Mon, 16 November 2015 Writing Lola

I’m delighted to announce that I’m doing another collaboration with my pal Stephen Downey, with whom I worked on Jennifer Wilde.

Stephen’s other job is co-founder of Outsider Games, which is developing a new title called Wailing Heights.

It’s described as: “A coffin-rocking, body-hopping, musical adventure game, set in with a horrific hamlet of monsters, with a story by Kevin Beimers (Hector: Badge of Carnage) and glorious 2D artwork from a host of illustrious comic book talent.”

I was given the task of coming up with the background of Lola, the vampire character in Wailing Heights, and writing a short script detailing her history for a comic that will appear in the video game.

Here’s what I said on the Wailing Heights web site about writing the character:

“I took my cue from the short description of Lola as a hipster vampire who loves coffee, and ran with it to create a cross-dressing woman who adores lively conversation in 18th century coffee houses in London. All in a few pages. I’ve had my fill of angsty vampires recently so I went for a light tone and a short, fun read. I’m now terribly fond of Lola Vita.”

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the art and watching my input to the game spring into (un)life.

Fri, 13 November 2015 2015 BCA Award Winners

BCA Winners 2015

The 4th Annual British Comic Awards took place at the Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds as one of the opening night events for the Thought Bubble Festival‘s Comic Con Weekend.

The winners are:

  • Best Comic – Grey Area: From the City to the Sea by Tim Bird (Avery Hill Publishing)
  • Best Book – The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis (Selfmade Hero)
  • Young People’s Comic Awards – Star Cat by James Turner (David Fickling Books)
  • Emerging Talent – Rachael Stott for her artwork on Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (SDCC Exclusive), Star Trek #46 -47 and Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive
  • Hall of Fame – Dudley D Watkins

Congratulations to all the winners, and the excellent nominees. Well done to the hard-working administrator of the awards, Adam Cadwell, for his commitment to the project.

On my part, it was a pleasure to read the work of such talented comic book creators.

Sat, 07 November 2015 Old Weird, New Weird, or Just Plain Weird

You can hear a recording of the ‘Old Weird, New Weird, or Just Plain Weird’ panel, which I participated on during the 2015 World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. It’s hosted on the Project Radio web site.

The line-up was: moderator: Thomas F. Monteleone, and panellists: Ellen Datlow, Michael Kelly, me, Anya Martin, and Scott Nicolay.

It was an interesting discussion, but not a surprise considering the range of talent on the table and our passion for the subject.

Fri, 30 October 2015 World Fantasy Convention 2015

In a couple of days I’m flying to the USA with the main goal of attending the World Fantasy Convention 2015 in Saratoga Springs, NY. The lovely side-effect is getting to spend time with the amazingly talented Kate Laity before and during the convention.

I haven’t attended many WFCs – two in the UK so far. As with most writers I have to judge which events to attend based on a variety of criteria, and once it’s taking place in America the costs balloon significantly. I’d heard good things about the last WFC in Saratoga Springs, and with it being located on the East Coast it makes it a more manageable con to attend.

The Guest of Honours this year are Steven Erikson and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and the toastmaster is Paul Di Filippo. Special guests include Glen Cook, David Drake, Lloyd Currey, Rick Lieder, and Kathe Koja. There will also be a tribute to the much-respected and much-missed Graham Joyce.

The line-up of other guests is quite extraordinary and intimidating, and I’ve no idea how I’m going to fit in every panel, talk, party, or reading I want to attend.

I’m on one panel at 3pm on Saturday, 7 November in the City Center 2B.

Old Weird, New Weird, or Just Plain Weird
When, and where, do they converge, and converse?
Thomas Monteleone (mod.), Ellen Datlow, Michael Kelly, Anya Martin, Maura McHugh

I’m already brushing up on my reading of weird fiction in preparation, and that’s such a pleasure and inspiration.

Almost immediately upon my return to Ireland I have to get ready to travel to Leeds for the Thought Bubble Comic Book Festival.

That’s the way it goes sometimes: lots of events clustered together, followed by long, quieter periods for contemplation and creation. Getting the balance right is what keeps me tickety-boo.

Fri, 02 October 2015 BCA Nominees 2015

The nominees for this year’s British Comic Awards have been announced.

Best Comic

  • Beast Wagon – Owen Michael Johnson, John Pearson and Colin Bell (Self published)
  • Grey Area: From the City to the Sea Tim Bird (Avery Hill Publishing)
  • Hand Me Down – Kristyna Baczynski (Self published)
  • Lost Property – Andy Poyiadgi (Nobrow)
  • Strip – Sarah Gordon (Self published)

BCA Best Comic Nominees 2015

Best Book

  • Comic Book Slumber Party: Fairytales for Bad Bitches – Hannah Chapman (Editor); Stephanie Ayres, Sarah Burgess, Emma Carlisle, Lucie Ebrey, Enoki, Lize Meddings, Becca Tobin, Donya Todd, Alice Urbino and Jenn Woodall (Self published)
  • Supercrash: How to Hijack the Global Economy – Darryl Cunningham (Myriad Editions)
  • The Motherless Oven – Rob Davis (SelfMadeHero)
  • The Rabbit – Rachael Smith (Avery Hill Publishing)
  • Tim Ginger – Julian Hanshaw (Top Shelf)

BCA Best Book Nominees 2015

Young People’s Comic Award

  • Cindy and Biscuit Vol 1: We Love Trouble – Dan White (Self published/Milk the Cat Comics)
  • Gary’s Garden Book 1 – Gary Northfield (David Fickling Books)
  • Ghost Cat’s Pedigree Chums – Craig Conlan (Self published)
  • Maleficium – EdieOP (Avery Hill Publishing)
  • Star Cat Book 01 – James Turner (David Fickling Books)

BCA YPCA Nominees 2015

Emerging Talent

  • Sarah Graley (Our Super Adventure, Pizza Witch, Rent Quest)
  • Rachael Stott (Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor #3, Star Trek #46 and #47, Star Trek/Planet of the Apes #1-5)
  • Matt Taylor (The Great Salt Lake, Wolf #1 and #2)
  • Adam Vian (Long Lost Lempi, Snippets: Extracts from 4 comics that don’t Exist)
  • Christian Ward (ODY-C Volume 1, ODY-C #6)

BCA Emerging Talent Nominees 2015

Hall of Fame

The fourth entrant to the BCA Hall of Fame will be Scottish comics legend and creator of Desperate Dan, Oor Wullie and The Broons, Dudley D. Watkins.

HoF Dudley D Watkins

You can view every eligible title submitted for this year’s awards on the BCA Longlist 2014/15.

The Judging Panel for this year, who will decide the winner for each category (except the Young People’s Comic Award which is chosen by young reading groups from around the UK), consists of:

  • Eddie Argos (Lead singer of Art Brut, painter and comic writer)
  • Kate Beaton (Award-winning Canadian cartoonist)
  • Jonathan Entwistle (Film director)
  • Stephen L Holland (Co-owner of esteemed comic shop Page 45).
  • Scroobius Pip (Spoken word & hip hop artist and podcaster)

Judging Panel 2015

The 4th Annual British Comic Awards Ceremony will take place at 6pm on Friday, 13 November (a lucky day for the winners!) in The Carriageworks’ Millennium Room in Central Leeds. This will be one of the opening night events for the Thought Bubble Festival’s Comic Con Weekend, the biggest and best celebration of sequential art in the UK.

As ever I’m hugely impressed with the sheer range and diversity of talent in the UK comic book scene, and consider it a privilege to be part of the selection committee again this year.

It’s time-consuming but inspiring work, and it always leaves with with an appreciation of the versatility of the comic books medium.

Thu, 01 October 2015 Viva cartoons!

Chris O’Halloran from the Irish Comics News web site contacted me recently about contributing to ICN’s series, ‘Art Picks’, in which comic book creators talk about work that has influenced and inspired them.

You can see my choices up on their web site now. One of the things I talk about is how illustrated books formed my interest in artwork, not just comic books.

But I didn’t even get a chance to talk about cartoon strips, which were still appearing in newspapers back in the day. When I lived in the USA I loved the tradition of the Sunday Funnies – i.e. full-colour cartoons with extra panels that was its own little section of the newspaper. It was the first thing I reached for after a cup of coffee…

I adored Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, which continues to be a masterclass of stories told with joy and vere. It’s also a cartoon that appeals to children and adults, without patronising the first or boring the latter.

There weren’t many cartoon strips in newspapers in Ireland, but one I remember was Curly Wee and Gussie Goose – mostly because as a child seeking precisely this kind of entertainment I found it perplexing: it had verse underneath two images, none of it funny, and most of it strange. Still, I always read it whenever I saw it.

I found this image courtesy of a blog post about the strip on the Fústar web site, dating from 2006. Reading through the comments and doing a bit of quick searching I discovered that the comic was originally written by Maud Budden (real name Dora Magdalene) and drawn by Roland Clibborn. It was commissioned by The Liverpool Echo and it was produced from 1937 – 1969, and has been re-issued since.

Being a geek I was delighted when Dilbert appeared, as it was the first time a cartoon series embraced the world of tech, and lampooned the industry. The strip developed and changed over the years as Scott Adams’ creation became more popular, some of it becoming less to my tastes.

I did love Alice, of course…

Must… control… fist… of… death… remains a familiar refrain in my head during some situations.

And how many ways can I praise the magnificent Bloom Country by Berkeley Breathed? It was funny, political, moving, and deeply satirical.

Much to my surprise and delight I recently discovered that the Bloom County characters have returned from retirement, and are shaking off the mothballs with few signs of wear and tear.

Immediately Breathed has taken up of the cause of poking fun at the excesses of American political campaigning. And among writers, the ‘issue’ he has chosen to champion in the hopes of distracting the public from real issues is instantly divisive…

No doubt we will see Bill & Opus For President posters next year…

Of course there are web comics now, and so many of them it would be difficult to choose my favourites. I will point at a few I like very much.

Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant cartoons are about people, history, and popular culture, and are wickedly funny. As you’ll see from my article on ICN I’ve come to love Wonder Woman – and Beaton’s version is terrific considering all the guff that talked about Diane being a ‘difficult’ character…

The Awkward Yeti is written and drawn by Nick Seluk, and features a cast of characters including a blue Yeti, and conversations between his internal organs.

The Heart and Brain series is my favourite, depicting the battle between practicality and a desire for fun. Mostly, heart wins. Mostly…

I’m really enjoying Gemma Correll’s pun-tastic cartoons, which are deservingly popular.

This one is both smart and pointed, so that it’s almost painful.

Similar to my piece for Irish Comic News, this is merely a tiny sampling of cartoon strips that I love. I’m so pleased that this artform continues to thrive thanks to the Internet.

Although, please, please, please credit the artists whose work you love if you share their creations online (You can even read about the importance of this via a cartoon drawn by talented Irishman, John Cullen.)

It takes a lot of work to be funny and witty via pictures and text, so cartoon creators deserve recognition and your support.

Viva cartoons!

Wed, 30 September 2015 Octocon 2015

September is in its twilight now, which means the annual Irish science fiction convention, Octocon, which takes place in the Camden Court Hotel, Dublin from 9-11 October, is almost upon us.

This year I’m one of the two co-Guests of Honour at the convention (along with Emma Newman), which is something I’m still humbled about.

As usual it should be a fun weekend, full of lively panels and wonderful conversations about an array of topics across literature, film, comics, TV, videogames, and cosplay.

The other guests who will be along to offer their expertise and insight on the subjects are: Paul Bolger, Michael Carroll, Rob Curley, Celine Kiernan, Ruth Long, Oisín McGann, C.E. Murphy, Alan Nolan, Peadar Ó Guilín, and Paul Anthony Shortt.

The programme is now online, and here is my schedule of events:

Friday, October 9

  • 6pm – Opening Ceremony
  • 7:30pm – A Drink to Fans
  • 8pm – Golden Blasters

Saturday, October 10

  • 1pm – They shoot collaborators, don’t they?
  • 3pm – Has Storytelling In Video Games Stagnated?
  • 5pm – The Psychology of Sci-Fi Horror

Sunday, October 11

  • 11am – Renewal! How Do You Modernise A Genre?
  • 1pm – Guest of Honour interview – Lynda Rucker interviews me
  • 3pm – Irish Mythology And Its International Spread
  • 5pm – Octocon @ 25!
  • 6pm – Closing Ceremony

Although it will be a busy three days I’m very much looking forward to catching up with the regular attendees, and hopefully meeting a new slew of friends and fans of genre fiction!

Wed, 16 September 2015 Kildare Readers Festival 2015

I’m very pleased to be part of the Kildare Readers Festival 2015, which is taking place in Newbridge from Thursday 8th – Sunday 18th October.

At 8pm on Thursday, 15 October Kim Newman and I will be talking about ‘Things That Go bump in the Night… and why we love them!’ at the Riverbank Arts Centre.

Horror fans, and those who appreciate monsters, do come along and celebrate all that’s spooky – it will be a good time of the year to be chatting about fiendish stories.

There is also an array of talented writers taking part throughout the week, so there will be plenty to interest you at the festival no matter your proclivities.

Fri, 11 September 2015 We Are The Martians

I’m delighted to be part of the non-fiction anthology, We Are The Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale, which is edited by Neil Snowdon and published by Spectral Press.

The full table of contents has been announced:

  • Foreword by Mark Gatiss
  • Introduction by Neil Snowdon
  • THE KING OF HAUNTOLOGY by Mark Chadbourn
  • THE QUATERMASS CONCEPTION by Stephen R. Bissette
  • THE QUATERMASS LEGACY: A Personal Reflection on Kneale and his influence by David Pirie
  • CREEPING UNKNOWN PART 1: Wuthering Heights, ‘The Crunch’, and 1984 by Kim Newman
  • PHENOMENA BADLY OBSERVED AND WRONGLY EXPLAINED: Quatermass, The Pit, and Me by John Llewellyn Probert
  • UNDER THE INFLUENCE: Kneale’s Dramatic Legacy by Maura McHugh
  • BRIEF ENCOUNTER by Stephen Laws
  • THE PROMISED END: Nigel Kneale’s Lost Masterpiece From 1963, The Road by Jonathan Rigby
  • ‘COOL THE AUDIENCE, COOL THE WORLD’: Media, Mind Control, and the Modern Family in Nigel Kneale’s The Year Of The Sex Olympics by Kier-La Janisse
  • PUSHING THE DOOR HE UNLOCKED: Ghostwatch and The Stone Tape by Stephen Volk
  • BEASTS: An Overview by Mark Morris
  • ‘IT WOULD HAVE BEEN SUCKLED, YOU KNOW’ Beasts and Baby, an appreciation by Jeremy Dyson
  • QUATERMASS: Resurrection And Rebirth by Jez Winship
  • THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION: An interview with Nigel Kneale by David Sutton
  • CREEPING UNKNOWN PART 2: Kinvig by Kim Newman
  • IN PURSUIT OF UNHAPPY ENDINGS: Chris Burt & Herbert Wise on The Woman In Black by Tony Earnshaw
  • CREEPING UNKNOWN PART 3: Sharpe’s Gold and Kavanagh QC – Ancient History
  • UNPUBLISHED SCREENPLAY: ‘THE BIG, BIG GIGGLE’ with introductory note by Nigel Kneale

Nigel Kneale was a vastly-talented British screenwriter, and it was a pleasure to re-acquaint myself with his array of wonderful teleplays and films in preparation for my contribution to this overview of his body of work.

There are only twenty-five copies of the hardback edition of the book available for pre-order now, so put yourself down for a copy if you are a serious fan of Kneale’s work. There, are other editions you can purchase of course if you are too late for the hardback.

Thu, 10 September 2015 Return to Derry

I’m delighted to see the return of a comics-focused festival in Derry/Londonderry after the demise of the much-lamented 2D Comics Festival.

The ComicCity: Comics and Creative Arts Festival is happening this weekend, and features a huge array of talent from north and south of the border in Ireland, along with visitors from abroad. These special guests, exhibitors and dealers will be in attendance throughout the weekend and there will also be a full programme of talks and workshops.

I’ll be selling a very limited number of full sets of the five single issues of the Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder mini-series which I co-wrote with Kim Newman, with art by Tyler Crook, coloured by Dave Stewart, with covers by Julian Totino Tedesco, lettered by Clem Robins, and edited by Scott Allie, published by Dark Horse Comics. All set in the Hellboy universe created by Mike Mignola.

Also, I’ll be hosting a panel discussion about #ArtCred at 1pm on Sunday in Event Room B with Declan Shalvey, Marc Laming and John Allison.

It should be a fun weekend!

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    “My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” — Elmore Leonard

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