Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oh, stuff

Stopping by in a bit of a rush today - inspiration has struck, and she is a cruel mistress. Wow, there's a sentence open to interpretation. Anyway, just two things that I've come across to drop into your amusement and edification shopping basket:

1. This link to a little collection of the worst bootlegs around. It's just very funny indeed.

2. And this, which reproduces a note the great David Mamet wrote to the writing staff of his TV show The Unit. Yes, he does write in ALL CAPS, which suggests he talks as fast as his scripts. Yes, he does make a feth of a lot of sense. File it under 'Dear Ryan writing tips'. I'm not saying it's the word of god, I'm saying chew on it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Ultramarines Movie (need-to-know-basis)

People keep asking me questions about the Ultramarines movie, and obviously I’m dying to answer them but I can’t, because of confidentiality clauses and other exciting grown-up reasons.

The one thing that surprises me, however - here, on Facebook, and on places like the BL page - is that the questions are often very basic. I realise that’s my bad. It’s too easy to take for granted that people are in the loop, that they’ve read the right post at the right time. So (and I apologise to anyone who already knows this), it’s probably a very good thing to do a little Ultramarines The Movie 101, and remind everyone that the project, which is in production RIGHT NOW, has a website here, where you can find all the facts and figures that have been released about the movie to this point, which includes interviews with yours truly and the stars of the flick. Most importantly of all, on the main page (top right - look! look!) there is a link where you can sign up to receive information AS IT'S ANNOUNCED. Go ahead and register, and take a look around the site. Then you’ll know as much as it’s possible to know.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yes, I DO love film, actually...

I managed to subscribe to Love Film AND unsubscribe to it again, all in the space of about ten minutes yesterday. How? Glad you asked.

Increasingly these days, I am reminded of TV shows or movies that I want to see again, and I go looking for them, only to find they are mysteriously unavailable. In this case, it was the lovely Australian movie The Year My Voice Broke, which Love Film, the on-line rental people, made a particularly fancy mess of teasing me with. I’d googled the movie, and it led me to them (after a search that had exhausted all other possibilities other than a Region 1 DVD edition that was a gazillionty pounds second hand). So I went through the entire process of registering and giving them my details, and ONLY THEN did they admit that didn’t have the film after all. They had a description of it and everything, a database entry for it that would snag any google search, but it was “Not available in the UK” No shit, Sherlock. Maybe you could have stated that on the search page, Love Film?

I have no idea why a movie as good as - and as notable in Aussie cinema - as Voice isn’t available. It doesn’t even seem to be available in Australia. The sequel, Flirting, is easy to get, because it features early performances by Nicole Kidman, Thandie Newton and Naomi Watts.

I’m getting off the point. This sort of oddness happens a lot, I find. Sometimes you can at least discover a reason. Two TV shows - the British Shoestring and the American Ed - which I’d love to have and watch on DVD for essentially nostalgic reasons, are stuck in unreleased hell because of copyright issues over the music used in their respective soundtracks. Shoestring, you might be old enough to remember, was about Trevor Eve as a DJ turned detective (“The Private Ear”), so there was music of the era in the background all the time. Ed, set in in bowling alley, had juke box music playing behind its witty small town charm.

Sometimes its odder, though. I own a boxed set of Hammer movies on DVD, but it doesn’t include their single SF movie, Moon Zero Two. I don’t care how crap people think that movie is, I saw it on TV as a kid and it made a lasting impression. I want to see it again. I want it on DVD.

Am I alone in this, I wonder, or do other people have similar, slightly obsessional things they wish were obtainable? Or am I just getting old and crusty? It may just be me. I mean, I’ve always kept my comics in Ultra Pro style folders, each comic in a clear plastic sleeve with a hole-punched spine so it can fit into the folder. Suddenly, it seems like nobody makes comic sleeves with folder-holes anymore. What’s THAT about?

Still, it could just be me. I discovered today that in four years time, Olivia Newton John will be the same age that Gene Kelly was when they made Xanadu.

By the way, I believe you can get Xanadu on DVD quite easily.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

British Fantasy Awards 2010

I was amazed yesterday to discover that my novel Triumff: Her Majesty's Hero has been longlisted for Best Novel at the 2010 British Fantasy Awards, organised by the British Fantasy Society. The longlist will become a shortlist later this year, and then the winner decided, but it's a big deal to get this far, and it puts me in some illustrious company. You can view the longlist here.

When I did so myself, I scrolled down and discovered that Guardians of the Galaxy had ALSO been longlisted in the Best Comic/Graphic Novel category. I will probably be wearing a silly smile for the next few days.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

He can't do it alone

I adore Cliff Chiang's propoganda posters for the Star Wars universe, especially this one, the Enlist Today design you should be able to find here. There are a couple more here. Crikey, the man has wit and talent.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gosh! This is so unexpected! Well, I would like to thank the Academy...

Oh, Ain't It Cool News website, with these AICN COMICS: SIXTH ANNUAL @$$ie AWARDS you are really spoiling us! Enjoy this link to our double - let me just say that again in upper case - DOUBLE - win in the Best Writers category, and then scroll down for our triumph in the Best Ongoing Comic section. Then go here for day one of the awards and... surely not another double pick for Best One-shot of the year?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Who's scruffy looking?

It's Friday, so let's have some Friday silliness.

I can well imagine that this piece of funny won't be repeat-posted on the homepages of the comicbook creators it's less than flattering about. I understand that, just as I'm sure you'll understand why a little bit of it appealed to me. Thanks for forwarding it to me, anonymous donor who I won't drop in it by mentioning by name.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not that kind of ghost

You all seemed to like the voice announcements. I think. It was harder to tell than I expected, though I maintain that this should be a place for unfettered debate and discussion. Don't mind me, anyway, I'm feeling grouchy because the Hussar kept me awake all night by making yapping noises like a wounded fox. Or maybe it was a wounded fox. Though I don't know why there'd be a wounded fox inside my house.

Today, I'll be sharing with you two more things to pick the bones out of. First of all, a letter, because it made me happy:

Dear Messers Abnett and Lanning,

When I was a teen in the 80’s I was absolutely loving the Marvel Cosmic under the direction of Jim Starlin (Infinity Guantlet, War and Crusade, Warlock and the Infinity Watch, etc.). I enjoyed them enough that I went and bought back issues of the Cosmic Powers limited series and then bought the Infinity Abyss and Marvel: The End that came out a few years back.

I left comics for a while from the mid/late nineties until the mid naughts, and when I returned I was glad to see a Marvel Cosmic comic called Thanos. When it was ‘cancelled’ after the 12th issue I learned of the pending Annihilation and the prequels. I bought them mostly on a lark but have been pleasantly surprised at the stories that this has led to (Annihilation Conquest, Guardians of the Galaxy, War of Kings, Realm of Kings, etc).

I have most recently been greatly enjoying the Guardians of the Galaxy, with them consistently being my pick of the week for the weeks they are released. You have been hitting every single beat with regards to what I so loved of the 80’s Marvel Cosmic. Warlock, Gamora, Drax, Moondragon are now only part of a much wider tapestry of most intriguing, developed and entertaining characters. Heck you even made Jack Flag into someone interesting.

You are also channelling the ‘magic’ that was the Infinity series, as you are filling your comic events rife with twists and turns and plans within plans within deceptions within illusions. You kill off the team, and write it so we, the audience, accept their apparent deaths. And when we get comfortable with the new status quo, you expertly pull the curtain away to reveal that they’re not really dead. And this isn’t a cheap r trick but an actual well designed plan and concept that is expertly executed.

It reminds me of Penn and Teller once showing how they did this involved magic trick. Their showmanship and craftsmanship were so perfected the revealed trick was just as amazing and entertaining as the original illusion. Your writing has this quality of taking the typical tropes of death and resurrection and making them valid and sound.

And just when I think you will be letting me (and my wallet) breathe, as Realm of Kings winds down, you drop another concept to make me beg for more. THANOS! Again, you killed him years ago and made me hate you for it, then I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea and now he’s returning. And am I mad or do I feel betrayed, quite the contrary. I have complete faith you will execute this with the flair and skill you’ve demonstrated until now.

There have been many times where I’ve wondered at the solicits or images for coming issues and have been worried that you’d ‘jumped the shark’, only to find that my fears were so unfounded that the actuality greatly surpassed my possible expectations and only left me enjoying the book more and more.

With the coming events and cessation of others in other areas of the Marvel Universe, I am happy that you are continuing with the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe and will not be adversely effected by those other events (The Heroic Age and the Return of Hope). In truth those events are not as nicely or coherently handled as your events are, and as such I’ll be dropping my comics in those events with the intention of moving those monthly purchases over to what is sure to be a greatly enjoyable ride (The Thanos Imperative). This is both a function of my disappointment in those events/characters and a statement in my enjoyment and desire for yours.

The only thing I am missing from my 80’s Marvel Cosmic that I’ve yet to see in the current tales is one of my favourite miscreants, Pip the Troll. His exclusion does in no way diminish my enjoyment of these tales, but he just seems ‘missing’. Also is there any chance we’ll be seeing an appearance by the Goddess?

In closing, all I can say is thank you ever so much for such an excellent ongoing series of events and series. I wish you the best of success, and hope that will include many more years of enjoyment of your stories (wherever they may be).


Trevor Chapman

Thanks, Trevor. *warm glow of satisfaction* activated.

And then there's this rakish fellow. Seems like everybody's got an opinion about something.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Voices of the Ultramarines

Oooookay. I shared some excitement yesterday, and it didn't go *quite* the way I was expecting. Let's try it again with something that I think most of you will have seen already.

Now THATS exciting, right? Right?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Thanos for fifteen minutes

I thought I'd share this pick of last week's fanfare announcements, with this one, and then this one, and then this one.

Andy and I were the Interview Twins from Interview Street, Interviewham, Interviewshire that week. Still, not complaining. Nice to be popular.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Answers, and the return of Gaunt

Having got my work room re-arranged, I thought I should christen it (and generate some proper headspace momentum) by switching to an entirely new piece of work, so I got stuck into the new Gaunt story I’m writing for The Sabbat Worlds anthology.

It was a smart choice. Not only is the story shaping up nicely (no, I’m not going to give too much away about it), but it, and the change of aspect and environment, has thoroughly re-energized me for everything else I’ve got to get on with. I’ve come through the last six months of tests and hospitals remarkably chipper and positive, but I don’t think I had properly realised how much I’d... curled up in a defensive ball, so to speak. Creatively, my gears were a little jammed, I think, like there was something wedged in there.

So add that to the list of writing tips, folks. If you get stuck, change your environment, or change the thing you’re working on, or both.

That excuses why I haven’t answered any of the questions I solicited, so we're going to catch up with that right now:

Philip - what makes interesting characters? Almost impossible to answer, I’m afraid. I think you just know, as a writer or a reader, if a character is compelling. The yardstick would be, I suppose, the same as the one you might use to measure the interesting-ness of a person. Not that anyone would do that, not out loud. As far as their 40k-ness goes, they’ve got to conform to the setting, and that means not just in their behaviour, but in the way they are clearly a product of their cultural mileau.

Shadowheim - I don’t plan them out. Sometimes I plan where I will need a character, and what kind of character it should be, but otherwise it’s mobile alchemy. And even then, it’s sometimes name first, traits and personality second, or the reverse. I am nothing if not erratic.

Chilon - Shared universe stuff is harder because you have to keep refering to, and being aware of, the root material, which means constant fact-checking and consulting, and then stress-testing your own work to make sure you’ve not broken anything. Own universe stuff is harder because you’re the only cop on the beat, and it’s up to you to police, archive and examine your own work. As far as things not to do go, I’d say the key one was not to waste your time working out the stuff you won’t need. In a shared universe, other people will have done a lot of the leg-work for you. In your own world, devise out the stuff you’re going to need, and the details THAT ACTUALLY MATTER. Do not waste your time inventing (say) the exchange rate in the southern continent that doesn’t get visited this book, or the colour of the beach towels in a resort you never go to. Leave that kind of thing to the book where THAT matters.

Sarah - the line between ‘descriptive’ and ‘over-flowery’ is almost impossible to spot in your own work. An editor or a very good, trustworthy first reader helps a lot for this. Be prepared to cut ruthlessly. As a rule of thumb, however, more than one adverbial or adjectival modifier is excessive, unless you’re going for some kind of beat or tempo. None is even better.

Kane’s Dad - Like many of my projects (the Gaunt books, sustained runs on comics like Legion of Superheroes and Marvel’s cosmic books, Sinister Dexter etc), I don’t tend to have planned a long way in advance. I’ve started off small, but with the hope and ambition to run and run, so I’ve left dangling loose ends as I’ve gone along. That way, if something gets recommissioned or extended, I’ve got plenty of connective tissue and plot-lines I can revisit and graft more stories on to. I try to do this in a seamless way, so it appears that it was always my intention ;) Once something has been running for a while, like Gaunt in the second and third arcs, I begin to have the confidence to block out the future in bolder strokes. The real trick, I believe, is the ability to think on your feet, to adapt and improvise when the time comes. You can plan a four book arc, but two or three years later, when you’re executing a later stage of it, times will have changed and new ideas (and interests) will have rooted inside you. Be flexible enough to incorporate them in order to keep things fresh, and keep the job satisfying. If that means altering your heading, do so. You’re the captain.

Sredni - both and neither (actually, some names just ‘cry out’ to be villains, and some names just obviously fit in one universe rather than another. I try not to make character names too cartoon-y unless, you know, I’m writing a cartoon).

Sometimes a specific, secondary or hidden meaning determines how I use a name, sometimes I just like a word. Sometimes I just invent a word. I do collect words. I have a list here. I look at it sometimes and think, “someday, I’ll use that. I wonder what it will be for.”

Rob - I think location, especially in SF, is more crucial than character visuals in establishing an immersive environment, which is probably why I spend more time doing it. We notice our surroundings more, and they determine our behaviour. A few deft strokes can set up some telling character traits. I imagine (it’s not deliberate) I spend a little more time on the Ghosts because they DO all wear the same clothes.

SteinarH - I think that tropes site is brilliant and highly amusing (I’ve seen it before), and it’s good to be aware of tropes and cliches, but I don’t really consider them SPECIFICALLY during the writing process. With enough wit, one could turn any storyline into a trope. Sredni echoes my sentiments about it.

David - thanks for the invite.

cavyguru - writing for any shared or tie-in universe is different in application to writing for one’s own invented universe, but I would disagree that it is ‘quite different from writing generic sci-fi fantasy’. The same levels of rigour ought to apply. In your case, I would urge you to proceed with caution: unless you are writing fan fiction, your are writing 40k tie-in work that hasn’t been commissioned. The Black Library is the only place that can publish it. You say you’re already writing it, and it’s ‘kinda big’. I’m not sure what the BL writer submission guidelines are at the moment (can any BL lurkers help me out?), but you need to find out what they are, then either fit what you’re doing to them, or ‘un-40K’ your story so it becomes your own fiction.

BigWill - Grey Knights are certainly very attractive. Aaron D-B thinks so too.

Justin Hill - I brainstorm for every project, at the start and many times during the run of it. I also collect (in notebooks, usually) stuff through daily life. “Harvesting” those notebooks and clippings feeds into each brainstorm, and I think I’ve got pretty good at recognising what idea scraps, kernels, nuggets, names etc go with which project, so I sort them into different files. So... both. I gather raw material all the time, so I’ve got fuel (or ammunition, or whatever you want to call it) when I need it for the brainstorming.

Okay, I think that’s everyone caught up. Now where was I..?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Back in the room

Apologies for the short intermission. I was overcome with a desire to move my entire workspace about, and that meant three days of boxes, dust, and unplugged computers. Back in the saddle again now, so I'll catch up on all your writing Q's from the last post soon. For right now, here are a few words from somebody who liked Triumff.

Meanwhile, I have to get used to the desk facing in this direction.