The Book of the Dead and Neil's Milk

I'm very pleased to be part of the forthcoming anthology from Jurassic London entitled The Book of the Dead. It's a collection of stories about Egyptian mummies, featuring such luminaries as Gail Carriger, Adam Roberts, Lou Morgan, Maria Dahvana Headley, Will Hill and Maurice Broaddus.  It features illustrations by the wonderful Garen Ewing, and is published in collaboration with the Egypt Exploration Society, the UK's oldest independent funder of archaeological fieldwork in Egypt.

At the moment, pre-orders are being taken for a truly lavish 370 page hardback edition, limited to 100 books, with gold embossed titles on midnight blue buckram and dark cream endpapers, bound in cloth and sealed in wax, impressed with the seal of the Egypt Exploration Society, and with an exclusive illustration by Garen Ewing that will not appear in any other edition.  (Purchasers of the limited edition will also receive a copy of the ebook for free.)  That lovely item, and the more traditional paperback and ebook editions, will be out on October 29th.  That's also the date of the launch at the Phoenix Artist Club in London, the details of which those of you on Facebook can access here.  It's wonderful to be part of something that's been assembled with such loving care.  And I'm very proud of my story, 'Ramesses on the Frontier'.

It's also a good thing that the book's being sold via Spacewitch, an online retailer that aims to give indie publishers, particularly genre ones, a better deal.  Do check out their handsome site.

In other news, to celebrate the release of Neil Gaiman's new children's book, Fortunately the Milk..., his publisher, Bloomsbury, got a number of us together to comment on the book and toast him with a glass of the white stuff.

I'm delighted to have my Jonathan Hamilton story 'One of Our Bastards is Missing' selected for inclusion in the new anthology from David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 21st Century Science Fiction

On 26th September comes the release of The Doctor: His Lives and Times by James Goss and Steve Tribe, to which I've contributed a couple of bits, notably John Smith's diaries from 'Human Nature'.

And Geek Syndicate Magazine #7 out now and free to download, features, amongst lots of lovely stuff (notably a debate about who was the best Doctor), my opinions on what music to listen to while working.

Finally, I said I'd give a mention to any high-quality fanwork inspired by 'The Scream of the Shalka', so check out this brilliant Richard E. Grant customised action figure.

I hope I'll see some of you at Birmingham's new feminist SF convention Andromeda One this Saturday. Until then, Cheerio!

The Scream of the Shalka on DVD

It's a great pleasure to be able to say that my animated Doctor Who story, 'The Scream of the Shalka' is now available on DVD.

At the time it was made (2003), we thought it was going to be the official continuation of the series.  Now that pressure is off it, I think it stands up pretty well.  I'm proud of the back story we hinted at.  I'm also proud of the number of decisions we made that the live action show also went with when it returned, notably a weary, post-traumatic Doctor who finds salvation in a working class human companion.  The story of how we made 'Shalka', how tough it all got, and how everything fell apart after one adventure, also makes for what I think is an excellent set of DVD extras.  (Including a commentary I recorded with Toby Hadoke.)

To go alongside the release, I thought I'd dedicate a blog post to pointing you towards a few items of interest that aren't on the DVD.

Here's the original website with wallpapers, music, trailers and cast interviews.  You can see the episodes there too, of course, but why go for a small window on your computer when you can get a lovely DVD with all the extras?

An extract from my novelisation, published by BBC Books, can be found here.

The only officially published sequel, Cavan Scott and Mark Wright's 'The Feast of the Stone' is here. (With downloadable wallpaper of this lovely Daryl Joyce art showing a photo-realistic 'Shalka' Doctor.)

Simon Clark, who wrote the never-produced second animation, 'Blood of the Robots', tells the story of that adventure here.

And Paul Scoones, who wrote the production subtitles for the release talks about that process here.

As mentioned in this episode of the Verity podcast, there's a little group of fan fiction writers who've decided to enlarge upon the hints we made in 'Shalka' about the nature of the Doctor's situation, and continue his story. 'An Irksome Word and Task' is a nice example of what they do.

I'd welcome more cosplay such as this from Praedestinatio and 1ucifer, as featured on Aimee Major's site.

The very talented Paul Hanley and Shawn Van Briesen produced this gorgeous sequel comic strip, albeit mostly in script form.

This chap's Doctor Who tapestry has a 'Shalka' section...

And here's DeviantART's page of 'Shalka' fan art.  I particularly like 'Shalka' Doctor Whooves.

If you know of any 'Shalka'-related fan creativity, let me know, and I'll feature it in a future blog post.

If this is the first time you've encountered 'Shalka', I hope you'll forgive the animation (which won awards in its time for what it achieved within some very specific parameters), and enjoy the story.  I'm glad we got live action Doctor Who back, and I wish that clunking line about Pachelbel wasn't in there (among other moments when I wince a bit), but all in all, I'm mightily glad we did it, and especially pleased that it can finally take its place on my DVD shelf.  Do let me know what you think.  Cheerio!

A 'Killable' Interview

Just a quick blog post before tomorrow's big 'Shalka'-related blog to mention that I'm rather pleased with this interview with me about the current 'Killable' story arc in Wolverine.

Hmm, I'm a bit vexed at having a blog post that tiny.  Ah, yes.  Tom just got his third tooth!  There we go. Until tomorrow, Cheerio!

The Hugo Awards: an Apology

In the last couple of days I've received emails and Facebook messages from a few people who were offended by my Hugo Awards routine about 'Smofs' and Smurfs.  (Basically, I compared them in ways unflattering to 'Smofs' in terms of diversity, then used the term Smof as an expletive, like the Smurfs use their name.  To repeat the jokes here would be to repeat the offence.)

I initially reacted by thinking 'a comedy routine has to stand alone, I can't offer notes and caveats', but swiftly realised that wasn't good enough.  Then I moved to explaining on Twitter how much I hate the  *word* (or acronym) Smof.  It stands for 'Secret Master of Fandom' and is used as a synonym for 'con runner' or 'Hugo organiser'.  It's right up there with 'mundane' as one of those ancient SF fandom terms that's actually offensive.  (It was always meant to be a joke, but it could only really be one if those concerned were immensely public in their doings and at the bottom of the social order.)  I told myself that that was what that part of my routine had been about, the word, not the people who identify with that word.  I did indeed begin that section of my speech by saying 'Smofs' did 'lovely' work for the genre community.

But I think after that point I went astray.  I think I broke two rules which I hold other people to, and it's taken me days of searching my conscience to realise that.

Firstly, I always say that when someone tells you they're offended, they're not lying.  One has to deal with the offence one has caused as real, and not regard such complaints as ill-conceived or somehow 'wrong'. Many 'smofs' have written to me in support, saying they felt gently teased, that it was all in good fun, but the ones for whom it felt like a personal insult don't deserve to have their feelings ignored.  One reaction is as 'true' as the other.

Secondly, while I'm sure there are those among the ranks of 'Smofs' who deserve a little satire, I'm also sure there are those who absolutely do not.  My error was to tar them all with the same brush, to not be precise, but instead to hurt a range of people through the term they identify with.  'Things are complicated' as our heroes said in Knight and Squire.  I don't like it when other groups are made into folk devils, but there I was doing it.  It's terrifyingly easy and tempting to follow the crowd and go for that sort of laugh.  It's also a very bad thing to do.

One might say that most groups turned into folk devils are at the bottom of their systems of social power, and that here I was attacking upwards, as one might mock the government or the local council.  But I don't like it, and have said so, when the folk devil thing happens even there.  I go on about 'Tories', but I really shouldn't, not in general, when I have friends on the right as well as on the left.  I don't like to hear 'bankers' as a general insult, even when I think that many within that group have ruined my country and others, because I think we all know that that term also must include some wonderful people.  (I'm only comparing 'Smofs' to these groups in terms of them being wielders of social power in their subcultures, not in terms of ethics.)

Most awful to me was the realisation, yesterday, that among those I'd offended were some of my hosts at LoneStarCon 3.  I regard this as shameful on my part.  They didn't reveal how they felt at the time because I was their guest, and they were continuing the immense hospitality they'd offered me throughout.  They only told me about their feelings when I asked them.  I can't underline enough how devastated I was to hear that.  As I said at their closing ceremony, it was this convention that restored some of my faith in the Worldcon movement, that reminded me of all that I liked about it.  Their care for me was wonderful, and I so desperately don't want to have repaid that by hurting them.  It never occurred to me that they'd see themselves as included in what I was satirising.  That they did is a failure on my part, not theirs.

So, I'd like to offer an unreserved public apology to those who were offended.  I'm not using those modern weasel words 'if any offence was caused'.  I understand what I did to you, I know the offence was real, and I apologise utterly.  I should have taken a lot more care.  I'm terribly sorry.

(While we're at it, on a completely different topic, I really should have included Genevieve Valentine in the list of 'writers, editors, bloggers and activists' that I mentioned during the ceremony.  In that case I simply forgot.  Again I'm very sorry for the lack of care.)

My aim for that evening was that everyone would leave the auditorium happy.  I failed in that at the same moment as I failed to live up to my own ethical standards.

Home at Last

I've been back from Worldcon for a few days now.  I'm still exhausted.  Being Toastmaster in San Antonio was a great honour, but very tiring.  The organisers of LoneStarCon3 were lovely people, fun to work with, and they took wonderful care of me.

It was a pleasure to meet Gail Carriger, Tobias Buckell, Charlaine Harris (in a lift!) and Kim Stanley Robinson (who bounded up to us and sat down to chat to us complete strangers when we were exhausted at the end of the weekend).  'We' in this case were usually Lee Harris, Emma Newman, some combination of L.M. Myles and Deborah Stanish and myself.  Thanks to those guys for taking care of me too.  I got to chat to David Brin at length, when I was taken out to dinner with a number of the great and good of 1980s SF. I enjoyed a Wild Cards lunch and a Random Penguin party.  I got to deliver an even shorter Hugo acceptance speech than last time when my friends and I won for The SF Squeecast (just a thumbs up).  The contestants on Just A Minute (Emma, Connie Willis, Gary K. Wolfe and Mur Lafferty) pleased the audience hugely, with Mur winning.  The live Squeecast was fun too, with Howard Tayler guesting.  And I did a useful panel with a number of fellow London fantasy writers.  You can see my presentation of the Hugo Awards, across several different videos, here.

It's great to be home, though.  Tom changed tangibly in the week I was away, and those are moments that aren't going to come round again.  A few things important enough to mention came up while I was away, so I thought I'd better blog about them as always.  The days when I had the time for a proper convention report are long gone.

The first thing to mention is that on Tuesday, September 10th, I'll be part of a panel talking about and introducing the classic SF movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire, at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. Do come along, if you're free.

While I was at the Edinburgh Book Festival, I talked to journalist Nicola Love about all manner of things, including Wolverine and the novels and she's made an excellent piece out of it.

Speaking of Wolverine, #9 is out next Wednesday.  I think it's our best issue yet, and you can see the first couple of pages of lovely Alan Davis artwork here.

The author and linguist Lawrence M. Schoen was kind enough to ask me to contribute to the Eating Authors feature on his blog, where he gets writers to talk about their favourite meals.

2000AD Presents: Sci-Fi Thrillers is a collection of disparate work from the comic and its sister title, the Megazine, due out in December.  It includes XTNCT by D'Israeli and myself, and here's the lovely cover by Mike Perkins.

(Or you can find Mike on Facebook for more of the same.)

Another great British comicker is Lee Sullivan, and he's recently blogged about the process behind his earliest designs for my character Bernice Summerfield.  You can also buy a print of his iconic cover to Love and War.  Do take a look; he remembers far more than I do!

My wife, the Rev. Caroline Symcox, having a foot in both camps, is due to be the keynote speaker at The University of Manchester's Religion and Doctor Who Day, an academic conference which is free to attend, but, for which, with places very limited, booking is required.  She will, of course, be amazing.

To end on a scary (if personally very pleasing) note, Jan Doncom prepared a Mora Losley (from London Falling) costume for the Melksham Comic Con, including a creepy mobile newel post.  Emma Vieceli took this photo of the whole thing...

Eeek!  But how wonderful to have novel-related cosplay!  If anyone else wants to have a go, your photos are always welcome.

Phew, that's that.  I've got a busy week ahead of novel rewriting, comic plotting and Tom wrangling.  I hope to see some of you on Tuesday night.  Until then, Cheerio!