black and white magazine, with Howard Chaykin writing and drawing one full length story, and me and artist Willam Rosado doing another, in a style designed to hark back to the Marvel black and white range of the 1970s. There was much discussion as to whether we should use the old Iron Man armour design, but finally we decided that the new look would look cool in monochrome. The story is called 'Berserker', and it's about Tony Stark's chickens coming home to roost.

If you do find a copy, please let me know what you think. And I look forward to seeing some of you at the SFX Weekender. Do say hello. Until then, Cheerio!

Wish Me Luck, I'm Going In

Last night, the Equality Bill was halted in the British House of Lords, as Tories combined with 'Bishops' to cause another headache for the government. Then the Pope weighed in, saying that the Bill could stop the Catholic church from refusing to appoint gay people to senior positions. Well, I hope it would.

In the UK media, it's come down to that one line now, over and over: Christian equals homophobic.

This situation is mostly because a noisy... I don't know if it's a minority or not, but their numbers are a long way from the full story... a noisy mob of us are. Some of those use weasel words, like 'hate the sin, love the sinner'. Some of those, with aching consciences, and I have nothing but sympathy for them, feel they have to believe that, without wanting to.

I say there's no excuse for Christian homophobia. The New Testament references are tiny. There's nothing at all from Christ. But most importantly, he told us that when the book's wrong, you chuck the book and love.

Damn it.

And there are loads of religious people who think the same way I do. Vast swathes of Anglicans, Methodists and Catholics, absolute shedloads of Quakers. Probably a whole bunch of Baptists. There will have been several Bishops who voted the other way last night, but we don't hear about them.

The current situation suits both extremist 'Christians' (and it takes a lot to make me use those inverted commas, believe me) and a media that would much prefer it if we all just grew up and became sensible atheists. Church homophobia drives an increasingly socially liberal public away, and attracts to the faith only those who are homophobic themselves.

I wish there were a Christian organisation like British Muslims for Secular Democracy, who could liaise with the various gay Christian organisations, but also include those who aren't directly involved, who just think this cause is just. Then there would be a phone number for that liberal voice that the UK media could lay their hands on. If they ever wanted to call it.

In the meantime, I've started a hashtag on Twitter: #godlyforequality. If you're on Twitter, go and have a look, and let's see if we can retweet the message a long way. It's only a tiny thing. It's the least I can do.

Frankly, it's scared the living daylights out of me to post the above. Because my greatest desire is to live as a secular person. I don't want to be the writer that 'does God'. Or at least, not any more than Tolkien or Graham Greene did. I find living outside the closet very hard. Because I'm very aware of how much we're hated. Some of that is because we deserve it. And some of that we can, and should, change.

Ahem. Tomorrow, I'll be blogging about The Indominitable Iron Man. And hiding again. Damn it.