Grodd Reaction and New Death Cover

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words concerning Action Comics #893, which comes out today in the UK. I think it's my best single issue of comics writing, and the reaction has been very heartening. I was particularly honoured to be given iFanboy's Pick of the Week for the second time. As a fan of their podcast, it's something I always have in mind when I'm writing comics. So I'm looking forward to their audio about the issue on Monday. I've done interviews about the run with Comic Books Resources and Atomic Comics.

On the subject of Action, I was excited to discover that one of my comic art heroes, P. Craig Russell, who drew Killraven back in the day, has provided us with an alternate cover to #894, the issue where Death of the Endless takes centre stage. This is it.



Please join me in saying 'wow'.

Finally, in superhero-related news, you remember I've contributed a story to George R.R. Martin's new Wild Cards anthology Fort Freak, which is out in June 2011? Well, celebrated author Cherie Priest has written the arc plot for the book, which my story fits into, and a preview excerpt is available at George's site here. Very much looking forward to that.

I'm at that nice point where I'm just getting over a cold and energy is flooding back. I've been doing well with that Hamilton story in the meantime, though, as well as providing horoscopes (using my vast powers of clairvoyance and sarcasm) on Twitter, so it's not as if I haven't been busy. Until next time, Cheerio!

Back to the Hermit Lifestyle

Caroline's gone back to college, meaning that once again I have the house to myself, from roughly 7am to 7pm each weekday. During her vacation, I'd got used to writing my required number of comics pages while she worked, then being able to spend time with her during the day. But now I have a lot more time to fill. It's a transition I've got used to, but the first couple of days each way still feel weird. I've either got to put up with another voice in the house, or to put up with there not being one. In order to fend off being alone not becoming loneliness, depression and playing computer games, I have to make my schedule into a big deal again, always breaking for lunch at noon, when I'll always listen to a podcast. (Jonathan Strahan's excellent Notes From Coode Street was today's.) I also have to quickly resume talking to myself. When the phone rang, I said, out loud, 'hmm, the phone, who could that be?' in the way people don't in movies.

This time round my newfound writing freedom has coincided with a gap between deadlines, so I can put it to the service of prose. Today I properly plotted out the next Jonathan Hamilton story, which previously had been six thousand words of contradictory nonsense and a few ideas. Now it's a solid narrative of exactly zero words, because most of what I've written will have to go. It's a relief not to be trapped in wondering what it might be about. I'm going to write two thousand words of it every free day, and if that takes less than twenty days, then it'll be a novella that I can send to Sheila Williams at Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. (Asimov's is my new passion. Not being put off by the baroque process of downloading it from Fictionwise means I must be addicted. The new double issue's got excellent work by Tanith Lee, Kij Johnson, Will McIntosh and many others. Sheila's emphases on character, atmosphere and storytelling give the title the feel of a superior Twilight Zone, with the difference that magic is never invoked, these being SF, or sometimes what one might call literary, short stories about scientific speculation. The lyricism of a lot of the telling makes that point easy to miss.)

Finally, you lot will probably hear from me on the blog a bit more now. Not everything can be said in less than 140 characters. I've been thinking about pieces concerning the stuttering and stalling of what is still, just about, the ebook revolution, and about the withdrawal from the future in recent SF and fantasy. I've also got some questions to ask you. As always, your comments will be appreciated, and I'll get to them rather more quickly now. Until next time, Cheerio.

Grodd and Jimmy Previews

The first five pages of Action Comics #893, out next week, featuring Sean Chen's lovely guest art, are available here. It's Lex vs. Grodd! And I think it's one of the best comics I've written. And you know who shows up at the end.

And starting in the same issue, I'm very pleased to have Nick Spencer and R.B.Silva's excellent Jimmy Olsen series as a back-up strip, featuring Smallville's Chloe Sullivan in her first comics appearance. Editor Wil Moss previews it here. And it's available for free on the DC Comics digital app, or from Comixology.com.

Action keeps on getting more exciting for me! I hope you're enjoying it too. Cheerio!

Two Live Things Today

My favourite young ska/pop/bouncy band Quadrophobe will be putting a live gig online, if you're on Facebook, today from 9-10pm, here. Or you can always go along to see them in the flesh at The Barn in Portsmouth, from where it will be broadcast.

And I myself will be interviewed on air, if you're in London, by Alex Fitch, talking about my current comics, at 5pm today, on Resonance FM, 104.4 FM. It'll be streamed on the site too, and podcast afterwards here. Or you can find it on iTunes. Detective Comics writer David Hine is Alex's other guest.

Busy week! Until soon, I promise, soon, Cheerio!

Ten Things Now I'm Back

I delivered the first draft of the Vandal Savage issue of Action Comics today, Neil signed off on Death's dialogue in the previous one, and I had a nice chat with my editors about the second half of the arc. I'm very pleased with how this is going. It's satisfying work. Tomorrow, I start my next issue of Soldier Zero, with the arcs for that now planned out. And at some point soon, I must get back to the third Hamilton short story, which needs several thousand useless words cutting. But at least I know where that's going now.

Quite a few things of note have built up while I'm away, so I thought I'd address them using the Ten Things format. To begin...

1: Editor Lou Anders talks about the Masked anthology, which features my story 'Secret Identity' at Newsarama, and on the Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing Podcast, while Stargate: Universe showrunner Joe Mallozzi features the title, and an interview with fellow contributor Gail Simone, in his book club.

2: And I myself was also interviewed for a different edition of the AISFPP. It's from before Pulse was cancelled, so there's a certain sighing nostalgia about it.

3: Fantasycon in Nottingham this weekend (where I won't be, having decided to follow Somerset to the cricket final at Lord's) sees the launch of Cinema Futura, a special edition hardback collection of essays about great SF and fantasy movies, edited by Mark Morris, featuring writers like Christopher Priest, Adam Roberts and Peter F. Hamilton, each talking about one film. My own contribution is a piece on the (sorely undervalued) 2010. Check out that list of contributors!

4: Editors Chris Garcia and James Bacon produced a special edition of their SF fanzine The Drink Tank for Worldcon, entirely about comics. It includes a very useful piece by Liz Batty and Nick Honeywell about the need for reconsideration of the Best Graphic Story category in the Hugo Awards, effectively suggesting turning it into Best Graphic Novel. It's an approach with which I generally agree. Check out a free PDF of the issue here and see what you think. The editors invite letters and comments for a future issue on the subject.


5: On 23rd-24th October it's the Fortean Times Unconvention at the University of Westminster in London. I'll be delivering a lecture on 'Fortean Themes in Doctor Who', of which there are surprisingly few, but they're clustered in interesting ways, and say hopefully meaningful things about the series and British society. I still don't know which day I'm on, sorry. I've always been a fan of FT, and this talk allows me to bring together two of my favourite things.

6: You can see Billy Tucci's gorgeous variant Knight and Squire cover here, plus you can check out Knight and Squire cosplayers in the crowd at DragonCon!

7: Muscle Memory is Al Davison's extraordinary autobiographical story, told in comic form. Al's one of the great talents of British comics. He's been advising me on Soldier Zero, to make sure I get right the details and culture of life in a wheelchair. This work shows him at his finest. He also draws a great likeness of himself. I had a little shock when I saw him in this; that man in the hat is vividly the man I know. Do go and have a look.

8: Former White Dwarf and Death Ray editor Guy Haley has a new blog where he intends to put up the best of the interviews and reviewers he's contributed to SF journalism over the years. Should be worth following, especially since he's soon going to be an Angry Robot author.

9: Journalist of this parish Teresa Jusino has produced an illustrated interview with geek fashion designer Tara Reich, including mention of her Doctor Who collection.

10: From my regular pre-Ten Things trawl of talented people on Twitter, comes this much-better-than-it-should-be trailer for Ladies and Gentlemen, an hour long pilot written and produced by Robert Lucas, and directed by Robin Schmidt. They're hoping to get this on TV as a series, having made it themselves. I think they've got a shot.

That's it for now. Until next time, Cheerio!



How Australia Was

Well, it was great, thanks for asking. I'm handling the jet lag now I'm home not by sleeping at the wrong times, as is traditional, but by going through the usual hours of the day feeling weird and dreamlike. Hello desk, hello computer! (They haven't quite started to answer back.) Presumably, my actual dreams are now even more concrete and to the point than usual.

We visited Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef (by snorkel), the Atherton tablelands, Uluru, Sydney and Melbourne. So much wildlife: we became particularly friendly with a big blue fish on the Reef, who hangs around a particular platform, waiting for photo ops. I'd sorted my deadlines so that I didn't have to do much work, and was able to relax for the first time in months. Thankfully, unlike with some of my holidays, this time I found that the journey from work mode to relaxation wasn't too hard. So no horrors. In Sydney, my old friends from local Doctor Who fandom got together for a reunion, which was a delight. We checked out the MCG and the Tim Burton exhibition in Melbourne. Thanks to the wonders of FourSquare, I was able to carry out an impromptu book store signing or two. Hiking around (not on) Uluru was a grand experience. And that was where the guidebook proudly told us that we could meet an indigenous person.

The position of indigenous people in Aussie is quite strange. We went to several places, like a treetop rainforest walk, which were specifically indigenous in origin, and made much of the local people's contribution, but where there was no sign of them. We expected to find, at the park around Uluru, with strict prohibitions about when and how to enter, indigenous people on the ticket desks and in the shops, but the only one to be seen was our guide, Sarah Dolby. She spoke only the local dialect, and was accompanied by an English translator who was Japanese, because Japanese and her language share many similarities. Sarah was an awkward mix of guide and tourist attraction, to the point where she told us we could take photos of her. Nobody did. However, it was clear that she was leading the tour, that this experience was down to her. And the funds generated by the tourism here go to the Uluru family, and hence to indigenous causes in general. Sarah and her translator were clearly friends, laughing together and exchanging bits of Japanese. It's impossible to call this exploitation. But it still felt awkward. One's own internal racism is usually swiftly overcome by meeting the people in question. That's harder to do when you can't. If you're a tourist, rather than someone who lives in rural Queensland, it's almost as if these people are 'the elves', always living somewhere over there, unseen, strange, different. We were told much about how they used to live, as hunter gatherers, but not a single thing about how they live now. They seem valued these days for difference, for mysticism, which is nice, but doesn't say anything about housing and education. Sarah's language was first written down in the 1980s. The first indigenous MP was elected a couple of weeks back. This isn't a rant at a country which does now seem to be moving swiftly in the right direction concerning indigenous rights, more a note of how recent and awkward and strange it all seems. While the local people ask visitors not to climb Uluru, there's no actual prohibition. That feels like the grind of old politics, like a deliberate arrow pointing at powerlessness. 'Minga' is the local word for those who walk on the rock: 'ants'. It's a nice combination of description and insult.

Near Cairns, we went whitewater rafting on the river Tully, and there was this guy sitting upfront beside Caroline, very sure of himself. He kept talking over what the guide was saying, and advising us what to do. And then, going over a set of rapids, his foot stamped down on Caroline's, and twisted, almost completely removing the nail of her big toe. After a bit of glue and dressing, she kept going. She dived off the big rock. On another set of rapids, she got flung out, grabbed and flung back into the raft. I may have mentioned before how tough she is. The toe now looks weird, but everything looks like it's growing back as it's supposed to.


And so to Worldcon. Aussiecon 4 was quite a laid-back example. Lower attendance, but we always knew that would be the case. A kind of simplicity and straightforwardness to the panel topics that didn't always make for the best debate, but precluded much awkwardness and confrontation too. The 'racism in SF' panel was the first one of its kind I've seen without a cross word. The lack of useful internet facilities in... well, all of Australia, really... meant that the Twitter stream was slow, and that, these days, is the pulse of a convention. I enjoyed Guest of Honour Kim Stanley Robinson's lecture on Virginia Woolf's fandom for SF writer Olaf Stapledon, and how his Star Maker influenced her own later books. It was fun, if awkward, watching George R.R. Martin gamely filling an hour about the forthcoming HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones when he wasn't allowed to show or tell us anything. I held my own, just about, alongside the great critic John Clute on the 'Western influences on SF' panel. And sank my shallow knowledge on Charlie Stross' iceberg on the time travel panel. (An essay to come on this blog about how SF is losing ground in the gap years between great theories of physics.) But my favourite panel, and I think it went down well with the audience, was Just A Minute:



(Nicked from the Shane on the Go blog, hope he doesn't mind.) Sorry about the sound. The participants were Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Jennifer Fallon, John Scalzi, Ellen Kushner, Cat Valente and China Mieville. Scalzi won it, by being ruthless like a hawk that had got out of the wrong side of bed that morning and had issues with mice. I think we might have succeeded in making the game a Worldcon fixture now.

The best thing about this Worldcon was the bar talk and late conversations. I sat up with Jonathan Strahan and Liz Myles, and had a meaningful post-gameshow chat about religion with kind atheists Scalzi and Mieville. We met many new friends, such as Valente (oh my God, force of nature), Seanan McGuire (great intellectual) and Alaya Johnson (pointed and precise). The demolition of party culture in the other hotel, by means of sudden management strife, meant loads of authors ended up in the Hilton bar. The shared circumstances of our lives as SF and fantasy writers, especially when it comes to the Olympics that is the Hugo Awards, creates a great sense of togetherness. It's my favourite thing, to be in a bar full of my peers. We did two dinners in two nights with George Martin and his wonderful gang, including Melinda Snodgrass. That's another specific belonging, the way we're all part of subgroups, in this case the Wild Cards authors.

The night before the Hugo Awards, I dreamed I was a young boy who was going to be in a boxing match. I was quite looking forward to it, thinking I might land a lucky punch or two. But when I got to where it was going to be held, I ended up not fighting at all, and had to work hard instead, hauling buckets. See what I mean about concrete and to the point? Thankfully, on the night of the Awards, when I'd failed to turn nominations into wins, my dreams were of being led into a surprise party. The surprise being, I guess, that it wasn't so bad, that, as Scalzi put it, caring about the Hugos more than the work is a kind of idolatory. Or as Valente put it in her first post-ceremony tweet: 'time to write a better book'. I aspire to that bravery. It was a pleasure to announce another Hugo win for Doctor Who, and to read out Graeme Harper's speech. What do you reckon, five nominations out of five next year? Or is Stargate: Universe going to get a shot?

Because I'm an idiot, we actually packed up and left the night before we were due to fly out, and after a lovely meal at the airport, had to slink back to the hotel, only to find all our friends in the bar again, and more, and seemingly always. And it is a bit like that, this being the party that travels round the world. That old guy with the long white beard, hoping he'll get the Big Heart Award before the Hugo ceremony... that'll be me one day.

There'll be a Ten Things post full of stuff very shortly. Until then, Cheerio!



Stan Speaks About Soldier Zero

This was while I was on holiday, but I can't get over how excited I am about it.



Excelsior!

Only Connect Dates

As you can see, my team, The Fantasy Writers, with Geoff Ryman and Liz Williams, appears on 4th October!



Cheerio!

Pulse/ My Worldcon Schedule

Hello from Melbourne. Just a quick post, in case you haven't heard: I'm very sorry to say that BBC3 have chosen not to take Pulse to series. Simon and Helen at World Productions, our great director James and our wonderful cast put a lot of hard work into it, and I'd like to thank them for their efforts. I much appreciate the kind words of everyone online, before and after we heard about the cancellation. Your support has been extremely gratifying.

There's been all sorts of stuff worth blogging about, but I told myself I'd get a proper holiday, and so have neglected all of it. My apologies, but I feel a lot better for it. I had better, however, share with anyone who needs to know my Worldcon schedule.

Friday, 11am: Writing for franchises.
Saturday, 1pm: Fringe and other paranormal investigation shows, with Seanan McGuire.
Saturday 3pm: Superhero universes.
Saturday 4pm: Just A Minute. Instead of the advertised panel about Pulse, rather than watch me sob for an hour, you can join in the fun of this game show, with guests Jennifer Fallon, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, China Mieville and John
Sunday 10am: The Western's influence on SF. Why me? No idea!
Sunday noon: The case for a female Doctor. I vote yes. Cat Valente isvprobably dead set against.
Sunday 3pm: Me, Melinda Snodgrass and Ian Mond about SF on TV.
Sunday 5pm: Me and Shearman record an edition of the Boxcutters podcast.
Monday 11am: Time Travel with Charlie Stross.
Monday 2pm: Including pop culture in SF.

And of course on Sunday night it's the Hugos. I'm presenting one, picking up another should a friend win, and waiting hopelessly during the two categories I'm up for.

If you run into me this weekend, do say hello. Until then, Cheerio!