Midnight tonight is the cut off point for entering the This Time Next Year Game, where you're asked to judge the outcomes of thirty things in the coming year. There are loads of entrants already, and big prizes to be had. I have to manually clear blog comments (I started doing that after my blog briefly became the central hub of anti-Robin Hood feeling, not an asset to one's popularity with the producers of that show. I also still get the occasional fascist (I mean literally) dropping me a line to share their views about Captain Britain and MI-13.) So don't worry if you enter before midnight but your comment doesn't show up until after. I'm going to be at midnight mass (and then, erm, where there is beer), so it might take me a while to clear last minute entries, but they'll be counted.
Two lovely reviews have appeared which I'd like to mention, the always interesting Too Busy Thinking About My Comics continues a series of blogs about Knight and Squire and Comics Alliance is nicely thoughtful about Demon Knights. Thanks, everyone.
Today, I'd like to look ahead to some of the events I'll be attending in 2012.
On February 2-5th, I'll be one of now quite an enormous list of author guests at the third SFX Weekender, now at Prestatyn. What I love about these events, more than anything else, is the audience. They're a very mainstream crowd, diverse, and with a much more even male/female balance than at conventions inside SF fan culture. There's a lot of cosplay, and an emphasis on inclusion and partying. These are people who grew up outside the ghetto and think of fan life as one element of a healthy diet. I'll be staying once again at the Tor Cottage, where my publishers create a little sitcom of a bunch of authors sharing a house. (Last year we woke to the sound of China Mieville skipping on the patio.) The SFX guys have got me doing some fun stuff onstage, which I'll reveal nearer the time. And you'll get to see me dancing ridiculously at the disco.
On 18th February, I'll probably pop my head round the door of lovely little Picocon at Imperial College, because former Guests of Honour get in free. There are always good guest panels, in actual lecture halls. I usually say 'but why is it bigger than Microcon?' They've probably never heard that before.
On the 25-26th February, I'll be at the first London Super Comic Convention. Obviously, this is an unknown quantity, but they've got Stan Lee onboard, and the travelling party with many venues that is the UK Comickers will be there having fun as always.
On 6th-9th April, I'm proud to be a Guest of Honour (alongside George R.R. Martin, Cory Doctorow and Tricia Sullivan) at Olympus 2012, this year's Eastercon. Now, my relationship with the Eastercon movement has sometimes been slightly fraught, but that's true of everyone who regularly goes to Eastercon, and I think perhaps now a lot of the previous problems (that I kept pointing at and yelling about) are now behind us. The venue is one of those classic convention hotels I've been at so often that I associate it entirely with good times. It may, actually, be, kids, where I met your... well, where I met my wife. (But we didn't know each other at the time, and aren't sure.) I intend to make myself as available as humanly possible, and be as good a GoH as I can be. 'Work me hard,' I said to Liz Batty. And she burst out laughing. For some reason.
The very next weekend I'll be in Leicester for Alt.Fiction. I very much like the emphasis of what feels more like a literary festival than a convention, on all forms of professional genre writing being equal. It's when I get to meet the good people who write for ranges like Torchwood and Warhammer. There are lots of opportunities for readings, and panels stretch into the evening. There's an infectious sense of civic enthusiasm about it.
On May 11-13th I'll be joining the travelling party again at the Bristol Comic Expo. In truth, I felt the recent years with a much smaller dealer area felt like thin stuff, so it's good to hear it's back, and the bar life of this particularly convention, for fans and pros, is like no other. (I have dim memories of Mike Carey, who really does deserve a hug, gently extracting me from a bush. That I'd, erm, fallen into.)
And the weekend after (oh my aching liver) I'll be at the second Kapow Comic Convention. The first one did very well in bringing a new audience to a comics event, and generated my longest ever signing line (two hours of new people!) There's an excitement and a closeness to the audience that I find very attractive.
The Hugo Awards wait for us all at the World Heavyweight Championship of conventions (in significance rather than size), this year's Worldcon, this time in Chicago, from August 30th. I've written many times about the wonderful extremity of the Worldcon experience, and this looks like a good one, with everything in one hotel venue, and it being Chicago outside. We'll probably arrange a holiday around it, as we often do.
As someone who's getting involved with the British Fantasy Society, I'll be heading for Fantasycon in Brighton on September 27th. If the BFS can manage such warm-hearted fun (and an excellent disco) as this year when they were suffering from organisational troubles, then the newly-shipshape society should celebrate in great style. And it seems some truly major guests are going to be announced soon.
And speaking of conventions I feel warmly about, Bristolcon is on October 20th in 2012. It gets bigger and better every year, and this year's was like an enormous hug from fandom, very welcome after the death of my Dad.
There will be a few more, because I'm in mid-negotiation with various con committees about going to various places, but that already looks like an exciting year ahead. I hope I'll get to see you at one of these. Do say hello.
Today, we have no less than three guests on the blog, telling us about their seasonal plans. Firstly, it's a Mr Tony Lee who writes...
'Christmas is always an interesting time for a freelancer; you have the enjoyment of a day or two off, watching cheesy television and films you haven't seen since you were a teenager, catching up with family and old friends and eating more food in a week than you would in the usual month, measured against the crushing freelancer guilt that this a day off, and a day not working is a day not moving closer to deadline and payment and get to a bloody computer and work already, wordbitch.
For me though, this Christmas is a special one, for it is the first one for Tracy and myself in the newly acquired roles of married couple. I expect that this new marital state will provide bountiful harvests of new, marital Christmas experiences, as I settle into my role of happily married husband, and Tracy carries on her journeyman steps to the position of long suffering wife.
I'll be downing tools on Christmas Eve this year* as Tracy and I make our traditional journey to Birmingham for Tanya and Ant's (two of my best friends) traditional Christmas Party. Having lived in Birmingham from 2000 - 2009 before returning to London, this party was always a staple date in the calendar, and when they selfishly decided not to have one last year (due to travelling around the world for eight months or something), it was greatly missed.
We'll drive back to London in the early hours of Christmas Day, racing Santa down the M40 and, after opening our own presents on Christmas Morning, we'll go to Tracy's sister's house for the Farrow Family Christmas. Much jollyment and merriness will be had with the entire Farrow clan in one place.
Boxing day will begin with a trip to my Mother's grave for a more sombre Christmas moment - this will be the eighth Christmas that she's been gone now, followed by an afternoon with my Father and my Uncle Jack and an evening catching up on that aforementioned cheesy television. And even though the 27th is technically a Bank Holiday, I'll be back at the keyboard, finishing deadlines, wondering why editors, agents, producers and publishers aren't replying to my emails and working up to New Years Eve, where this year we've decided to go for something a little more quiet and intimate. And probably involving hideously cheesy shark-related movies.
So have a wonderful Christmas from me and mine to you and yours, and may Santa bring you everything you desire and wish for - last year he brought me the promise of a beautiful wife, and it was the best present I ever had. May this year be even better.
*Depending on deadlines, this entire piece might turn into "I shall be writing, weeping, munching forlornly on a lone mince pie this Christmas as I try to finish a revised deadline", as is the freelancer's way.'
Thanks, Tony. Next, we hear from a Ms Emma Vieceli, who writes...
'Christmas was a ninja this year. I swear it just leapt out from behind my settee...gave me quite a scare. So, plans? We have an early Christmas gathering with family number one. And then hubby and I will be heading up to the Lake District to see family number two and hopefully indulge in copious amounts of food in gravy. I'll no doubt be taking a little work with me which I will attempt not to cover in said food and gravy. That's about as far as I've managed to plan. Wishing much festive cheer to everyone reading. Let the gravy flow!'
And she sends this image, of one of her new characters, who we'll meet in 2012...
And finally, here's my artistic collaborator on the forthcoming Saucer Country for Vertigo, a Mr Ryan Kelly, (check out his sale of original art on that page) who writes...
'Normally, the momentum towards Christmas is filled with a cocktail of exuberance and panic that will inevitably end in jubilation or tears. Or a simulation of both. In earlier years, I had the time and devotion to make homemade christmas cards, homemade ornaments, homemade mittens and even homemade snow. That's how powerful I am. But these days, I've been busy with work and the holidays collide with the unmovable force of deadlines and tasks and the struggle to complete them. This is not said lightly though. Some people don't have jobs, and I know that. I think about it all the time. I am grateful to have work. Work, love, family, friends -- these should be appreciated and coveted. I have to remember this is all that matters, and not getting that Panini Maker on sale at Sears. Wait... Paninis. That sounds really delicious. No, nevermind, I take that all back. I'll have the Panini instead!
I have 3 kids, so Christmas really belongs to them now. I've had my way with it already and now Christmas lives as a Greatest Hits Collection filed away in the record collection of my mind. Christmas is me and my brother and our neighborhood friends dragging our sleds a mile (or two) across the frozen tundra to "The 17th Hill". It was named that because it was either on 17th Avenue or 17 people perished there. I don't know, either way.
In the past, my mother and I would go to Christmas mass every Christmas eve. The music was especially lovely, not the usual dour hymns and hymnals. Nothing wrong with that though, just that the music was more soulful and Christmasy. My father and brother would never go. It was always just me and mom, so that was a special little thing.
Past Christmases are marked by which toys I got. First a firetruck; then Star Wars; next Star Wars; after that, Star Wars; then He-Man and Masters Of The Universe; then G.I. Joe; and finally,Transformers. I remember how bad I wanted a Han Solo and Luke in his Jedi outfit. I remember how bad I wanted the G.I. Joe hovercraft. Now I'm a grown-up and I can buy them all by myself and laugh and scream "Victory!" into the sky with fireworks and explosions and a music score by Ennio Morricone.
But back to real life. This Christmas, my 5 year old son and I set out to craft the 12 Days Christmas in 12 unique visual styles. The art gallery can be seen here.
Last night, we had potato latkes for Hanukkah and on Christmas day we will have a swedish breakfast with gravlax, havarti, sausage, boiled eggs, lingonberries and rolls. After we revel in our bacchanalian excess, I will take the kids sledding just like the olden days of my youth. If there is no snow, I will make some. That's how powerful I am.
Next year, should be good. I'm drawing the new Vertigo series Saucer Country with Paul Cornell. As a gift, I bring you gold, myr, and some sneak previews of the art.'
(And this is the rather wonderful exclusive of which I spoke. Vertigo kindly let us release the following images, some in pencil, some in ink, some promo or design images, some frames from the comic itself, all as chosen by Ryan. We see this as akin to a movie teaser trailer.)
I hope that whets your appetite. I'm very much enjoying working with Ryan. Saucer Country #1 goes on sale on March 14th, 2012.
I cried at the Christmas episode of Rev and I'm sure much the same will happen if Arthur pulls the sword out of that stone this evening. Christmas is an emotional time for me, and writing this blog is a part of that. I'd like to thank everyone who's contributed to this run of the 12 Blogs, and I'd like to link to (because they so need the followers), three people I didn't at the start, Neil Gaiman, Lauren Beukes and John Scalzi. Also, a round of applause please for Laurie Pink, whose cartoons have brightened up the place wonderfully.
This afternoon I narrated a Nativity Play at one of the local churches. (And what an insanely cute toddlerpocalypse that was. The initial Donkey fell over and needed a hug, so a stand in got called up out of the congregation.) It started with the following words:
Welcome all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span.
Summer in winter, day in night,
Heaven in earth and God in man.
That's what Christmas is about.
I hope wherever you are, especially if you're on your own, you have a joyful time tomorrow and in the rest of the holiday season. And I'll see you back here in 2012, with a list of the This Time Next Year Game entrants. (Unless anything extremely exciting happens in the meantime.) Merry Christmas!