Wed, 23 April 2014 The Green Book – issue 3

Today I received my contributor’s copies of The Green Book: Writings on Irish Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic Literature, issue 3.

The Green Book is a handsome anthology of essays and reviews published regularly by The Swan River Press, edited by Brian J. Showers.

The Green Book, issue 3

Issue 3 is devoted to examining the work of Ireland pre-eminent 19th century supernatural writer – Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. It’s the 200th anniversary of Le Fanu’s birth this year, so it’s quite right the work of Dublin’s ‘Invisible Prince’ gets a proper celebration.

This issue comes with a postcard as a lovely extra – it’s a rare image of Le Fanu’s death mask (© Anna & Francis Dunlop).

By the way, Trinity College is organising a Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu Bicentenary Conference from 15-16 October for those of you who are inclined towards an academic analysis of his work.

Here’s the table of contents for issue 3 of The Green Book:

  • “Editor’s Note” – Brian J. Showers
  • “The Embodiment of Sinister Agencies: Le Fanu and the Ghost of a Hand” – Terri Neil
  • “Hybrids and Hyphenates: H.P. Lovecraft and the Irish” – Rob Brown
  • “Some Notes on Le Fanu’s Beatrice” – Philip A. Ellis and Jim Rockhill
  • “Towards an Irish Gothic: Part Three” – Albert Power
  • “Shepherding Le Fanu: Herbert van Thal and the Invisible Prince” – J.A. Mains

Reviews

  • Lesley Megahey’s Schalcken the Painter – Jim Rockhill
  • Scarecrow Press’s Two Volumes of Lord Dunsany Essays – Martin Andersson
  • Catherine Wynne’s Bram Stoker, Dracula and the Victorian Gothic Stage – David J. Skal
  • Big Telly Theatre Company’s Melmoth the Wanderer – Philip Orr
  • Bernice M. Murphy’s Rural Gothic – Emily Bourke
  • Lynda E. Rucker’s The Moon Will Look Strange – Maura McHugh
  • John Boyne’s This House is Haunted – Dan Studer

As you’ll see in this issue I’m reviewing Lynda E. Rucker’s début collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, which is one of the best first collections of supernatural stories I’ve had the pleasure to read.

The Moon Will Look Strange

Here’s a snippet of my praise for this fantastic volume of weird and distrubing tales:

Rucker writes the kind of effortless prose that reads easily, but is only created from careful, determined craft. Her stories describe conflicted, lost people, and dreadful situations you could never imagine, yet believe must have happened.

This is the mark of a superior storyteller, and points to Rucker as one of the most promising purveyors of the supernatural weird tale writing at the moment.

You’ll have to buy The Green Book if you wish to read my full 1,000-word review….

FYI, Brian is currently soliciting submissions for the next issue of The Green Bookdetails here.

Tue, 22 April 2014 mourning the death of salutations

Recently on Twitter I made the following observation:

I wish people wouldn’t forget salutations. So many emails & IMs burst at me with information, without a polite Dear; Hello; or Good Morning.

And I followed it up with

It’s like someone rushing into your house and firing a question at you, without first saying hello. I find it disconcerting.

I understand why this has happened. Text messages and IMs have much to do with it. Text messages are limited to 140 characters so dropping even an economical ‘Hi’ makes sense. Most people have smartphones containing all the names and photos of their contacts now, so the majority of the time we know the originators and recipients of our texts.

However, this word frugality has shifted into IMs, where people abruptly begin conversations with me as if we were already mid tête-à-tête.

Again, it’s the shorthand of the age, so I can get with the programme. I’m far less likely to be jarred by being thrown headlong into a conversation if there are multiple parties in the mix, although I always think a little ice-breaker like a ‘hello everyone’ doesn’t do any harm.

Write; press enter

What I find most discomforting is how these practices have translated into email. To my mind email is the modern version of the letter, and should being with a simple salutation – as formal as informal as the relationship to the person you are addressing. After the initial exchange I see no issue in dropping the salutation if the thread of discussion continues. You don’t keep saying hi to someone each time you make a comment if you are already in mid-conversation.

These days I’m receiving emails from people with lines of information without a basic hello. People – who sometimes I don’t know at all – ask me questions or favours without even addressing me first.

I’m not one for elaborate etiquette. Someone always had to invent it at some point, and the more rigorous versions are usually employed to ensure everyone knows their station – an attitude I find abhorrent.

Yet, I suspect back before the written word, when hand signals and simple spoken words were how we first communicated, one of the most employed was ‘Hello’.

It’s not about protocol, it’s about taking a moment to acknowledge the person to whom you are speaking, before launching into your discourse.

So, please, could people take a breath before hammering their friends and acquaintances with their vital online messages.

We have not reached the singularity yet. We remain separate individuals, each deserving of being hailed properly.

High energy

(And to pre-empt some of my good friends or colleagues: dropping a salutation is hardly an egregious offence when our relationship is friendly, robust, and well established.)

(And to pre-empt again – commenting on blog posts or social media entries doesn’t require a salutation as far as I’m concerned.)

Sun, 20 April 2014 Easter eggs

Since I’m not religious, don’t like chocolate, and I’m a freelancer Easter doesn’t loom large in my calendar as an important holiday. However, the weather has been marvellous this year, and people are in rare good humour, so there’s been a great vibe – plus the Galway Food Festival is on so the city is buzzing.

Although I don’t partake of the chocolate variety I do like normal eggs, and always buy organic. A lot of the time I get eggs that originate from a poultry farm in the Burren called Poulataggle. When I bought my most recent carton of eggs I found a surprise inside:

Easter eggs

It’s a small gesture, but that made me happy when I saw it (and secured my custom). The extra egg went to Martin, who eats chocholate.

Finally, here’s a line-up of golden, chocolate bunnies for the season that’s in it. The ironic thing is that I took this image in February, when they started appearing in the shops!

Happy Easter/Passover to those that celebrate it!

Chocolate bunnies

Fri, 18 April 2014 Witchfinder 2 cover

Yesterday I was being all enthusiastic for Julian Totino Tedesco’s cover artwork for Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland issue 1 on my blog, and late that evening Comic Book Resources announced the July solicit information and covers for Dark Horse Comics.

Including Julian’s cover for issue two of Witchfinder. It’s one of my favourites!

Oh yes, dark, gruesome events loom for issue 2…

Thu, 17 April 2014 art progression on Witchfinder 1 cover

Most of you are aware that I’m co-writing the next Witchfinder mini-series with Kim Newman, and that the amazing Tyler Crook is providing the art, with colours by the multiple award-winning Dave Stewart.

I’ve now seen all the art for issues 1 and 2 and it’s terrific. I can’t wait until other people see it too.

On top of all of this we’ve been lucky to have Julian Totino Tedesco as our cover artist. I’ve seen most of the covers now and he’s doing tremendous work.

Recently on Facebook he posted the art progression of the first cover of Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland, and I thought other people would like to see it too. It’s the kind of thing I find fascinating. I asked Julian if it was all right to post it here and he gave his blessing.

Here was the rough he sent us as mock-up of what he wanted to do:

Then he did the pencils:

Here’s the final cover with the lettering:

It’s wonderful to work with talented people!

Wed, 16 April 2014 MCM Ireland reviewed

Crowds scene

My review of MCM Ireland Comic Con went up on the Forbidden Planet International blog today, along with some pictures I took at the event.

You can see all my photos from the con on my Flickr stream, including photos of many of the Irish comic book creators who were at the event.

By the way, have I mentioned that I have a Tumblr? I started it three years ago, but after a time I didn’t have the ability to maintain it along with my other various social media.

Recently, I’ve gone back to updating it. It’s strictly focused on comics and art, so if that’s to your tastes you might like to follow it.

Mon, 14 April 2014 Sláine and Niamh

I had a great time at MCM Ireland Comic Con at the weekend (more of that soon). The best thing was meeting friends and getting my geek on.

While these kinds of events can get a little manic at their busiest, they always have a friendly atmosphere. I love seeing Cosplayer’s creativity, and how much pride they have in their work, and the sheer enjoyment they get from their fandom.

I got a cool sketch from the legendary Glen Fabry of Sláine and Niamh – Martin and I are both fans of the comic, so we’re happy to get this fun tribute of the bronze age power couple.

Fri, 11 April 2014 Cúirt Labs – the shout-out

The Cúirt International Festival of Literature is in full swing in Galway at the moment, and the city is abuzz with theatre, poetry, art exhibitions, literary discussions, workshops, and readings.

The Cúirt Labs are the part of the programme directly targeted at a younger audience, which will take place in the Galway Arts Centre, 47 Dominick Street where three floors of gallery space will become custom-made spaces for inventiveness and imagination.

I’m going to be partisan and draw particular attention to some friends who are taking part:

Maeve Clancy: one of the best comic book artists in the country who also creates cut-out paper installations and has a background in music videoes.

Rhianna Pratchett: journalist, comic book writer, and ace video gamer writer who is responsible for the latest incarnation of Tomb Raider, as well as Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge, and the entire Overlord series.

Celine Kiernan: popular young adult novelist of The Moorehawke Trilogy published by O’Brien Press, who has a background in feature film animation.

Julian Gough is an author, songwriter, and troublemaker, as well as the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award in 2007, and other literary prizes.

That’s just a small sample of the creative talent in Galway currently. If you – or your children – are interested in the creative arts, get them over to Galway this weekend.

The irony of it all is that I’ll be in Dublin for most of the weekend, soaking in the atmosphere at MCM Ireland Comic Con.

Thu, 10 April 2014 neglected film adaptation

Recently my friend Tina Connolly contacted me and asked me if I’d like to contribute as a guest on a web site called Novelocity to answer the question: ‘What ONE (and only one) book needs to be made into a movie?

This is not a question I ponder on a regular basis, but the first answer that zipped into my mind is the one I went with: Mythago Wood by Rob Holdstock.

You can read my reasons for this choice on the web site, but anyone who is familiar with this splendid novel will immediately know why I picked it.

I happen to know that Mythago Wood was under option for a long time, but due to the vagaries of Hollywood it never made it out of development hell. Rob was keen to see the book adapted, so it was somewhat of a disappointment to him that it never worked out.

The potential is still there for a marvellous film version of this pivotal British Fantasy novel, but the great sadness is that Rob will never witness it now.

Wed, 09 April 2014 MCM Ireland

I was back on the RTÉ Radio 1 art’s show Arena last night, this time talking about the forthcoming MCM Ireland Comic Con, which is happening in Dublin this weekend for the first time.

You can listen to my contribution online now: I come in around the 30 minute mark.

I suspect MCM is going to be a popular event, especially as they have carpeted Dublin with posters, so everyone in the capital knows it’s going on. I’ll be there meeting friends and colleagues at the Comics Village, and generally checking out the event.

The arrival of the MCM ‘brand’ into Ireland heralds that traditionally geeky interests are now mainstream. The days of kids being bullied because they like anime or comic books are on the decline – although adults might still get a hard time if they admit to such prurient hobbies.

It’ll all pass. One day people won’t think it’s weird if you’re playing video games in your 60s or enjoying horror films in your 70s.

Our lives are becoming so science fictional that these pastimes now seem like a natural focus for entertainment. All acts of imagination are breaches of reality after all. Spaceships, zombies, and giant robots aren’t that big of a fantastic leap nowadays.

Perhaps the harder creative act in the future will be to imagine a smaller, quieter world…