Action Annual Preview

This Thursday (in both Britain and the US), Action Comics Annual #13 will be in your comic shops, featuring two stories by me, both featuring the young Lex Luthor (before he lost his hair). The first concerns his encounter with the space god Darkseid, illustrated by Marco Rudy (you can see five pages of this stunning artwork here.) The second is about his association with Batman's immortal foe Ra's al Ghul, drawn by Ed Benes. I'm insanely proud of the whole package, delivering as it does insight into Lex's personality, plus action aplenty, from way before our current arc. It's who he is and how he came to be, after he left Smallville for the big city. Hope you like it. Cheerio!

OUSFG and Vandal Savage

Oh, how was Thought Bubble, you ask? Excellent, in general, a packed dealer room, with loads of newbies and kids coming through it, a nicely thoughtful panel with Kieron Gillen, Antony Johnston and Rob Williams, and a chance to catch up with a great many friends in the industry. I'm sad that the touring global UK comickers' (I believe Emma Vieceli coined that neologism) party is over for the year, but happy for my liver.

Tomorrow evening I'll be speaking at OUSFG, the Oxford University Speculative Fiction Group. Like all SF fans, they pronounce their acronym, making it sound like I'm arriving at the court of a Saxon noble. I'm unsure about whether or not the general public can come along, so get in touch with them if you'd like to.

And talking of ancient barons, the immortal Vandal Savage is Lex Luthor's sparring partner this Wednesday, and you can see the first few pages of Action Comics #895 here. Cheerio!

Batman and Robin Preview

Batman and Robin #17, by me and Scott McDaniel, is out this Wednesday, and you can see the first five pages of it, plus a lovely alternate cover by Gene Ha here. Cheerio!

Packing for Thought Bubble

And my suitcase is heavy, because I'll be giving away free comics. (Including a bunch suitable for children.) Apart from a panel at the Royal Armouries on comics culture (at 12.45pm) with Kieron Gillen, Antony Johnston and others, I'll be occupying a table, talking to all comers and signing things, all day (unless I wander off to look at the stalls). As always, it'll be brilliant to meet the public and to hang out with the gang of British comic creators. Until then, Cheerio!

My 2010 Short Fiction Picks

With Nebula Award nomination season already here, and Hugo season approaching, I thought I'd share my favourite pieces of short fiction published in 2010. This is the year that, thanks mainly to the ebook edition of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, I've got back into reading SF short stories in a big way. My love affair with Asimov's has been one of the joys of the year for me. I find something outstanding in nearly every issue (except December's, oddly). However, since this romance only began for me in summer, I can't claim that the following is any other than some very partial, personal picks. I must check out what people were reading in the first six months of the year.

Firstly, the short stories:

'Red Letter Day' by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Analog September) is a new twist on the time paradox story, with students receiving one, and only one, letter from their older selves. It portrays the social havoc caused on the day these messages arrive.

'The Palace in the Clouds' by Eugene Mirabelli (Asimov's September) is the kind of deeply humane, romantic thing that Asimov's seems to specialise in, a story of longing and lost love and aviation about what the survivors of the original Venice did next.

'For Want of a Nail' by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov's September) is one of those SF 'problem solving' stories (that's actually the solving of a mystery) that is, again, humane and domestic in the Asimov's tradition, and all the better for it.

I'd also recommend 'Thug' by Gail Simone in the Masked anthology (Gallery Books), with its use of a mentally subnormal character voice.

The novelettes:

'That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made' by Eric James Stone (Analog September), is an refreshingly positive depiction of interaction between human religion and aliens, in this case between a Mormon missionary and enormous creatures made from solar plasma.

'Torhec the Sculptor' by Tanith Lee (Asimov's October-November) is an absolutely cracking, twist-ending, should be anthologised in collections of the great short fiction masterpiece. It concerns an artist who always shows his work and then destroys it, and a rich man who thinks he can get around that commitment and keep one of the statues. And ideally those words would be said by Rod Serling.

And the novella, which is one of the best things I've read in a long time:

'Several Items of Interest' by Rick Wilber (Asimov's October-November) is the story of an everyday person who finds himself part of the household of one of the aliens who, in a very realistic way, haven't quite invaded, but have more gently, straightforwardly, annexed the Earth. His own history is compared to the politics of an alien culture that of course seeks to manipulate him, and of course has simply taken from and traded with and culture shocked and dominated the human race. It's the story of what happens every time a bigger culture meets a smaller one, it's true and accepting of the truth, wryly way past the moment when rebellion would be useful or possible, and it's packed with SF detail and twisty reversals. Great stuff.

And I'm not sure what word length Bill Willingham's 'A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)' from Masked is, but it deserves to be nominated for something. It claims to be one of those guidebooks to heroes and villains, and, laid out in individual entries, describes an entire fictional universe, with stories seen sidelong running through it.

Like I said, partial! I look forward to selecting from other people's lists, and will tell you when I find more gems. Cheerio!

Bits and Bobs

Just got back to my desk from having popped over to Neil Gaiman's fiftieth birthday party in New Orleans. I met some wonderful folk, in what could only be described as an orgy of introductions, as Neil did one of his favourite things: bringing together people from different worlds. And it was lovely to see him and his family once again. I wandered Bourbon Street at dawn. (And found myself walking swiftly away from the sudden approach of a tall, dark, well-dressed stranger. No, really.)

(A little blurry, but then, so was I.) I ate splendidly on grits, gumbo and red beans and rice. I got the editorial notes on my novel in a hot hotel room in the early hours, and started laughing at how splendid they were.

I landed back in the UK just in time to get to my wife's thirtieth birthday party. So, phew, it's all happening. Here's me at the brunch the next day, courtesy of Rachel M. It's a great picture, but I look like Gonzo.

The weekend before was Bristolcon, which had tripled in size, and now felt busy and energetic. I held my own on a panel about physics and futurology, which, given my sad showing beside Charlie Stross in Melbourne, I was well pleased with, and I flailed away uselessly at my own presentation. Just for once I should let myself be interviewed rather than wander about with the mike.

And in the week between we went to see Imogen Heap play Oxford. I was very impressed. She wandered out to introduce her support acts (who were all part of her band), started her first number again because something didn't work, and avoided the ritual of the encore by saying we were already in it. And there was chat with the audience between every song. Such connection with one's following is admirable, and the music is fascinating.

The fan fiction quest is going well, with several excellent stories in already. If you write fan fiction and don't know what I'm talking about, check out the previous blog entry.

While I'm away, several things have happened. On Wednesday/Thursday, November 17 or 18, depending if you're in the US or the UK, Soldier Zero #2 comes out, by me, Stan Lee and Javier Pina. You can find an eight page preview here.

There's a very lovely Knight and Squire/The Goon team up picture if you scroll down the art posts here.

And here's my lecture from the Fortean Times Unconvention on 'Fortean Themes in Doctor Who'. I only realised afterwards that, in my nervousness, I'd nicked a couple of Toby Hadoke's jokes. Sorry, Tobes.

And there have been two recent pieces at DC's The Source blog that I've had a hand in. There's a preview of Knight and Squire #2 (which is now out, and very lovely it is too) here, and my essay on creating villains, which talks about Lex and my new villain for Batman and Robin here.

My old friend Padraig O'Mealoid recently had a prostate cancer operation, and has been beset by medical bills, so he's put up some of the choicest items from a lifetime of association with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams in this ebay auction. Neil's own Sandman sketch, Marvelman colouring books, that BJ and the Bear Annual Alan had a story in... it's all here.

Chris Weston sent me this. I knew there was a connection between Dame Vera Lynn and XTNCT...

Two of our regulars here, fashion designer Tara Reich and columnist Teresa Jusino have teamed up for a Caprican fashion shoot. Teresa also has a short story in issue 24 of Crossed Genres Magazine, the 'characters of color' issue.

And the Only Connect people tell me that they've slipped a special celebrity edition of the show into the run next week, with Sir Andrew Motion, Adam Hart-Davis and Rev. Richard Coles, amongst others, for Children in Need week.

We're off to see Gorillaz tonight, and it's Thought Bubble in Leeds next Saturday (I'll be in the hall all day, and on the Comics Culture panel at 12.45pm), so my travels haven't ended. Until next time, then, Cheerio!

Fan Fiction Wanted!

I've decided that one of my Twelve Blogs of Christmas this year will feature links to fan fiction stories that involve characters I've created. It's not a contest. (I'll probably put up the vast majority of the links I get.) It's just my way of showing my continuing appreciation for people who write for fun using my characters. Here are a few rules:

1: Only the author of a story can submit it.

2: There must be no monetary element to the presentation of the story. The link must take one straight to the story, which will be presented without advertising or any attempt to extract payment, or any other attempt to blur the line between fan fiction and commerce. Your story will be presented for free in all respects. (It seems unlikely anyone would try to do anything else, but I'm just making sure.)

3: The story must feature at least one character I created. So not just characters I've used but were created by other people, like the Doctor or Lex Luthor. (Although they can appear too.) That covers prose, comics, television and anything else you can think of. All stories should be in prose, though, please. No comic strips, video, poetry, etc. (Although scripts for comics are fine.) The Richard E. Grant Doctor counts.

4: There are two ways of submitting stories. You can either post a link on my Twitter feed, or you can send the link in an email to Anything other than a link to a fan fiction story sent to that email address will be ignored, and the email address dis-used after this is all over. Please don't put links in the blog comments.

5: I'll read all the stories, and I'll encourage visitors to my blog to do so also, and to comment (kindly, not as critique). I'll also offer a couple of sentences of introduction, on the blog, to each link. But I won't pass on any of the links to any copyright holders. This isn't a way to get your work seen by the BBC or a comics company.

6: Please keep your stories suitable for all ages. Romance between characters is fine (including gay romance), but fade out before anything too steamy, please. And no bad language.

7: The deadline for submissions is December 15th, 2010. The blog post featuring all the links will go up a few days after that.

8: It's all right if your story has been seen before and isn't brand new. I'm assuming many of these will be old links.

9: My decision is final, and I reserve the right to not feature any story.

10: Your story can be any length, it's your space you're using.

11: Your story must not feature any real people, institutions, etc.

12: Only one link per writer.

That all sounded a bit stern. Sorry. I'm doing my best to create a happy playing field for everyone. I especially don't want to annoy copyright holders. I look forward to reading what you send in. Until next time, Cheerio!

Comics Interviews

Morning, all. I break away from writing for The Joker just long enough to tell you about a couple of interviews. Firstly, there's this one, with Comic Book Resources, dealing with my Batman and Robin run. And there's also these, with the Knight and Squire team (you'll have to turn your volume up):

That's me, cover artist Yanick Paquette and artist Jimmy Broxton, filmed at the British International Comics Show, interview conducted by Steve Green. Okay, back to the keyboard I go. See some of you in Bristol on Saturday. Cheerio!

Expo, BristolCon and the Eagles

Well, sad to say Cap didn't win the Eagle Award. The Awards ceremony itself was what might be called a good first attempt. It rocketed past, it was generally orderly, everyone was sober and dressed up. So the offhandedness, the 'oh it doesn't matter' quality of previous years has largely vanished. That seriousness made up for everything else. The remaining problems were of an organisational variety: no acceptance videos; designated collectors (it turned out) only for those who'd actually won; guests standing around in the venue for an hour before being seated; almost no public present. That can all be sorted out next time. The positives included the nominations and winners being generally reasonable and plausible, the physical awards themselves being of good quality and the new logo being excellent. A bit more communication between Eagle and MCM Expo organisers would be a good thing. And, erm, spelling mistakes on slides and actual awards... not easy to forgive. But still, if the community gets behind the organisation, I think we could have a decent UK comics awards from now on.

The MCM Expo was the usual vast hall of wonder. I love wandering amongst the cosplay kids, with their signs saying 'free hugs' and their congregating outside the venue into the night and their tribalism. I find their youth and creativity very pleasing. There were some excellent pub nights with my peers in UK comics, and I had a long sit down with Chris Claremont, who I found to be wise and serious and funny, and absolutely up for being the last one out of the bar, albeit he kept going with pots of tea. The comic and small press area connects more with the anime audience every year, and this year fellow Tor SF author Peter F. Hamilton popped in for a signing and did a roaring trade. This bodes well. The other media can connect to that young audience too.

Next Saturday I'll be going to BristolCon, the West Country's own SF and fantasy convention, with me and Joe Abercrombie as Guests of Honour, plus loads of other writers, including Alastair Reynolds and Juliet McKenna, and Doctor Who special effects wrangler Mike Tucker. Last year it was a bit titchy, but this year it promises to be way more substantial. The programme is now available at the con's website, on the right margin there. I'm really looking forward to it. Until then, Cheerio!