Paul Cornell in The Salon

Here’s another Ujima interview that I am posting because the Listen Again link has expired. In keeping with our theme of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, here is Paul Cornell.

Obviously the main topic of conversation was Paul’s Shadow Police novel, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes. We also discussed some of his other projects, including This Damned Band which is now available as a graphic novel. Along the way we discuss diversity in fiction, fandom, and why a vicar’s husband is so obsessed with devil worship. At one point I do actually say, “this interview has gone completely off the rails”, which I guess shows you how much fun Paul and I were having.

If you haven’t bought Who Killed Sherlock Holmes yet, you might like to listen to Paul read from it at his recent BristolCon Fringe appearance.

Next week, Mike Carey.

Cavan Scott in The Salon

I have been working on processing some of the interview material that I did for Ujima and has now vanished from the Listen Again service. This week will be mainly about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, with a bit of Star Wars and The Beano thrown in. I’m starting up with Cavan Scott who does all of those things. Later in the week I’ll bring you Paul Cornell as well.

Here’s Cav. I had the poor man in the studio for a whole hour. With the music, news and ads removed it boils down to about half of that. Among other things we talk about how he came to have the #1 selling book in the whole of the UK.

May Fringe Podcasts – Martyn Waites & Paul Cornell

It is that time of the month again. If you are in Bristol this evening do come along to the Shakespeare Tavern on Prince Street for 7:30pm to hear Scott Lewis and Jo Lindsay Walton. In the meantime, here are the recordings from the May event featuring Martyn Waites and Paul Cornell.

The event was a crime fiction special in honour of Crimefest, our local crime fiction convention which was due up the following weekend. Martyn does have SF credentials, of which more later, but his fiction is straight crime. In addition to his own books he writes as Tania Carver, and it is one of her books that he reads from here.

Paul, of course, read from Who Killed Sherlock Holmes, the latest in his Shadow Police novels.

And then of course we had the Q&A, which was epic. I, of course, wanted to know the story about how Martyn came to write as Tania. As you will hear, the position of women writers in crime fiction is very different from that in SF&F. Martyn gave me an idea for a panel at BristolCon.

Along the way Martyn also revealed his various SF&F credentials, including publishing a Doctor Who fanzine and featuring in a Robin Hood TV series. We also talked about a book called Great Lost Albums in which Martyn and friends invent famous albums that never were. I was particularly taken by the idea of a Kraftwerk Christmas album.

Paul talked more about the Shadow Police series. Naturally there is discussion of Holmes, and Paul’s recent episode of Elementary. There is also mention of his comic series, This Damned Band. There is, inevitably, some discussion of science fiction television series, which leads to some well-deserved praise for The Expanse.

Bath, Fairies and Feminism

Today I was up early and off to Bath to catch some of the participants in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds Ball before they were too busy. It is an absolutely amazing event that Emma and her friends are staging. How they are going to manage a LARP with over 80 participants is a mystery to me.

Still, I know a few of the participants, so I will hopefully get reports back of how it went. Always assuming they survive the evening. You never can tell where the fae are concerned. I should have some audio, and a few pictures, but you know what fairies are like with electronic stuff.

Over lunch I headed off to Victoria Park for the joint BGEN/WEP intersectionality picnic. Quite a few more WEP members turned up this time, and BGEN was out in force as usual. Everyone seemed to get on very well, and the older ladies from the WEP appeared very keen to learn from us. Weirdly I found myself explaining what things like “no homo” and “friend zone” mean. I guess I’m not as out of touch as I think.

There was a great deal of excitement about how well Sophie Walker did in the London mayoral elections. Obviously no one expected her to win, but getting 2% of the vote is a substantial achievement for a party that is barely a year old. Next up, get more votes than UKIP.

That done, several of us trooped back into town to visit Mr. B’s and to do Free Comic Book Day. And then Olly and I trotted back to the Guildhall to catch some of the fairies. Olly, as well as being a genius radio comedy writer, is also a champion cosplayer. We had a great conversation about the difference between comic conventions and Worldcon and I got to show some of my old masquerade pictures.

I am now back home and not really fit enough for much except dinner and TV. If I had a bath I would be in it. Not complaining though, it is lovely to have warm weather at last. I think it might be safe to turn the heating off.

This Week on Ujima: Cavan Scott, Suffragettes & Art

My first guest on this week’s Women’s Outlook was Cavan Scott. Cav is a very busy boy. We first talked about his Star Wars tie-in novels, one of which was chosen for World Book Day and went on to become the best selling book in the UK for a while. We talked about his forthcoming Sherlock Holmes novel, The Patchwork Devil. We talked about his comics and radio play work on Doctor Who. And of course we talked about The Beano, for which he writes Mini the Minx and several other strips.

For Bristol people, Cav’s book launch for The Patchwork Devil is on April 30th at Forbidden Planet. It is a lunchtime event.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Next up on the show was our expert on suffragettes, Lucienne Boyce. She was in to tell us all about a local screening of Make More Noise, a compilation of silent film coverage of actual suffragettes from the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Finally I welcomed Ruth Kapadia from the local office of The Arts Council. We talked about the sort of work that The Arts Council does, and how people can apply for grants.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

Of course I also talked quite a bit about the cricket. West Indies are currently world champions for the Twenty20 format at under 19 level, in the women’s game, and in the men’s game. The entire Caribbean is celebrating, and we celebrated with them. All of the music was related to the cricket in some way. Here’s the playlist:

  • We are the Champions – Queen
  • Dreadlock Holiday – Boney M
  • Champion – DJ Bravo
  • Da Cricket Loba Gatama – Latif Nangarhari
  • Cloth – Bullets
  • Come Rise with Me – Machal Montano & Claudette Peters
  • Gavaskar – Andy Narell & Lord Relator
  • David Rudder – Rally Round the West Indies

Women, History, Comics

Last night Neil Gaiman tweeted about a Kickstarter project called She Changed Comics. Run by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, it is essentially a history of women in comics. This morning, of course, the thing has blown through its funding goal in a single day and is almost 50% over budget. It has all gone so quickly that they haven’t announced stretch goals yet. Doubtless there will be some in due course.

Anyway, I am very much looking forward to the book. I suspect some of you will too. If you want to drop them some cash, the campaign page is here.

100 Women Making Comics

That’s not a threat, it is the title of an exhibition opening in London this weekend. It is curated by Olivia Ahmad and Paul Gravett and will feature, to no one’s surprise, the work of 100 women comics artists. The women featured include Alison Bechdel, Audrey Niffenegger, Claire Bretecher, Katie Green, Posy Simmonds and Tove Jansson.

The exhibition will run from Feb. 5th to May 15th. You can find it at 2 Granary Square, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4BH. Further details are available here.

Trans Awareness Week Begins

Jean Grey
This week is going to be very busy for me, and quite emotional towards the end when we get to the Trans Day of Remembrance. However, we have started off on a brighter note with an article I wrote for The Gay YA. I don’t really know much about modern YA, so when they asked me to write something I decided to take a trip down memory lane and say thank you to the girl who was my big sister and role model during my teenage years.

Thanks Jeanie, you were awesome.

Bristol Lit Fest – Creating Comics

Cosmic Horror Colouring BookOn Friday evening I headed into Bristol for my first event in this year’s Bristol Festival of Literature. It was a comics-themed event featuring Mike Carey, Paul Cornell, Cavan Scott and Jess Bradley, and it took place in the Bristol Waterstones.

The basic idea of the event was to talk about the process of making comics, and about the comics business. Hopefully some of the audience went away inspired to make their own comics. My panel did a fine job of talking through the issues. I’d given them a list of questions I wanted to address in advance, and in several cases they moved effortlessly from one topic to another without my having to prompt them. Special thanks to Paul who often managed to do the moderator things I wanted to do before I could get a word in to do them.

Paul and Mike are, of course, very high profile. I was delighted to see Mike so happy about the film of The Girl with All The Gifts, which should be in cinemas this time next year. But we all agreed that Cav had the best job in the world — writing Minnie the Minx — and of course he’ll be a superstar next year when his World Book Day Star Wars novel comes out. Nevertheless, when we all got together for dinner after the event, it was Jess’s creations that we ended up talking about. She’s very funny. Check out her website, and the Squid Bits strip she does for The Phoenix. (Warning, may contain farts.)

Squid Bits

Of Vicars and Witches

Today I took the car out for a run. I headed up to Fairford where Paul Cornell was doing a home town launch event for his Witches of Lychford novella. Fairford is a small country town on the edge of the Cotswolds, so I got to drive along a lot of those twisty country roads that are lined by the stone walls of country estates, and where the trees are carved into tunnels by the passage of double-decker buses. I wish Kevin had been with me, it was lovely.

I got to see the church where Paul’s wife, Caroline Symcox, is vicar. The signs you see on entering the town actually note that the church is world-famous, though whether that’s because of the vicar or for some other reason wasn’t made clear.

The event, which was in the town library, was well attended, apparently mostly by members of Caroline’s congregation. Aside from a friend of Caroline’s, I think I might have been the youngest person in the audience. They all listened patiently to Paul’s explanation of a story of witchcraft in a small, English country town, and they all bought the book so he must have explained it well.

There were lots of good questions, and I got to hear Paul effectively doing rehearsals for the comics panel I’ll be hosting on Friday. If we get more of that sort of thing it will be well worth attending.

Creating Comics – Book Now

The Eventbrite page for my Bristol Festival of Literature event on Creating Comics is now live. Waterstones has limited space and this is likely to prove quite popular, so please do book up in advance.

As a reminder, the panel for the event is:

While I’m at it, huge congratulations to Cav for having been selected as one of ten authors who will write a book for next year’s World Book Day. The books will retails for just £1 each, and kids all over the UK will be given £1 books tokens with which to buy one. Cav’s book will be an official Star Wars story, so I suspect it will be rather popular. (Ireland is in this too, though presumably pricing will be in Euros.)

Gods and Heroes

I have been enjoying Alastair Sooke’s documentary series, Treasures of Ancient Greece. However, I think he’s quite wrong when he says in the final episode that the influence of Greek art on Western culture has waned thanks to its co-option by the Nazis and the rise of non-realist forms of art. He’s just not looking in the right place.

Greek Superheroes


That statue was on display at an exhibition called Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2008. I would love to have seen that.

I’m sure there are people who have made a study of this sort of thing, but to my inexpert eye Jim Starlin in particular has a direct line of descent via Michelangelo to ancient Greece. I’m sure there are many more examples.

Some Comics News

I don’t follow comics news as assiduously as I follow SF&F publishing, but I do keep an eye on Autostraddle and if anything interesting is happening I can rely on Mey to tell me about it.

Yesterday, I noticed this article about the fabulous Runaways series. It included a note that Marvel will be bringing back the series soon, and you can find out more about that on The Mary Sue. To be honest I’m not too thrilled with the idea of Battleworld, but I have heard very good things about Lumberjanes so I was interested to see what Noelle Stevenson made of the team. Then, just to complete the squee, I saw Noelle’s name on this list of trans & non-binary comics creators. That suddenly makes the prospect of the new Runaways much more interesting. I doubt that we’ll get Xavin back, but I’m sure there will be cool stuff.

New Edition of the Anime Encyclopedia

My inbox yesterday included an announcement that in March there will be a new edition of Jonathan Clements’ and Helen McCarthy’s Anime Encyclopedia, a fabulous work of reference. The announcement includes the usual blurb about thousands of new entries (apparently over a million new words), but what caught my eye was this:

Fully cross-referenced (with live hyperlinks in the e-book edition)

That sounds like it must have been a huge amount of work, but also something that will be very valuable.

Once There Were Heroes

This is another post about a Kickstarter campaign. Kevin Rolfe is raising funds to produce a sourcebook for a superhero role-playing game whose title can’t be mentioned for legal reasons but which will be familiar to anyone who played RPGs back in the 1980s. Marc Gascoigne and I may have been involved in the production of some of the material to be included in it. I am not benefiting from this in any way, save for the pleasure of seeing it back in print. Obviously this is unlikely to appeal to you unless you are familiar with the game, but I’m throwing it out anyway because I know some of you are.

Wonder Woman at the Merril

I have been lucky enough to be in Toronto when they had an author event on at the Merril Collection. This was Jill Lepore on tour with her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman. Naturally I went along. The event was packed, though aside from a few Merril staff there was no one I recognized. Lepore, it turns out, is an excellent speaker, and I’m sure I am going to enjoy reading her book. I should note that she is an historian, not a comics expert, and her main interest is in the life of William Marston, the man who created Wonder Woman. But he did have a very interesting life, and his work has a prominent place in the history of feminism.

Most of what Lepore had to say was about the early 20th Century. Marston died in 1947. However, Lepore did talk a bit about the late 60s and early 70s when Wonder Woman was adopted as an icon by parts the feminist movement of the time. This was of particular interest to me because I had been looking at what was happening in the comic at the time — specifically the horrendously homophobic #185. That issue makes much more sense when you know that Diana was being used by prominent feminists to promote their cause.

Nothing changes, of course. That issue of Wonder Woman was a key part of the talk on LGBT superheroes that I was giving last year. Another key element was the character of Alysia Yeoh, Barbara Gordon’s trans woman friend. Gail Simone deftly had Babs and Alysia sharing a house together before revealing that Alysia was trans, and then showed clearly that this was not an issue in any way. Gail has since left, and only a few issues later the new (all male) creative team has made a point of establishing that Barbara is horrified by trans people. I am so unsurprised.

Update: I see that Cameron Stewart has posted an apology about that Batgirl issue, which is progress. Also my apologies to Babs Tarr whose name didn’t come up when I looked up the creative team online. Thanks to @ariadnesisland for the tip-off.

Meanwhile, In Toronto

I am here. I won’t be online much, partly because I am busy, and partly because the roaming charges are horrendous. I have put my phone in airplane mode so that the apps on it can’t rack up massive bills without me doing anything.

There is snow. Lots of it. It started late last night and continued through most of today. Right now it is quite pretty. Tomorrow it will be EVIL. I hope they grit better than London.

I have dropped off a few copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion at Bakka Phoenix books, so if you are in Toronto and would like a copy please do drop by before they sell out. I have come away with a bunch of new books by other people, including The Three Body Problem, which I am very much looking forward to.

This evening I am off to the Merril Collection to see Jill Lepore talk about her book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

I may get a cab.

Launching the Nunslinger

Today I headed into Bristol for a launch event at Forbidden Planet. It was for Nunsligner by Stark Holborn. Stark is a pen name of a local writer, and Nunslinger is a rather unusual book. To start with it is a Western. Also it is written as a collection of 12 longish short stories, with an overarching story arc. Westerns about nuns are by no means unknown, but Stark thinks this might be the first one in which the nun is actually serious about her faith, as opposed to it being something that gets abandoned very quickly under the pressure of life in the Wild West. I understand that the individual stories were released as ebooks as Stark was writing them. That’s an interesting pressure to put yourself under.

I haven’t had time to read the book yet, but judging from the extract we heard at the launch I am expecting it to be very good. Stark will be reading at BristolCon Fringe in February and as long as the date doesn’t clash with my having to be in Manchester for LGBT History Month I’ll be there and hope to podcast it.

While I was in store I picked up the latest Bryan Talbot graphic novel, Grandville Noel. I read most of it on the train home and finished it quickly thereafter. Bryan is on fine form, and the book contains some interesting information on the history of the Grandville world. Highly recommended.

Black Superheroes at The Watershed

My Saturday evening was spent at the Watershed’s Afrofuturism season. The event in question was a screening of Will Smith’s movie version of I Am Legend, followed by a discussion of black superheroes.

The film was rather better than I expected. Will Smith is so much better on his own than when being the comedy black guy in someone else’s movie.

I wasn’t really there for the film, however. I was there to hear Edson Burton, Adam Murray and Jon Daniel talk about black superheroes. I mean, Black Panther, Storm — what’s not to like?

Adam is one of my colleagues from Ujima, and he knows a lot about the relationship between superhero comics and hip-hop. That’s certainly an area I can be educated in.

Jon is a fabulous graphic designer and, amongst other things, was responsible for the Afro Supa Hero exhibition at the Museum of Childhood in London last year. I was delighted to get to meet him.

Just in case anyone has missed me enthusing about this before, I am firmly of the opinion that Minister Faust’s From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is the best superhero novel ever written. I am also a big fan of Samit Basu’s Turbulence. Both books use the superhero genre for hilarious and accurate satire of the author’s societies — black North American and Indian respectively.

I also note that Tobias Buckell’s Arctic Rising and Hurricane Fever feature a Bond-like character, and Bond is most definitely a superhero.

One thing I learned at the talk is that John Jennings, who created the fabulous cover for the Mothership anthology, is also one of the two people responsible for the Black Kirby exhibition. That gives me an excuse to post this:

Mothership - John Jennings