The State of the Art on the BBC iPlayer

If you'd like to hear my BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Iain M.Banks' 'The State of the Art', the link to it on the BBC iPlayer is here. And yes, though people in other countries can't watch television on the iPlayer, they can listen to radio shows. It should stay up for about a week. Hope you enjoy it.

And now it can be told: I'm soon going to be part of a monthly podcast, a sort of show and tell of SF and fantasy, set to start mid-May. It's going to be called The SF Squeecast, and it features me, Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear and Catherynne M.Valente, all kept in check by SF archivist and Chicks Dig Time Lords editor Lynne Thomas. More about that nearer the time. Cheerio!

The State of the Voices from the Daleks

No, I don't want to say a word about the Action Comics #900 'controversy'. Except that I wish the day would come when comic fans would prefer to talk about the story. I've done a new interview about it with Wired's Geek Dad, and another here with Midtown Comics.

Today's big media event is obviously the repeat of my Iain M. Banks adaptation 'The State of the Art' at 2.15pm today on BBC Radio 4. It'll be on the iPlayer afterwards (for which I'll provide a link in a new post) and yes, those abroad will be able to listen. I'm told we can expect a global audience of several billion.

As you can see from the book covers in the right hand margin,Voices from the Past is now available to pre-order, and will be out tomorrow. It's an e-book SF and fantasy anthology, which you can download for either 99p or £2.99, for an absolutely identical edition, the only difference being how much you want to give to Great Ormond Street Hospital. Every penny of the proceeds goes there, and all the authors gave new stories for free, myself included. SF fans may rejoice at the presence of Alastair Reynolds, Jasper Fforde, Kaaron Warren, Juliet McKenna and Mary Robinette Kowal. Comics fans will be delighted by the presence of Bill Willingham. Doctor Who fans can be gleeful about the appearance of Andrew Smith, Cav Scott, Jac Rayner, Joe Lidster, Paul Magrs, Rob Shearman and Toby Hadoke. And there are many authors I haven't mentioned. My story is called 'A Map of Lychford' and that's all I'm going to tell you about it. It really is a fantastic collection, and well worth your donation.

As you can also see on the right, I'm delighted to be part of Vertigo's upcoming Strange Adventures anthology comic, which also features a story by newly-crowned Clarke Award winner Lauren Beukes. It's her first comics work, and my first work for Vertigo.

Every now and then I'm sent a book to review, some of which make it to the blog and some don't. This one I read at high speed, and was very pleased with.

The Man who Invented the Daleks by Alwyn W. Turner isn't quite a biography of Terry Nation (we hear, for example, only two things about his wife). Rather it's a very detailed story of the working life of a television writer, at a time when the medium was at its height. It puts his work in a finely-drawn sociopolitical context and demonstrates the accidents and hard work that create success in the business. I don't quite buy its offhand assertion that Nation was a proud socialist, given that so much of his work seems to stare at libertarianism and ask desperately what the problem with it is, as if an answer might be a great relief. This especially since there are no political quotes from the man himself. Statements concerning the lack of ideology in his scripts will also come as a surprise to Doctor Who fans, Nation having long been seen as one of the few writers from the classic series to display a point of view. It's almost as if including such things might make a man for whom we gain great sympathy in the course of the book (chiefly because of the amount of failure any successful writer endures) scary. Nation was also either never rewritten, or always rewritten, depending on which script editor you talk to and what they mean at the time. But that's always been the case with any TV writer. But I'm starting with negatives, when my overall impression was vastly positive. It's a story of failure (Nation being seen as the man who finished off Tony Hancock's career), turning, through the grabbing of a single opportunity and luck (well, the luck of having Beryl Vertue for an agent) into riches. Nation did all his best work in the space of a year, and spent a lucrative decade towards the end of his life getting almost nothing produced in the USA. But he clearly knew an opportunity when he saw one, was the personality that you wanted in your office, managed his own image and pursued finer artistic goals after the Daleks made him wealthy. Doctor Who fans always approach a book like this assuming they'll know more than a non-specialist researcher, but not only has Turner really done his homework, with every Who-related moment portrayed in the proper context, but he's unearthed several gems that I'd never heard about: the fist fight between Nation and David Whitaker, for instance! He's particularly good on what Nation drew upon from the science fiction he read and adapted, on Nation as an SF writer in dialogue with the genre (though again, the prologue worryingly denies Nation was an SF writer, once more as if we might be scared away otherwise). Turner isn't quite aware of how big a genre SF is, or what defines it, and sometimes guesses that Nation might have learned from texts that he might never have encountered, but in general it's a serious and thorough attempt by a writer outside the genre to examine how it applies to a working writer, and should be applauded. Threads such as Nation's Welsh identity (all those names: Davros! And of course he married a Grant), his need to have a series with his name on it, and his shying away from conflict and the studio floor, are explored in satisfying depth. The book might well make Terrance Dicks sigh, since he and several others lived just such an interesting work life, without having Beryl strike through that one line in the BBC contract about merchandise rights. But that was the cruelty of the game, and it still is. Nation was from Llandaff, where the new Doctor Who was also born, a series which is now run by Beryl's son-in-law. If Nation was still with us, he'd have got to go to some great parties, and might well have had a one line story idea in his head when he did. The Man who Invented the Daleks is a fascinating read for anyone interested in how television works, and the life of a working writer, and I heartily recommend it.

Until next time, Cheerio!

Action Comics #900

Today's the day when Action Comics #900 is out (in the States, and depending on what the Bank Holidays are doing to shipping, I think in the UK as well). It's a truly enormous beast (96 pages, including a 51 page lead story) that wraps up 'The Black Ring' and begins Superman's battle with Doomsday in the same story. Plus, there are back up stories by Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook, David Goyer and Miguel Sepulveda, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank and Paul Dini and R.B.Silva. (There are some art surprises to be found in the lead story too.) There's Richard Donner and Derek Hoffman presenting a screenplay that's storyboarded by Matt Camp. There's a two page spread by Brian Stelfreeze. And as well as this brilliant cover by David Finch...

You can find variants by Alex Ross...

And Adam Hughes.

I've watched my editors Matt Idelson and Wil Moss put this together over the last few months, and believe me when I say it's a labour of love. Pete Woods and I are insanely proud of the lead story, and it's great that all these good folk opted to join in. We've all been out and about doing publicity for this monster, and these are just the interviews I've caught so far: Pete Woods talks to Wired's Geek Dad; I pop up on Ain't It Cool News; and me and Damon Lindelof talk to CNN.

To see a five page preview of the issue, hop over to DC'S The Source.

One of the best things about Eastercon this weekend (I'll talk about it at greater length later) was getting to show my SF friends my comics work. Action #900 feels like a chance to do that with the mainstream world. So there'll be a spring in my step today, and at the Clarke Awards tonight. Until next time, Cheerio!

A Beard No More

It was with great relief that I shaved off that beard on Easter Sunday. Great relief, three razors, and a skin like I'd been grated. Here are the stages:

The beard on its last day (Day 47).

Looking scarily like my Dad, with a trimmed chin version. (The Brit Superman t-shirt was a gift from James Bacon, and, he says, available in high street shops.)

Just the rather louche moustache.

And this is me. The final total raised for Shelter was £1,602.28. You should all feel very proud of yourselves. That included £146 from the kind people at Eastercon (and thanks to Flick for doing the collecting at the auction), George Martin's lovely doubled contribution, and donations from Gideon Hallett, Matthew Hyde, Matthew Kilburn, the novelists Diana Rowland, Tricia Sullivan and Adam Christopher, Paul Cockburn, Stacey Frost, the SF editor Jo Fletcher, Madeleine Flint, Sarah Lovett and my fellow UK comicker Jamie McKelvie.

Thanks for all being so kind. I'm never going to do anything beard-related again. And now I'm going to go and eat some soup. Cheerio!

A Beard for George R.R.Martin

To quote the great man, 'I'll double that if you dye it green'. And being now at a pitch for excitement for Game Of Thrones, the first episode of which was excellent beyond measure (and featured Harry 'Son of Mine' Lloyd' being wonderfully villainous), I was reminded of his wager. So, shameless as I am...

You would not believe how icky this stuff is. I think it's luminous too. I may still be gently pulsating at Eastercon. Only five days left! Cheerio!

UPDATE: George was indeed generous enough to double his donation! Thank you, sir! And I am still getting bits out. One of the insides of my ear was green. The tinge caused a bit of consternation doing the shopping today, let me tell you. Cheerio again!

New York Times Bestseller!

Wa-hey! Look at this! The Lex Luthor in Action Comics collection Superman: The Black Ring is at number one in the New York Times Hardcover Graphic Books Best Seller list! It's all down to Pete Woods' art and Matt and Wil's editing, I'll have you know.

And, to stop blowing my own trumpet and, erm, blow someone else's, the London Comics Festival from 30th April features a number of my old cohorts, including several Doctor Who folk. Do pop along.

I shall now go back to gloating. I've ordered some green hair dye for the beard. Only a week to go, but it's going to be a tough one. Until next time, Cheerio!

Post Kapow Beard Illness Blog

I'be been ill, so I know, that isn't pretty. Only a week and a bit to go. I'll be pushing for some more cash at Eastercon, and there's still the business of dyeing it green... To respond to your comments on the site: indeed Gareth, I've found something else Larfleeze doesn't want; thanks to the Proud Lion comic shop for the donation from carrier bag sales and thanks Stefan!

The Kapow Comic Convention was very enjoyable, with the exception of the bug I picked up (possibly as a result of having shaken all those hands in two hours of signing). I didn't see as much of my UK comicker peers as I'd have liked, but it was great to catch up with my old editors Nick Lowe and Steve Whacker, and to be on a DC panel with Bob Wayne, Frank Quitely and Pete Milligan. The event itself seemed a creditable attempt to create a mid-size media/comics convention on the American model, without attempting to attract the huge anime audience that graces the MCM Expo.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was writing four pages of the special Superior comic that broke a Guinness World Record. One of them ended up being drawn by David Lafuente. I'll look out for my name in the next edition of the Guinness Book!

In other comics news, here's an interview with Pete Woods on his way out of Action Comics, where he's being lovely as always.

I'm looking forward to Illustrious in Birmingham, the Eastercon on the weekend after next. I'll be hosting the BSFA Awards, and also appearing on the following:

9pm, Friday, Space Over Time: 'How changes in our understanding of astrophysics and astronomy have changed the depiction of space in SF.' (It's great to be on a physics/lit panel.)

12pm, Saturday, Mirror Universe: 'Star Trek has its mirror universe but what would, say, the Paddington Bear mirror universe be like? Our creative panel discusses TV shows/books mirror universes nominated by the audience.' (Sounds fun.)

9pm, Saturday: A panel about audio SF.

10.30am, Sunday: A panel about comics for beginners. (I'll talk and talk.)

10.30am, Monday: And, just for a change, I'm playing rather than hosting Just A Minute!

And, date for your diary, my radio adaptation of Iain M. Banks' 'The State of the Art' will be repeated on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15pm on 29th April.

Anyhow, that's me for now, and until Eastercon, Cheerio!

Video Interview

Just a nice piece we did at C2E2.


Stuff. Things. Continuing!

That's me at Anime Detour last weekend. Rather wonderfully, you guys have now passed the target for donations, but don't let that stop you. I'm told I'm going to be sent that enormous combat spoon if we double it (which I'm sure I'll find a charitable home for). And I still have to dye the beard green to double George R.R. Martin's contribution. So there's loads still to play for. Thanks to donations from the awesome authors Melinda Snodgrass and Martin Sketchley (who got us over the line). Alan, I am indeed a member of the Patrick Moore Appreciation Society, and Ian, thanks for the fill-up.

Anime Detour was great. It was interesting to meet an entirely new fandom. (I may start visiting knitting and railway enthusiast conventions.) Anime voice actors are an amazingly friendly group of people. (They basically hosted a panel asking me questions.) Just A Minute worked well, with anime subjects. I got to hang out with some of my mates from Convergence (the best convention in the world), and Caroline luxuriated in being at the heart of anime geekdom, and did well on her panels (including one on women in anime which dealt with some major issues).

While I was away, several things happened. One of my editors on Action Comics, Wil Moss, wrote this very kind article about my Lex Luthor run. I did this interview with CBR about the forthcoming Doomsday storyline. And another with io9 about the Lex run. DC revealed tons of details about the enormous forthcoming Action Comics #900. And Raymond Masters on Wired's Geek Dad has started Nine Articles about Action #900,

I hope to see some of you at the Kapow comic convention in London this weekend. Until then, Cheerio!