Monday, 27 December 2010

Some Comic News

While there hasn't been a heck of a lot happening on the prose front lately that I haven't already posted about -well, except for the ginormous bit of news that I can't mention yet - there have been a few fun and interesting developments on the comics front.

I've talked a few times about my script Endangered Weapon B, which has had a troubled existence so far, to say the least.  The gist of that backstory is that I wrote it for Futurequake Press's imprint Mangaquake, the editor there picked it up but suggested some major alterations - expanding the story and changing the titular protagonist from a panda because some other studio did a lot of books with pandas in - and then, months later, told me it wouldn't be getting published after all because Mangaquake had folded.

So that sucked.  But not to be defeated ... well, actually, I did kind of give up for a while there, since there aren't a heck of a lot of places that take short comic scripts, to say the least.  After a few months, though, I got around to doing a bit of market research, and discovered the neat-looking Underfire Comics.  I sent Endangered Weapon to the editor there, Bob Molesworth, and he also really liked it.

A month or two after that, I was contact by Duncan Kay, who did a completely brilliant job of illustrating my story The Unleashing of the Ineffectual for the recently-released Something Wicked #6.  Duncan asked if I had anything going and I mentioned Endangered Weapon.  Duncan liked the script too, and said that he'd like to draw it, which was fine with me.

Then some more time passed, I likely got distracted by something shiny, and before anyone knew any better it was last month.  Duncan got back in touch again to say that he'd started on some concept sketches, and at that point I figured I'd better get in touch with Bob again to see what was what.

At which point, I found out that Bob had finished drawing, colouring and lettering my script.  And that he'd done a ridiculously great job of it.

Since, due to me shabby lack of research, I had no idea that Bob was even an artist, this came as a bit of a surprise.  A good surprise, though, all told, since like I said it looks fantastic, and especially since Duncan was cool about the whole thing and suggested that rather than pass up on the opportunity to work together again we start thinking about putting together some kind of comics collective and involving all his hugely talented professional artist mates in it.

So the upshot is that Endangered Weapon B is pretty much finished and just waiting while we figure out how to get it out there, and that I've been insanely busy attempting to churn out scripts that Duncan and his mates can draw. Which, considering that a month ago this whole comics thing was little more than a fun sideline, is both interesting and quite exciting.  Will it come to anything?  Well, I hope so, and there's plenty of enthusiasm going around, so I'd say that right now the signs are good.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Jenny's Sick now up at Lightspeed

I'll keep this brief, since I've already plugged this sale about a half-dozen times already: my story Jenny's Sick is now up to read for free at Lightspeed - or, if you're not a reading person, to listen to in a superb podcast by actor Mirron Willis.*  And afterwards, there's an interview with your truly, and a related non-fiction article by Genevieve Valentine explaining exactly how we're all going to die really soon in impossibly unpleasant (but undeniably interesting) ways.

This is probably the biggest sale I'm made thus far, and perhaps the best story, so if you're going to read just one then I guess it should be this one.  Plus, Lightspeed is utterly great, and deserves the support of all sentient life on earth.

* I can't say for sure that the Mirron Willis reading Jenny's Sick is the same Mirron Willis who's on IMDB, but if it is then my story was read by someone whose CV includes Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Independence Day, and that's so absurdly cool that I'm just going to let it slide.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Film Ramble: Monsters

It's an interesting time to be a fan of science-fiction cinema.

I've been thinking that for a while now, but it was it was really hammered home to me by Gareth Edward's Monsters, released in UK theatres last week.

For anyone who doesn't know, the film offers a near-future scenario where alien lifeforms brought back by a NASA satellite have infested a band of land across the north of Mexico.  Into this situation are plunged a stranded US tourist trying to return to America and her waiting fiance, and a world-weary photographer pressganged by his employer, her father, into escorting her home.

That's pretty much the length and breadth of Monsters.  Don't go expecting a frantic war against the alien invaders, because to the best of my recollection, neither protagonist ever so much as handles a weapon.  In fact, don't go expecting much action of any kind.  Monsters is a character drama, something of a romance, a film about two lost souls pushed together in strange and remarkable circumstances and forced to face themselves, each other, and - to a much lesser extent - the implications of sharing their world with giant, squidy, potentially lethal extraterrestrial life forms.

Monsters is also sedate, thoughtful, maybe somewhat slow by mainstream film standards, but heavy with small moments and details that add up to something that, for me at least, was nothing short of awe-inspiring.  It's art-house sci-fi of a kind that no one's really tried to make since it's closest spritiual and thematic antecedent, Andrei Tarkovsky's phenomenal Stalker, and if that thought doesn't turn you off then I can't recommend it enough.

 But, all of that aside, I think (and hope) that Monsters is a touch-stone movie for altogether different reasons.  Filmed on high-definition digital handheld cameras, with special effects and much of the mise en scène added entirely in post production by the director himself, and with a budget that might possibly have covered Sam Worthington's hair styling in Avatar, Monsters is a film uniquely of its time - because it simply couldn't have been made even five years ago.

To put it another way, we're now living in an age where a first-time director* can choose to make an effects-driven science-fiction movie, where a smart indy sci-fi movie can be as visually spectacular as a megabudget Hollywood blockbuster.

And that, at least to me, is pretty exciting.

* Edwards has done lots of TV and documentary work, including the superb In the Shadow of the Moon, but this is his first non-documentary feature to make it into cinemas.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

December Lightspeed out in E-book

As of the first of the month, the e-book edition of Lightspeed issue #7 is available for purchase in every format you could possibly want.

Not only does it have my story Jenny's Sick in it, I also got to be interviewed about it at some length by Editorial Assistant Erin Stocks (who insisted on posing really difficult and interesting questions), and not only that but said story and interview are followed up with a related non-fiction article, Five Upcoming Plagues (We’re Doomed) by Genevieve Valentine ... and (deep breath) not only that, but when Jenny's Sick becomes readable for free a couple of weeks from now, it'll also be available in podcast - something I only just discovered.

Clearly, this is all quite awesome.  But none of it holds up to the fact that I get to have my work appear alongside, respectively, a story by and an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin and Greg Bear.  Having just recently read (again, respectively) The Lathe of Heaven and Blood Music, and having found both to be brilliant beyond words, it's quite an honour to share a contents page with their authors.

All told, it's another stunning issue of what, let's face it, is pretty much the best sci-fi ezine out there, wrapped up in a beautiful cover by World Fantasy Award-winning artist John Picacio - and available for about the price of an egg and cress sandwich.

Friday, 3 December 2010

York Ghost Story Event Cancelled Due to Unexpected Ancient-Norse Apocalypse

It doesn't seem like more than a few days ago that I was explaining how I was going to spend this weekend sharing a new ghost story, Prisoner of Peace, with a bunch of fellow writers and anyone else who cared to listen, (probably because it wasn't).  And now I find myself having to report, with no small degree of sadness, that said ghost story reading event has been cancelled.

The reason?  Ragnarök.

Since York is buried beneath almost seven feet of snow, with temperatures approaching absolute zero and the sun nary more than a memory, it's hard to fault the decision to call it off.  It was probably also a factor that the national transport network has completely collapsed, perhaps because the zillions of tons of frozen water that have plunged from the sky over the last week are the wrong type of snow (hopefully, scientists somewhere are labouring right now to discover a kind that makes trains and buses run with exceptional efficiency).

Will it be rescheduled?  Not so far as I know - and really, with the world ending, what would be the point?  But maybe if the Fenris-wolf decides the sun doesn't taste that great after all and the Ice Giants realise they have something far better they could be doing, it will come along again next December - in which case I'll be ready and waiting.