This coming Sunday, 7 April 2013 fellow ‘Doctor Who’ writer (and my wife) Mags L Halliday and I will be guests at Phonicon 2013 at the Exeter Phoenix.
Phonicon is a new event in its first year, and is aiming to try and have a little something for everyone – media guests from Star Wars and Doctor Who, as well as writers and comics people, film screenings and some events for kids. It’s for a good cause – community radio station Phonic FM – the Exeter Phoenix is a great venue, and we don’t have many events of this kind in the South West so it would be nice to make this ‘a thing’.
Please come along and say hello. It would be lovely to see people there, and Mags and I will be generally hanging around (presumably with large guest badges with our names on) for most of the day. There’ll also probably be some kind of mini-interview and/or reading going on too.
Now, due to some scheduling and guest changes, Mags and I have ended up with a table each. Yes, two whole tables. This is more space than we really need because we don’t have huge stacks of books we can sell (my latest is an ebook, for instance), so… well, we’re not sure what we do with the tables, other than sit behind them for a bit.
Our solution to the empty table problem has been to pick a couple of time slots where we’ll be available if anyone wants to come along and get something signed (Battered copies of our Who novels ‘Hope’ or ‘History 1o1′? Old issues of long dead fanzines ‘Matrix’ or ‘Skaro’? Napkins?), chat to us about our work, ask us for writing advice (in which case, God help you), or just ask where the toilets are (this we can do, they’re downstairs by the service lifts). Here’s when we’ll be there:
We’ll be at our tables in Zone 3 on the First Floor of the Phoenix at the following times:
11am – 12pm
3pm – 4pm
Please come along to say hello! If nothing else our tables will be a convenient flat surface to place your drinks on.
See you there,
I’m very, very excited to be able to say that my first Warhammer 40,000 novel is out today as an ebook premiere: Iron Guard. You can see the cover on the right, complete with my name in a delightfully big, bold font, and buy the book directly from Black Library here.
I approached Black Library about the possibility of writing a full length novel after finishing edits on my short story Sanctified, and was asked to pitch something for their Imperial Guard line, war stories about the human forces of the Imperium in the 41st century.
After knocking proposals and outlines back and forth between myself and the editors, we eventually settled on the Mordian Iron Guard as my protagonists. Although the Mordians are well established in the 40k universe, the specific regiment and individual characters are all original, and I was given great leeway to fill in any gaps in Mordian culture.
As the book only came out this morning I won’t talk about the plot beyond saying that it takes a relatively green Mordian recruit from the sunless world of Mordian to a deserted mining world, where he discovers first hand the full horrors waiting out in the 40k universe, ready to prey on unwary humans.
Having read through the book very recently while proofing, I’m very pleased with how Iron Guard turned out, and look forward to hearing from readers.
Iron Guard is available as an ebook for £6.50 from Black Library, right here.
Hammer and Bolter #20, the latest issue of Black Library’s monthly fiction e-magazine, is out now, and contains my story In Hrondir’s Tomb.You can buy it from the Black Library site here, for the wonderfully low price of £2.50.
Hrondir is my second published Warhammer 40,000 story, although the third written after [REDACTED], which will hopefully be coming to a release schedule near you at some point soonish. (OK, strictly speaking [REDACTED] is a [REDACTED] but you get what I mean. Or maybe not.)
I’ve previously played around the periphery of the 40K universe, with a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus in Sanctified (still available as an ebook here, folks) and the [REDACTED] in [REDACTED], but In Hrondir’s Tomb is my first go at writing for the big stars of the Imperium, the Space Marines.
Not just any Space Marines, either, but Space Wolves, one of the more popular and unique chapters who had already starred in a long-running novel series of their own, and recently been given a new spin by Dan Abnett in the New York Times bestselling Prospero Burns.
So, no pressure there, then.
The story introduces Anvindr Godrichsson and his pack, Grey Hunters of the Fourth Company. They’re on the world of Beltrasse to fight the Tau, but find something entirely different deep beneath the ground of Beltrasse, in the tomb of Hrondir.
I wrote the story at the end of last summer. The attic where I used to write was in the process of being redecorated to become my daughter’s bedroom, and I wrote a lot in the evenings, sat with the laptop on the bare wooden floor. Occasionally, Georgina would be around to ‘help’, as the accompanying photo shows.
In spite of such challenges, it was a fun story to research and write, and while being an entirely self-contained story it sets up characters who could be revisited later. Fans with an encyclopedic knowledge of the 40k timeline may spot a name that appears in the existing background, and have an inkling where this might be going… but that would involve a whole load more redactions, so let’s not think about it right now.
I enjoyed putting a pack of Space Wolves in a situation different to the battlefields and savage wildernesses they’re most comfortable with. I hope people enjoy the results.
Update: Thanks to the efforts of everyone who forwarded and retweeted this post, I’ve now found a new artist for Squad Commander Rocket. Once again, thanks to everyone.
Get Dracula is still on the table if anyone is interested in drawing that…
Long term readers might know that I’ve been trying to get a webcomic off the ground for the last couple of years, but sadly it hasn’t worked out with the artist previously attached.
So, I’m putting out a request for an artist (or artists) who might want to collaborate on a short form (20-30 pages) comic book story to be published online first (in weekly installments) and hopefully in print later.
Since last time around, I have now got a second idea for a comic, so if you’re interested in either of the following please get in touch:
Squad Commander Rocket: a mix of contemporary drama and pulp SF intercutting between 21st century London and a retro science fiction future. Big rockets, weird aliens and modernist architecture. There’s a bit more detail on this project here, although my publishing plans have shifted a bit since then (see below).
Get Dracula: 1970s vampire gangster story set in the North of England. Nasty people and nasty things kicking nasty bits off each other.
Format for either of these is negotiable. The intent would be to share ownership once a certain number of pages had been completed, and to hopefully pull a print version together after the online version is complete.
If you’re interested in being involved with either of these projects, please contact me at scrcomic [at] googlemail [dot] com so we can discuss.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to spread the word to anyone you feel may be interested.
Resident Evil 6 has been announced, and I have a lot of thoughts. Guess it’s time to remember I have a blog, then.
I have to admit that when the teaser posters showing a 20/11/12 release date leaked earlier tonight, I instantly doubted them. Capcom, going from first announcement of a core Resi title to release in less than a year? Surely not – remember that first Resi 5 trailer that came out in September 2006, two and a half sodding years before the game’s release?
But no, at 10pm GMT this went live confirming the date and showing a lot more than early gameplay footage or proof-of-concept FMV:
Now, in terms of scheduling Capcom have only shaved six months off the four year wait between Resis 4 and 5, but in terms of announcing and marketing 6 they’re taking a far tighter, more aggressive approach, sitting tight through the first two years of development then hitting us with a barrage of visuals and a date.
That November date is a statement in itself. Resis 4 and 5 launched between January and Spring, relatively lean times for game releases when a major franchise title can make a big splash. Resident Evil 6 will be thrown straight into the competitive pre-Xmas market, when major franchises battle it out in the most lucrative period of the year, albeit one where smaller name games can easily get lost.
It doesn’t look like Resident Evil 6 is in any danger of getting lost amongst the big names, or being two low-octane to make a splash compared to this year’s Call of Duties and so forth. The launch trailer lays out a globe-spanning blockbuster that abandons the tight geographic progression of the last two installments in favour of something much bigger, more varied and dynamic.
There’s a lot going on in there as well: old favourites Leon and Chris, both playable; an American town overrun by zombies (replicating the series most popular setting, the Raccoon City outbreak without having to timewarp back to 1998 again); head-splitting mutants from the last two games in a neon-lit Chinese city; a big Nemesis type baddy with very sharp hands pursuing a couple of other characters in a bleak urban landscape; oh, and the whole thing opens with a fantastic, dramatic set-piece where Leon has to shoot the zombified President of the United States through the face.
In short, it looks epic, mixing and matching elements from across the entire series in a way that looks both atmospheric and action-packed, and which looks likely to enthrall both loyal series fans of myself – of whom there are many – and a general audience.
It looks entirely capable of going toe-to-toe with the big beast franchises of the current videogame landscape, and to be honest it should be: Resident Evil is one of the biggest, most recognisable names in games, one with wider pop culture impact (as much as we may bitch about the quality of those movies), and it’s only right that the next major game in the series should be a blockbuster to match the Modern Warfares and Assassin’s Creeds that dominate the pre-Xmas charts.
It looks fantastic, and frankly I can’t wait.
For more of my ramblings on the Resident Evil series, have a look at the Storygamer archive.
I have found a youtube video of the high score entry music from Impossamole:
Now, to my ears this TurboGrafix version doesn’t sound as good as the Atari ST one did back in the day, but its melancholic tones still take me back.
Twenty years? Fuck.
We’d like to go after anyone threatening to continue production of Torchwood. Do you know who we mean?
Ever since we had a baby we’ve been listening to Radio 4′s Today in the morning, because you need to have some background noise on when you’ve got a baby (strangely, they’re not keen on the deathly depressed silences that are my preferred ambience) and all the other morning broadcasting options are shrill and intolerable.
As a rolling news show, Today is basically Okay, but then there’s the interviews.
Oh fuck, the interviews. Some newsworthy figure is wheeled on to have some half-baked challenges and queries barked into their face. Interviewee bats these away. Questions are repeated, and avoided every time. If there’s more than one interviewee, some fatuous opposition is set up between the two, and questions are ping-ponged between them to create some arbitrary drama.
It’s rubbish, and much congratulations must go to Graham Linehan for steadfastly refusing to play ball when Justin Webb (not pictured) tried to get him to engage in a meaningless argument with a theatre critic last week. That Webb insisted on playing arch-twat in the face of Linehan’s insistence that the whole scenario was meaningless and pathetic, and continued to do so on twitter afterwards, just shows how far down the rabbit hole of their own reputation the Today team have disappeared.
Because the mythology of Today is this – that it is the centre of the national conversation, where the great and good are brought to account on important issues, pinned down by the fiercest voices in broadcast journalism. That it is vital listening, where vital matters are revealed, and a compulsory start to the day for anyone who wants to know what’s what in the UK.
Or, to be realistic, it’s a news show with some deeply uninformative interview segments where Ministers, Executives and other members of the interchangeable managerial smear who run things in this country get to be lambasted by James Naughtie (actually pictured) or John Humphrys, get on the radio and then send an email to all their underlings including a full transcript later that day, insisting that it’s vitally important that they all know how vewy bwave their boss was on the wadio. No policy is changed by these interviews, the most lasting consequence being the occasional unflattering soundbite that will be repeated on other BBC News broadcasts for the rest of the day.
The myth of Today as a gladiatorial arena of accountability is fantastically flattering not just for the BBC team who make the show but for the sense of self importance of the highly appointed dimwits who get ‘grilled’ on it. For, make no mistake, ministers and civil servants and senior business types love Today for the sense of importance it ascribes to their half-baked policies. It fuels the myth that their decisions shape our world, and that organisations really can be changed at the top (but that’s another rant for another time). It makes them feel special.
Whereas I’ve finally come up with the exact phrase for what Today really is: an Accountability Pantomime. A raucous, knockabout bit of nonsense where the powerful come on, shout it out with the presenter, and we can all go away feeling cathartically pleased that some high-placed clown was given a bit of a hard time while in fact they’ve been held to account for precisely fuck all.
A good example of this went out this morning, with an executive from beleaguered care home company Southern Cross. Humphrys gave the bloke a bit of a grilling, battered the same simplistic points again and again, and I found myself smugly pleased that Southern Cross bloke had been given a hard time, as if that somehow constituted a significant restitution for Southern Cross’ alleged crappy behaviour.
I shouldn’t have felt that, of course, because all that had happened to him was that he’d had a conversation with a rude man. He’ll have gone back to his job, and the key meeting with Southern Cross’ landlords (the subject of the interview) will have gone ahead exactly as well as if no interview had ever occurred.
Of course, the one useful thing Today could do would be for the BBC to leverage the exaggerated sense of importance the political classes put on it, to which I make the following suggestion:
The next time BBC funding is threatened, the first thing the BBC should offer to cut is the radio cars that allow Ministers to do Today interviews in their jim-jams. If that doesn’t cause an immediate policy reversal, suggest slashing the length of Today by an hour.
MPs will, of course, insist that to reduce the scope of Today in this way would be stifling democracy by failing to give a platform to our duly elected officials to big-up their initiatives, but as Today is basically about politicians listening to the sounds of their own voices rather than speaking to the electorate that’s bullshit.
Press the bastards, threaten to smash their stupid little soapbox to pieces. That should protect the licence fee for another generation, at least.
Here’s a curio for fans of 1960s ‘Doctor Who’ (i.e. any ‘Who’ fan over twenty-five with a functioning taste gland).
While in Paris for our honeymoon a couple of years ago, we browsed a vast second hand book shop in a covered market. It was the kind of place that, for whatever reason, you don’t see in the UK. Amongst all the filthy Italian horror comics and other oddities I spotted a familiar face:
… William Russell, Ian Chesterton himself. Now, most fans of any vintage will know that Russell was the star of ‘The Adventures of Sir Lancelot’ before starring in ‘Who’. Indeed, as with Matt Smith et al on the back of current ‘Who’ books, Russell is credited by name at the front of this French tie-in book:
As ‘Who’ has never been big in France, it’s interesting to see that one of it’s initial stars was well-known enough to have his face plastered over a kids tie-in storybook in the late 1950s/early 1960s.
There was a DVD release of ‘Lancelot’ a few years back, some of you may even have seen it. I’m seriously doubting that it had the kind of action this book’s illustrations suggest:
Finally, it’s good to know that even when playing Lancelot, Russell still had Ian’s frankly awesome haircut:
I don’t know much French, but I’m glad we found this book, physical confirmation that William Russell was a global star five decades before the current ‘Who’ team started doing premiere events in New York, as well as a charmingly straightforward TV tie-in from long ago.
My review of the iOS version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain seems to have gone up a bit early on Game People, so I thought I’d share this for anyone interested in how you go about writing something that fiddly:
I don’t generally work on paper unless I’m scribbling notes away from my computer, and even then I’m as likely to use the notes function on my phone for note taking as much as paper and pen. I used to do pen-and-paper first drafts of everything, long overwritten rambles that I would hack down while typing up, but I seem to have internalised that initial edit over the years, and can go straight to screen with something that reads as at least professional. (YMMV.)
However, some things require old methods to work out. For my first 40K book (still not announced, but it does exist, promise!) there were a lot of characters and ranks to deal with, so I drew a chart of how all the squads etc fitted together.
Then there was the Warlock review, which was simple but fiddly. I wrote the topic of each section on a piece of note paper, with arrows pointing to which sections the reader would naturally go to next. I then shuffled all of them, with the exception of the first two and the last one, then numbered them all one to ten and filled in those numbers in the go-to lines. That then gave me a framework to fill in the actual words.
I’m kind of hoping this one gets a bit more attention than most reviews I write. I’ve wanted to write a concept review for ages, and this seemed the perfect excuse. I’m pretty happy with the results, and hope that if nothing else readers of the FF books get a nostalgic kick out of it.