Monday, September 22, 2014

Get Whet

2000AD, aka "2K" and "The Galaxy's Greatest Comic", publishes its one thousand nine hundredth issue this Wednesday. A drokkin' milestone. Check out the thrillgasmic Dredd cover by the unfeasibly talented Greg Staples.




The home of Thrillpower is a venerable British institution, published weekly since 1977. It's an anthology title too, which sometimes makes it a little hard for new readers to jump on board, because in the average issue there'll be some stories starting, some ending and some mid-way through.  

Fear not, my lovely new readers. Indeed, rejoice – Prog 1900 is one of 2000AD's periodical, purpose-built, handy-dandy jump-aboard points, where all the stories are fresh starts. You get the kick-off of a new Judge Dredd epic by the mighty John Wagner and Carlos Esquerra (drool), and double helpings of a new Stickleback series by Ian Edginton and D'Isreali (yum), and the new Kingdom story by yours truly and Richard Elson.

Yes, I have a horse in this race. Shall we see the horse? (Yes, please, Dan)


Oh, nice. Shall we see some more of the horse? (Go on, then)


That Elson chap does a lovely job, doesn't he?

Anyway, I'm not plugging it simply because I have a story in it. Well, all right, but only slightly. I'm mainly drawing your attention to it because it's a splendid place to start or renew your relationship with this venerable British Comic Institution. If you've never read 2000AD before, or were put off trying because you didn't know where to start, then go get yourself a copy. You can subscribe to it and all sorts, but, incredibly, you can just go down to your local newsagent and buy it. Off the stands. Like in the olden days. 

And if you used to read 2K but have lapsed for whatever reason, here's a great excuse to un-lapse yourself. Re-lapse, if you will.

Ian Edginton, Tharg (2000AD's zarjaz alien editor who is actually real and not a made-up thing AT ALL) and myself will be doing a comic creator AMA ("Ask Me Anything") about this prog on Reddit this Wednesday. Not sure when exactly, so I'll post the details and links in the comment thread to this post when I learn them. Check back, or check me on Twitter.

Kingdom, by the way, is a fave strip of mine. I love working with Richard on it – he's been the artist since it first began. It's post-apocalypse dog-soldiers ("Aux") fighting giant insects. The main character, our hero, is an Aux called Gene the Hackman. Okay, it's more than that, but those are the key things you need to know to get going. Kingdom has proved so popular, in fact, Rebellion commissioned me and Nik to write a novel this year, expanding the Kingdom universe. The novel is called "Fiefdom", and you can happily read it and understand it without having to know anything about the strip. Of course, if you do know the strip, the novel develops the world for you more fully. Fiefdom looks like this:


And you can get it here. Or here. Or go and buy it from your local Waterstones. Or, if they haven't got it on the shelves, order it, and  while you're doing that, remind them it was pretty bloody daft of them not to be stocking it in the first place.

This has been a Monday Morning "Making Your Life Unreasonably Better" Public Service Announcement.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Anyway...






Hello.

Taking the time to look back over my blog-posting history for the last year or so (since Tuesday, 18th of June, 2013, actually) I am struck by one particular detail. 

I’m not really very good at blogging.*

There, I said it. I’m not. No idea why, really. I mean, it’s not as if I can’t words put order right in the together. And it’s not as if I don’t have either the facility or willpower to write every day.

The truth is, the last year or so has obviously been an extended effort by me to construct an ongoing post-modern blog, a sort of un-blog or anti-blog, exploring the inner dynamics of the unsaid and unwritten. I mean, it’s all there for you to see. My post about writing blogs in invisible ink. My post about the unspoken blog. My four incisive posts about my efforts to blog telepathically.  My guest blog by Mr Griffen of Iping, West Sussex. My blog post from the Microverse (sorry about the sub-atomic rescaling failure with the text on that one).  My innovative experiments in blogging with smoke signals. The semaphore blog. My blog using the medium of mime. My blog post about all the reasons I like the work of One Direction.

You’re not buying it, are you?

The real truth is, some people are natural bloggers and some are not. I can think of many blogs I read regularly that I admire, and then think “how did they do that?” Not just “how did they find something amusing to say?” but “Where did they find the necessary energy with which to say it?”

Nik’s a very good blogger, for example. Check her out here. Not only does she find interesting topics to discuss, she blogs regularly. The double threat. She’s not afraid to engage with provocative subjects and talk about them openly. And, you know, have an opinion that might be unpopular.

Why can’t I do that, I wonder? Am I just a people-pleaser? Do I see my blog as simply a social network tool with which I can shop-window stuff, a process that eventually becomes vacuous and repetitive even for me? Am I afraid of being contentious? 

Can I just not be arsed?**

Part of the problem (no, ‘problem’ is too big a word), part of the issue is the society of the internet. This has been written about many many times, with greater depth and understanding by better, cleverer commentators with better, cleverer blogs and better, cleverer insight (and better, cleverer grammar) so this is an infantile generalisation that barely begins to even point at the surface let alone scratch it, BUT… The moment someone posts even the mildest opinion on-line, you know that by the intricate, arcane action-begets-reaction algorithms of the internet, someone somewhere MUST take giant fucking exception to it. And then respond in the most outraged way. ***

And then... then the temptation is to respond, to gently and politely explain that “no, that’s not quite what I meant...” and the next thing you know it’s ramped up to flaming and trolling and land wars in Asia before bedtime.

I’m not, for a moment, suggesting that I want to adopt the mahooosively hypocritical stance of saying that I’d like to use my blog to express my opinions on this or that, but I’d prefer it if you kept your ignorant disagreements with said opinion to your own fucking selves.  Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and the sharing of said opinions is one of the beautiful freedoms of the on-line world.

It’s just that... well, people. People are people (I speak on the basis of being one of them). Protocol and manners, just basic manners, on the internet, are pants-awful. The on-line mask seems to empower folks to just say, out loud, with real words, stuff they would never even dream of saying (or even thinking) in person. That’s one thing.

The other is that the general scope of digital comments (I’m including not only blogs and their comments threads, but also forums, emails, texts, Facebook etc) generally and obviously lack nuance, subtlety and inflection. People bash out comments fast and casually (just as they should, immediacy of response is just another of the internet’s virtues), often without reflection or redraft (or, you know, spellcheck). Because they can, and why shouldn’t they?  What seems like a joke or a light-hearted quip when you bang it out gets read as rude or invasive (or simply perceived as such) at the other end. We all do that. I do it. I read innocuously-meant comments on Facebook and think, “oh well, entirely fuck you” and then realise that it was not at all intended as a ‘fuck you’ eliciting comment. If I’d heard it in person I’d have got the tone.

Maybe my blog post history for the last year is, in fact, the model example of perfect on-line expression, a sublimation of blogging. I have a blog. I posted nothing on it. No nuance was therefore lacking, and thus no one could be offended.

Except, of course, for the comments I’ve got about what a tiresome cockwomble I am for not blogging for over a year (don’t look for them - I deleted them, with a stabby finger).

So, do we call for a new digital protocol where nuance is stated in advance of a comment, so feathers can’t be accidentally ruffled? Do we start a comment with “This is a joke, meant light-heartedly and affectionately. I am smiling at you. My comment is [comment follows]. My name is [name here]” ?

Of course we don’t.

Grow a thicker skin, Abnett? Yeah, okay. Mine’s pretty thick already. I don’t think it’s that.

I guess I’ve realized that if I’m going to maintain a blog, it’s got to be a blog where I talk about things that interest me. You know, have an opinion and everything. Not just repost press releases and cool covers (lord knows, I’ll do that too).  

That’s when I tense up. Here’s an example. I was reading a comic trade the other day. It was an acclaimed book by an acclaimed writer. I liked it, but I also had issues with it. Shock, there were things about it that I didn’t like. Can you even imagine?  Anyway, I thought I’d write about it. I didn’t want to offend the writer, or damn the book. I just wanted to talk about the things in it that I found problematic. But I didn’t because that would immediately become ‘comic writer slags off other comic writer’. Hello offences un-meant but very much taken. Hello being quoted out of context on news sites. Hello ‘that escalated quickly’.

But maybe I will. Maybe instead of not blogging at all because I find Internet manners and reactions wearisomely depressing, instead of waiting for the ‘it’s never going to happen’ moment when anonymous internet arseholery vanishes forever, I should just do what everyone else does and man up. Flames, trolls, misunderstanding? Oh what the fuck. Okay. Okay, if that’s an inevitable part of it. I can’t pick and choose.

I’m going to restart my blog. I’m going to give it one last go. I’m going to post the sort of things I did before, like work updates and appearance notices, and reports on events, but I’m also going to express my ideas and actual opinions (oh, the horror) once in a while, or I’ll lose interest again, the blog will become a bland, self-promoting dirge, and it will wither and die once more.

Am I going to post every day? Fuck that. Am I going to post regularly, and with some conviction? That’s the idea. Am I going to stop being a people-pleaser and just be a person? Y-huh.


Let’s see how long this lasts.

Tune in next time to hear Nurse Chapel say “Captain, how the hell did I end up in the muppets?”




* Copyright 2014, UK Department of Understatement.

** a distinct possibility.



*** It’s always extra helpful, I find, if this response is delivered a) with the least possible regard for spelling and grammar and b) anonymously.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This is just to say

Just a quick note today to do two things: mention that I'm looking forward to seeing you at Black Library Live: Dublin, and point you in the direction of Nik's blog, where I have written a little guest post.

There. All done.

Plus, a William Carlos Williams ref in the post title. I can do brevity and literary-referency at the same time, me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

SF Bokhandeln - Sweden!

Coming to a Sweden near you this weekend (and I'm very excited about it!).... me!

Now, I don't speak Swedish, so I can't be sure, but I THINK these links will tell you everything you need to know:

For Friday and Saturday.

Also for Friday and Saturday.

And for Sunday.


This should be an awful lot of fun, so if you're... you know... in Sweden... come and join in!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Free Comic Book Day (or, May The Fourth be with you)

Be it an old gag, or an internationally recognised Festival, May the 4th is also this year's Free Comic Book Day, and I'll be a Forbidden Planet in London from 1 PM supporting 2000AD's FCBD publication, alongside Al Ewing, Ben Wilsher and - oh my goodness! - Ron Smith! Details, well, here. We are, apparently, "Legends of 2000AD", and with all due respect to the lovely Al and Ben, I suspect one of us is rather more legendary than the other three. And by that I mean... RON SMITH!

In the meantime, no blog post is complete without pretty pictures, so try this, the cover of the book I'm finishing now:



When you've done salivating over Neil Roberts's fine work, get your blinking gear around this:


And if that wasn't enough, here's the cover to a book I wrote oh... quite a while back... which is now being reissued as the first of the "Classic" series:


My pleasure :)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Gilead’s Blog


Any minute now, those lovely people at Black Library will be launching Gilead’s Curse, which is not only one of my all too infrequent forays into the Warhammer side of things, but one of the rare and exciting opportunities I have to collaborate with Nik Vincent (ie, the wife).
Gilead’s Curse  will appear alongside a reissue of our previous collaboration, Gilead’s Blood, which was published by the Black Library back in ninety-ten-a-hundred-and-frozen-to-death (and don’t you just love Stefan Kopinski's gorgeous matching covers? Two sides of Gilead!).

Nik and I have collaborated on quite a few projects over the years, and will continue to work together in the future: stand by for an adjunct to the Sabbat World’s Crusade saga. 

Gilead’s Blood was the first time we properly collaborated on a book. Hammers of Ulric was our second effort. Curse was a wonderful opportunity to return to such a powerful character as Gilead, and it has demonstrated to us that we can have as much fun working together as we have living together

So, grab a longbow and a decent sword, and delve into the adventures of this longstanding character. It was very satisfying to revisit him after all these years, and we jumped at the chance to write him again, because so many people at GamesDays and conventions asked us for more Gilead. It's funny to discover what an enduring figure he has become for certain people.

Oh, for those of you who don’t know, the Gilead books are about an elf, who is cut off from his ancestry and is roaming a lone path through a human-controlled world in search of his destiny. I’m told that we do particularly good Skaven, but the Skaven were actually Nik.

Oh, and there’s a lot of sand at the end... A LOT of sand.

Don’t get Nik started on sand.

By the way, back in the day, Forge World produced a large scale figure of Gilead based on the original cover art. I had one, because they very kindly sent me one, but it's long since disappeared into the black hole of innumerable moving days, and Forge World no longer have the moulds. Anyone out there got one? I’d love to know. Answers to the usual e-mail.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Doctor Who... and DemonCon

I had a great time at the Doctor Who 50th birthday event at Forbidden Planet last Saturday. Not the last event of its kind I'll be involved with this year, I imagine. It was a bit of an honour, to be honest. To have been even a small part of Doctor Who's fifty year history is a big fething deal to me.

What was the event specifically about? Thanks for asking, you at the back there. The BBC is re-releasing eleven classic Who novels this year, one for each Doctor. The design is gorgeous, and the set looks lovely all together (a full figure shot of each respective Doctor side-by-side on the spines, for instance). My novel The Silent Stars Go By was picked to represent the 11th Doctor, aka Matt Smith. This is what I mean about it being a bit of an honour.

Here we are (above) lining up in the delicious bowels (...uhn, delicious bowels? Really?) of London FP. From left: me, Gary Russell, Ben Aaronovitch, Terrance Dicks, and the lovely Shona Abhyankar, from BBC Books.

Add one very long queue (that's after we'd sat in the back room signing the vast stack of pre-orders) and serve.


Gary's book is the splendid 10th Doctor novel Beautiful Chaos, and Ben's is the 7th Doctor book, Remembrance of the Daleks, an adaptation of his own TV script, one of the best Sylvester McCoy adventures. Daleks and stairs? Hello? Special Weapons Daleks?


I finally got to meet a hero of mine, Terrance Dicks. This is the "official" photo of that moment...  


...but this blurry iPhone image much more effectively captures the friendly fun of the chat we had. Terrance's novel is the 6th Doctor story Players. His contribution to Doctor Who in books and on screen is colossal.



Gary and I were kept busy...




... until the very end. I owe Gary an awful lot. Thanks to his enthusiasm for the comic stories I used to script for Doctor Who Magazine 'back in the day', I got the chance to write for Big Finish, and then the Torchwood novel Border Princes, and then Doctor Who books and audios for the BBC. He's a lovely bloke too. Thanks, Gary.

Anyway, it was a great day. Thanks for coming along.



Speaking of great days, there's another in the offing tomorrow, when sunny Maidstone hosts the fifth Demoncon. Details below. I will be there... and it'll be a fine way to spend a Sunday.