I want, so badly, for The Doctor Who Thought Experiment to be an ‘80s proto-ambient band I can taste it.
Hello everyone! Welcome to Not The Fox News. Let me tell you how I can fix Doctor Who.
I want, so badly, for The Doctor Who Thought Experiment to be an ‘80s proto-ambient band I can taste it.
Hello everyone! Welcome to Not The Fox News. Let me tell you how I can fix Doctor Who.
(‘Son, you need to stay indoors! Burn some books! Don’t worry about the symbolism just do it! There’s a Bad Science Front sweeping towards you!’)
You know that scientist who always turns up in B-Movies? The one who figures everything out, and goes in front of The Board (Of…Science, presumably) to beg them to do something and they don’t? And then THE AWFUL happens and they’re all ‘Oh save us!’ and the scientist, or Ripley as she does this too, is all ‘…FINE.’
Hi, I’m Doctor Stuart and I’ve worked out two of the things that are killing genre fiction.
(With special thanks to Saxon Bullock for looking at early drafts and helping me untangle the rat king of stuff I wanted to say.)
Let’s talk about what’s going to happen when I rule the world. Being a global dictator isn’t easy and, these days, it’s all about the PR. So, in addition to the social media push and viral ads that will shortly spring up, I intend to mark my coronation with the creation of a new national holiday; Memeoriam Day
Memeoriam Day will be the day that we say goodbye to all the tired old running jokes that have barnacled the hull of the good ship Pop Culture across the last decade. Festivities begin at the start of the year as the jokes start their long trip across the world. As the months pass, retrospectives will be aired, the talking heads who always get wheeled out will be allowed a day pass from their secure reserve somewhere on the Norfolk Broads to pass comment and, quietly, the countdown website will mark time.
Then, the final stage will begin. A huge, open air party will begin as the jokes, carried by members of the public or, perhaps, their original writers, will process to the Tower Of London. There, they will be interred in a vault far beneath the ground where tearful monks will recite them one last time. On the final, whispered ‘lol’, the monks will withdraw and the vault door will shut. It will not open again before the next ceremony. No one has the key to it, not even me and the plans were destroyed once it was constructed.
Finally, Jules Holland will lead the planet in a rousing chorus of ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ because for some reason that one’s bullet proof. Once it’s concluded, we’ll all go on with our lives, stumbling out onto the freshly mowed grass of pop culture to explore it anew. The jokes interred will be remembered but never spoken of again, at least, not in public. Of course there will be speakeasies, places where the old jokes flow freely. They will exist because every society needs a pressure valve and, more importantly, because I allow them to exist.
So, what will be the first batch of jokes into the Vault, and why? Hypothetically? Because clearly I’m not planning on executing this plan this year…
-JJ Abrams and lens flare, because even he’s admitted it was a touch out of hand.
-All Michael Bay movies are awful, because they’re just not. Oh, certainly, some are and Revenge of the Fallen is legitimately one of the worst films I have ever seen. But this is also the director behind the original Bad Boys, The Rock, Con Air and Pain and Gain. There’s more to him than incomprehensible action scenes and a deep profound love for military hardware.
Some of the time.
–Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey as arbiters of bad writing. This one is a straight up public service because the only thing you’re proving every time you make this point is that you haven’t paid enough attention to modern popular fiction. There is much, much worse out there. Waiting. Testing the fences. Looking for weaknesses. It remembers…
-Jar Jar. Please, baby, for all of us. Let it go.
-Joss Whedon shows are always brilliant and always fail. Because they aren’t and they don’t. Worse, believing either perpetuates the underdog myth that continues to surround the writer and director of one of the most successful films of all time and the disproportionate and massively tedious backlash against his most recent projects.
-Waiting to the end of the credits just in case Nick Fury shows up to recruit the character into the Avengers. I’ve done this one myself. I love this one. But it’s time. It’s just (sniff) it’s time…(whimpers)
-Summer Glau kills shows. Because Summer Glau is not the show-killer. Summer Glau is not the little death that brings total obliteration. We will face Summer Glau’s body of work. We will permit it to pass over and through our minds. Perhaps even in Arrow. And when Summer Glau has gone past we will turn the inner eye to see her path. Where Summer Glau has gone there will be something. Her work on The Sarah Conner Chronicles in particular will remain.
-‘Hate-Watching’. The entire concept. Seriously. What the Hell is wrong with you?
Should this be successful, a second scheme would be introduced the following decade. A global holiday entitled ‘Never Going To Happen Day’, it would be a sad day of remembrance dedicated to laying to rest those cherished fan dreams that will forever remain so. Doctor Who fans will observe this as ‘Sally Sparrow Day’.
Finally, every day really will be the first day of spring. I’ve seen the blueprints for the satellites. This is going to RULE.
Anyway, those robot armies won’t build themselves! See you next month, citizens!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future recently. It’s sort of my job, but it’s also something that we can’t avoid at this time of year. 2013 is calling time and putting the chairs on the tables whilst 2014 is trying not to look too nervous as it takes its tracksuit off and warms up. This is a time of year where reflection isn’t just expected it’s almost compulsory.
That leads to some really kick ass writing by the way. Paul Cornell’s 12 Blogs of Christmas are always really good value but this year he’s been on exceptional form. 2013 has been what my amazing girlfriend would call ‘burly’, an intense, bruiser of a year that’s worked hard for all 365 days and is only reluctantly showing signs of slowing down. There have been times, and anyone who was reading my blog in the top six months of the year would know exactly what times they were, when it’s been deeply, profoundly unpleasant.
Thanks for having my back this year, Phil.
That lack of pleasant hasn’t just stemmed from the profound professional frustration I’ve felt for a good chunk of this year. A lot of it has stemmed from the realization that a lot of the time, geek culture enables and encourages misery. The whole concept of geek/nerd/counter culture is so wrapped up in being the underdog that even when we aren’t, we’re conditioned to act like we are.
It’s not just that there’s always something wrong with a movie or a book or a comic or someone’s blog post either, although God knows that sort of stuff has been endemic this year. When we’re not complaining that something’s been done wrong, we’re complaining it’s been done at all and we absolutely will not stop until the same nine people agree with us, argue with us or passive aggressively block us on Twitter.
I’ve seen things, to misquote Roy Batty, that would make you go ‘…Wait, you’re supposed to be a grown up? You’re the industry leaders whose standards we all have to aspire to? SERIOUSLY?’
I’ve seen authors ignore some of the first people to beta read their first book as they pass in convention hallways. I’ve seen authors pick fights they had no business being anywhere near or comport themselves on Twitter in a manner that suggests their ASSHAT UNION membership card has arrived and they’re just so pleased they can’t wait to show it to everyone.
It’s not just authors either. Bloggers who’ve picked fights for no reason other than they can, journalists who’ve started fights they can’t finish then played the victim card and run. I’ve seen celebrity authors pampered and sucked up to by the same editors who let out streams of invective as high pitched as they were ineffectual at people who they thought beneath them. I’ve seen ‘fans’ race to pour scorn on anyone who dared to like something they didn’t, or sneak pictures of an old, tired, ill man because it might be the last time they were in the same room as him and God forbid they should treat him like a human.
I have so much more. I have an amount you wouldn’t believe of stories of people being dicks. Objectification by both genders, high school cliquery, bullying, the sort of cult of personality bullshit that makes you want to not just leave these people’s company but shower and not stop until you feel clean again. Fandom, and I actually cringed writing that word, has shown the world it’s ass over and over in 2013.
It’s been pretty depressing at times. You may be able to tell.
Here’s the thing. I have an outsider complex the size of a small moon at the best of times and there’ve been months this year that I’ve felt like a man without a country. Times where I’ve looked around at the conversation and the people leading it and frankly wondered if it wasn’t too late to learn enough about football and soap operas that I could fit effortlessly back into the general population, sort of like Bruce Campbell at the end of Darkman.
I didn’t for three reasons. Firstly because simply making that comparison tells me this is where I should be, secondly because Bruce Campbell already had that exit sewn up and thirdly because when it comes down to it, I’ve seen what comes next. And it’s BRILLIANT.
Seriously, the dusty cults of personality, the grudges held for years, the ludditery and celebration of the past at the endless, endless expense of the present and the future? It’s being replaced, person by person, con by con. What’s replacing it, Commander Bowman?
See, Dave knows.
But surely publishing is dying? I pretend to hear you cry. Publishing isn’t dying. Or rather it is in the same way that comics publishing was dying a decade ago when I ran a comic store. Numbers are down, prices are up, electronic retail is squeezing it dry and the sky is falling.
But the sky is always falling.
Comics endure. Books endure. We endure and survive and, ultimately, evolve. Look at the indie press scene in this country and don’t use small press as a term, please. It belittles the hard work of everyone involved in companies like Anachron, Jurassic and Fox Spirit. These are groups of people whose invention is matched only by their lunacy at working so hard for so little financial gain. Colin Barnes, Jared Shurin and Anne C. Perry, Aunty Fox, all the others have stepped up and MADE something whilst everyone else has been busy doomsaying and remembering how drunk they got at We Like A-Line Flares and The Bay City Fucking Rollerscon back in 197aeons ago.
Authors, editors and agents are the same. Lou Morgan, Andrew Reid, Joan De La Haye, Jennifer Williams, Liz De Jager, Alec McQuay, Dan Sawyer, Vincent Holland Keen, Adam Christopher, Colin Barnes again, Steven Saus, Scott Roche, Jared Shurin and Anne C. Perry again, Tim Maughan, Kate Laity, Mhairi Simpson, David Barnett, Nayad Monroe, Sarah Hans, Mur Lafferty, Lee Harris, Amanda Rutter, Den Patrick, Will Hill, Kim Curran, Guy Adams, Tom Pollock, Djibril al-Ayad, Matt Wallace, Jacqueline Koyanagi, Juliet Mushens and all the others have built their careers from the ground up. Brick by brick by author by book these people have hand sold, promoted, represented appeared on podcasts, written blogs, submitted work, read slush and slowly and surely they’ve made ground. Slowly and surely they’ve changed the game. Slowly and surely they’ve won .
You know the coolest thing about that list? I added to it twice and I know it’s not complete, even now. These people, and the legions I missed, are building the future with a combination of grim determination and total empathy. The con organizers are the same, and anyone who thinks different hasn’t looked at Nine Worlds, the plans LonCon 3 have or what Lee Harris and Sophia McDougall are building at FantasyCon ’14.
It won’t be overnight, because it never is, but the change that’s coming isn’t just one of talent, it’s one of atmosphere. At every level of every element of genre fiction publishing, the culture is changing from one of tradition and exclusion to one of individuality and inclusion. Yes the support structures are smaller, yes the work is harder to do but the rewards are all the sweeter if you can do it. Like the man says, it’s a good life if you don’t weaken and everyone I mention here can attest to that. These people love what they do so much they teach other people to love it too. No whining, no backbiting, no psychological games. Just the agent, the editor, the publisher, the writer, the reader and the text and, yes, they’re all walking into a bar.
This is a wonderful time to be anywhere near fiction. The step change that’s coming will echo up and down for decades to come and it’ll be so much more positive and interesting than so much of what we’ve had to put up with in recent years.
What do you think, Josh?
What’s next? That’s easy. It’s the future. And this time everyone’s invited.
Happy New Year
As my friend Saxon Bullock says, always open on a song. This played in my head for four straight days in Brighton and Hugh Laurie in spats became my unofficial spirit animal. That combination of jovial, charming and slightly intense served me very well during my Redcoat week.
The problem is, conventions are impossible to write about. They’re the ultimate embodiment of the ‘come in alone’ response to media, with everyone’s experiences being different, often contradictory to, but never less valid than, everyone else’s.
World Fantasycon 2013 is a perfect example of this. Go take a look at the numerous blogs that have been published about the con and you’ll see that first hand. From parades of photos of the same people who took photos together last year to detailed breakdowns of why the con’s programming was great/awful/indifferent/delete as applicable, there’s two things these blogs all agree on; their authors were present.
So was I. Here’s my take on it, including special guest starts Hugh Laurie, Jan Hammer, Jed Bartlet and Urdnot Wrex.
One of my very first experiences on arrival is seeing someone asking a female colleague of mine a question. She answers him and he repeats the question. She answers him again, slightly differently, and he repeats the question. She answers him a third time, and he repeats the question. It’s like she’s speaking Teflon.
She catches my eye and introduces me, the question is asked a fourth time and this time, between the two of us, it sticks. After he’s gone I ask how many times she has to repeat her answers in any given conversation. The average is three
I am wearing my jacket for the first time. It’s red and dapper and magnificent. It’s also completely huge, to the point where it’s slightly baggy even on me and I am by far the broadest shouldered, largest Redcoat. Several of my colleagues look like they’re wearing tents. One, Ewa, looks like she’s just stepped out of a particularly great 1980s cyberpunk fashion shoot. We all roll the sleeves up. The concept of Brighton Vice is born and this plays in my head for five straight days.
I’m working the reading rooms. It’s a good job, make sure the authors are in place, give them a five minute wrap up signal and hang around if you’re interested. I am, as Guy Adams is reading. Guy is an old friend, a fiercely talented author and a former guide with the same ghost tour my Dad works for. He’s also a former customer, and once memorably pursued an unpleasant card gaming customer out of the store yelling ‘EXCHANGE THOSE CARDS FOR PUBERTY!’
He’s reading a Holmes story and it’s absolutely brilliant. Watson is invited out for dinner by Holmes and a case unfolds across the three courses. It’s smart and funny, a rigidly paced, beautifully designed engine of a story and I almost lose track of time.
But, the 5 minute warning has to be given, and so it is and… Guy keeps going.
They’re not quite at dessert.
He brings the story in like a Russian gymnast, landing perfectly, precisely on time and with a killer final line. Then looks at me, chuckles and says ‘Blimey that was close.’ Doesn’t matter. It’s an amazing piece and he nailed it.
Standing guard at the back of the main hall, during the mass signing, my brain full of bad wiring from earlier. There was a seating plan for the signing but, much like no plan survives contact with the enemy, no seating plan survives contact with authors. So we’ve got people sitting with their mates, sitting with people the same nationality, or who have the same agent, or the same publishing company. The crowd find their way to who they need, and I stand watch over crates of books and try very hard to not be angry about what I saw earlier today.
Terry Pratchett did a one off panel for the con, and Andrew, Pixie and I were the three redcoats asked to help security get him in and out of the building. It was, make no mistake, an honour. My own emotional connection to Pratchett’s work has never been especially high but his intelligence and talent, the endless years he’s put into popularizing and legitimizing multiple genres of fiction, can’t be overstated. He’s a titan. Without him, the current idea of Geek as cultural default, would be a good five years less developed than it is.
But he’s dying and there’s no getting around that and we saw it up close. He’s still him, still vital, still fiercely clever but he’s getting further away. I saw that up close as we walked him in, and out of the con. He’s still working and has a great team of people around him but seeing him as reduced as he is was difficult.
Seeing people choosing not to notice it was worse. On the way out of the con, someone came up and asked for a picture. We said no as he was very tired and had to leave and she smiled, nodded and said ‘Oh I’ll just take it surreptitiously then.’
Just a little photo.
Earlier we’d stood at the back of the con hall waiting for his panel to start. A crowd had formed about twenty feet away, all taking pictures, no one approaching him.
Just a little photo. Nothing much. Don’t engage, don’t ask, just take the shot from a distance.
I left. I left and I came apart at the seams for a minute or two. Lou Morgan, the head Redcoat, put me back together and apologized but she had nothing to apologize for. I got to help get one of the greatest genre writers of the last thirty years in and out of the building. I got to help a man whose work helped me and others. That’s something I cherish, even under the ghoulish elements of the audience, even under the organizational snafus that the redcoats had to both deal with and bear the brunt of.
No, the problem was embodied by a moment I didn’t see. The panel was hijacked by someone who gave Pratchett a Grand Master award from the European Science Fiction Association. He did this because they’d decided Pratchett needed the award ‘before he died’. His words.
Just a little photo. Just a little plaque. You know, before…
Back in the hall, I am not in the best of moods as I watch people get books signed, it seems, by the yard. I wonder darkly how many are actually being read, how many are treasured possessions and how much of this is just increasing the value of an investment. I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, I’m grumpy. I am, as a friend of mine would say, embracing my Inner Krogan.
On Tuchanka, Slam Poetry involves actual Slamming. Of Rocks. Into Other Poets.
I’m watching a pink book crate wheel up to me. The switch flips, I talk, I’m charming, I’m professional and I can feel every cog turn as I do it. You see, I’m at the back of the hall guarding these crates because we can’t have them on the aisles. Authors can sit where they like but some of these crates and cases are so big it would get ugly. Like, ‘Ben Hur, with sharpened copies of Atlas Shrugged on the hubcaps levels of ugly’. So I guard the book crates and chat to the lady with the pink one. Lucy Coats is completely friendly, completely grateful for me being there and hugely fun to talk to. Slowly, I feel better. Ashley, a Pseudopod listener asks me to sign her Kindle (I’m on a Kindle! That’s got my book on it! That’s weird and cool!), Joan De La Haye and friends bring me an emergency baklava transfusion and Andrew, Lou, Ewa, Naz and I help bring the event into land. It’s a bit like crawling from the wreckage, but a win’s a win.
I’m late. Lou’s doing a reading and she asked me to introduce her. Part of me, the part that sees fat but not muscle, failure but never success tells me it’s because she knows I had a bad day and wants to throw me a bone. The rest of me politely tells it to get fucked. She asked me because she’s a friend, and I used to be her editor, and it’s awesome and I’m late.
But I have something many people in this hotel do not; a red coat, and the strange architectural wisdoms that come with it. Or, to put it another way, I know where the staff lifts are and they come out right by the reading rooms.
Where I should have been.
Five minutes ago.
Because I’m late.
The lift doors open, I walk out and Martel, who’s running the reading rooms, looks at me and nods and…something odd happens.
This plays in my head.
The frustration of the last day or so stills and lowers and I know exactly what needs to happen next.
I am going to run for re election. And win.
I open the door, walk in, start talking as I move. It’s cheap theater but Mick Foley never met a cheap pop he didn’t love. I go up to the stage, explain how I was the editor of Hub and what was bad, and good about that and freelancer life. The good, I say, was most definitely in giving authors like Lou, and Joan De La Haye and Danie Ware, a turn in the spotlight. I’m articulate and funny and I make people smile and I never, ever hesitate or ‘umm’ once.
I finish, take the red jacket off, sit down and watch as one of my dearest friends reads one of the best short stories I’ve heard all year.
I sit and watch Joan De La Haye nail a reading from Oasis, and marvel that she’s been able to find something genuinely new to say about zombies.
I have a long, two part conversation with Saxon Bullock in which we fill each other in on the various things that have happened in our lives over the last two years, the scars they’ve left and what we’ve learned. Also about Star Wars. And bookshops. And writing.
Applauding my friend Nad, who’s Halloween costume (Corpse Bride meets ’50s bopper complete with full facial make up) blows every other costume on Halloween out of the water.
I get the most polite trash talk ever from an American author. I walk her to her reading and as we chat, she mentions she lives in the Bay Area. I mention I lived in Fremont in 2012 and she says ‘Never mind dear, I’m sure you had fun when you got to the Bay Area.’
I narrowly miss a party and, reveling in my Manx ability to walk along Brighton seafront in a gale and not die, refuse to let myself go back to the hotel room. Instead, I go find a party and, in short order, run into Jayson Utz and Nina Niskanen, both Pseudopod fans. I hang out with them, and spend three very happy hours chatting in the international language of geek.
On Sunday we launch Tales of Eve, the new Fox Spirit anthology. I suddenly find myself on the opposite side of tables I’ve been helping run all week. I’m not there as a Redcoat, I’m there as an author.
And people are coming to see me, and the other authors. Several of them are clearly people we don’t know! And they’re giving us money for books!
For close to an hour, we sign books. We shift 27 copies of the anthology, including several author ones. I sign each one with ‘THANK YOU’ and try not to look incredulous.
It’s official. I’m an author now. Which means I maybe need a bibliography…
Conventions are impossible to write about. They’re the ultimate embodiment of the ‘come in alone’ response to media, with everyone’s experiences being different, often contradictory to, but never less valid than, everyone else’s.
World Fantasycon 2013 was a perfect example of that and if you want very different perspectives on the convention, check any of the numerous other reports. I’d recommend starting with ALittleBriton not only because her work’s great, it is, but because she’s done a couple of really good round ups of other posts.
For me though, these are the moments, and the people, who mattered.
. So to Lou, Andrew, Ewa, Naz, Jen, Boo, Joely, Joan, Vinny, Den, Lucy, Jayson, Nina, Ashley, Mhairi, KT, Moses, Saxon, Emma, James, Guy, Paul , Sullivan and friends, Anne, the unknown techie who I officially became bros with and all the others, thank you. My red coat is handed in, and I’m back in civilian life.
Until next year….
Conventions are one of those things, a little like dental work, that everyone is just expected to do. However, the best case scenario tends to be a lot higher than ‘No cavities!’ or ‘Mum, he only used the crowbar once!’. Conventions are safe spaces, the places where we can go to let our hair down, be ourselves, network, schmooze, drink, do bad karaoke, sign the odd deal and argue in Klingon over whether Peter Parker should have organic or mechanical webshooters.
That’s a tall order. And here’s the thing; it sets conventions up as the peak of the geek calendar and in doing so, all they’re set up to do is let you down. I’ll never forget attending my first FantasyCon, stepping through the door of what one of my best friends had described as one of the most welcoming conventions in the country and…being confronted by 300 people who clearly knew one another, chatting away and getting drunk together.There was no welcome booth, there was no one on duty to ease newbies in. There was just me and a bunch of already mostly drunk authors. It looked, and felt, like every ghastly clichéd high school lunch hall dream given form.
I didn’t turn and run, much as part of me wanted to. I persevered, enjoyed a good deal of it and talked to almost no one. I attended another couple of times and, gradually, found myself moving in the same orbits as people who are now some of my closest friends. One of them is Adele, our feral leader here at Fox Spirit Towers. She had a similar track to me through the UK convention circuit, moving from member to guest to sleepless podcast tech goddess to leader of the pack in a little under three years. She was also completely rebooting her life as this was going on which, to my mind, is probably the only plausible reason why it took that long.
So, largely left to our own devices, people like Adele, myself, the Cheesecakes, Sam, Andrew, Lisa, Vick, Vicky and the others all slowly began to form our own social circles. It took a while and by a while I mean years, but I can now walk into any convention in the UK and, chances are, have a friend or two already there. It feels nice. It feels earned because believe me, it was. There are very few lonelier places than the bar at a FantasyCon when everyone’s talking to everyone but you.
Here’s the truth; no convention, on Earth, is going to answer every single one of your geek prayers because nothing ever does and nothing ever will. Make no mistake, you’ll have fun but the sky will not shower book contracts and meaningful discussion down upon you. At least not without you rigging some bizarre publishing/weather dominator hybrid.
Yeah, Destro. You BETTER run.
For someone who doesn’t like or ‘do’ conventions, it turns out I’m going to a couple of big ones in the closing stages of 2013. In November I’m off to Leeds for Thought Bubble, which is always a very rewarding and immensely strange experience. Thought Bubble, or ThoBubs as its affectionately known, was founded by the comic store I worked for straight out of University. That’s the same comic store that made me redundant some years later and catapulted me into a period of sustained, constant change and near unbearable psychological stress. That period of my life meant that when I went to Thought Bubble for the first time, back in 2011, it’s fair to say I was not in the best of frames of mind. It’s a very weird experience spending time inside something that was so nearly built with your help. It simultaneously makes you proud and desperately sad. You get glimpses of the next life over, the one that was almost yours. You don’t regret it, certainly, but you do find yourself wishing it wasn’t in your eye line quite so much.
That being said, Thought Bubble is a desperately friendly show and, because I’m working for the company’s website (Freelancer tip: Never burn bridges. Ever. You never know when you’ll be able to cross back over them) I’m on the guest list. So, two days of wandering around Leeds Armouries, chatting to small press and big press alike and coming home with a metric kilo of review copies looks set to be on the cards.
Before all that though, I’m off to World FantasyCon.
This year FantasyCon has combined, Voltron like, with WorldCon to create a colossal robot that will stomp across Brighton and…
Sorry, I seem to have turned over multiple pages there.
This year, FantasyCon has combined with World FantasyCon and the end result has been a complaint storm the likes of which we haven’t seen since Doctor Who fans discovered the internet, keyboards and Twitter. There’s been, on average, one ‘thing’ about WFC 2013 every five or six days. I’m not going to repeat any of the well documented issues a lot of people have with the convention set up here, firstly because I don’t have the word count and secondly I really don’t want to. Make no mistake there are absolutely legitimate problems with some aspects of the con that have been expressed forcefully and eloquently by some of the best writers in the field. Them, I don’t have a problem with.
The internet hordes crowding around them yelling ‘FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!’? They’re the problem.
At this point, WFC 2013 could transform the entire hotel into gold, provide everyone with unlimited chocolate and alcohol, premiere all the missing Doctor Who episodes still left and odds are someone would still sniff and go ‘Huh. Well apparently all the rooms smelt of wee.’
I saw people complaining about the free book policy earlier today.
How do you do that?
How do you express serious concerns about the giveaway policy at a con? It’s free books! You’ll be allowed a set amount, odds are you can swap them around maybe and maybe even read some before you pick up even more at the next convention! Like usual!
There’s such an accretion disk of negativity around the con that at times the real issues some people have and the efforts to address those issues by the organizers are being obscured by the stampede of people struggling to be the first on the soapbox and the first to lead the next charge. That’s awful for two reasons; firstly because the real issues people have with aspects of the programming are being obscured. On a more personal level, honestly, I’m slightly nervous going.
I’m attending as a redshirt (Although apparently we’ll get jackets which sounds dapper and AWESOME) and part of me is sincerely apprehensive. I’m going to be part of the Con’s face (FaceCons! That combine to form…I am on an ‘80s cartoon kick this month aren’t I?) and a lot of people seem eager to explain exactly why the con sucks, possibly to its face, that I am part of.
Oh and just for giggles, I’m also at my first ever book launch as an author! Which I may also be red jacketing at! Which may mean I’m technically cosplaying as either postmodernism or the entire industry… Anyway Fox Spirit’s Tales of Eve anthology has an officially official launch on Sunday at 10am. The launches are being held in the space between the art show and Hall 8 and this should be really fun. Tales of Eve is a great book, Mhairi Simpson did a kick ass job as editor and a bunch of Fox Spirit authors will all be there to sign the book and launch it out into the world.
So, let’s review; I’m going to be a volunteer at a convention where a measurable proportion of the attendees aren’t especially happy and I’m also going to be attending my first ever book launch as an author.
No pressure then.
Now, take my basic apprehension and apply it to people attending a con for the first time. The needle’s buried in the red.
Or it would be, because on this one the convention has a plan. Full details are here:
Go, read, and go say hi. It’s a great idea and exactly the sort of thing I wish someone had thought of during my first couple of FantasyCons. It would have saved me a fortune in J20 and crippling social anxiety.
As for me, well, I have a plan too. The redjackets have all been asked what events they’d especially like to attend and wherever possible we’ll be scheduled to either work those events or be free for them. The book launch aside, I’ve asked for a range of diverse events and also said if I get none of them? That’s fine. If I go where I’m needed, rather than where I think I should be, I’m bound to see and hear new and interesting viewpoints. I’ll be challenged. I’ll learn new things. I’ll engage, and in doing so be too busy to get nervous.
So why don’t you try the same thing? Also, feel free to say hi if you see me. You can’t miss me, I’m the guy who looks exactly like the photo of me on this website. Let’s chat for a bit, assuming I’m not wrapping a panel up or helping disappear the flocks of taxidermied and yet somehow living ravens that always seem to apport into existence if Ramsey Campbell stays in one place too long. Because, underneath the groupthink, the communications failures on both sides and the vast helpings of schadenfreude people seem to be relishing, we’re all fans. This aspect of popular culture makes us all happy, hits us all right in the feels, and that sense of unity? That’s the one place every convention lives up to our expectations. Sounds like fun. Hopefully I’ll see you there.
Hi, I’m Alasdair. As Adele said, I’m the author of The Pseudopod Tapes and I’ve been writing about genre fiction for sites like SFX and Bleeding Cool for years now. I do this because I love it, both the process of writing and the feeling of connecting with a story and being able to pull it apart and see what makes it tick. My approach is slightly unusual in that I’m not actually looking to score points like so many other bloggers out there.
I actually like things.
If something’s good, I’ll tell you. If something’s bad I’ll tell you and I’ll tell you why and that brings us neatly to Ben Affleck and the internet in meltdown.
A couple of weeks back, Warners announced that Ben Affleck would be playing Bruce Wayne in Man of Steel 2: Man Steelier. This was met with roughly the same response as senior Warners executives personally going to 1 in every 2 geek with a twitter account’s house, peeing on their lawn and giving them the finger whilst setting light to their car.
It has not gone well.
It has gone so badly, in fact, that one group of rocket scientists have started a petition to have him replaced. Because, firstly, film making is clearly a democracy and secondly hunger, poverty, terrorism and equal rights for all have clearly been achieved so now petitions can be used for stupid, petty bullshit.
There are two things I find genuinely fascinating about the Batfleckpocalypse. The first is how perfectly it fits with another piece of recent news and the second is how, when they’re combined, they show you exactly where fandom’s memory sits and how damaging that is.
Firstly, that other piece of news. Agents of SHIELD, the Marvel movieverse TV show is going to be shown on Channel 4 in the UK. This wasn’t greeted quite as badly (Think the head of Channel 4 sending every 3rd person with a twitter account a DM that just said ‘arse’) but it was still met with something a lot less than joy.
The reason is simple; Channel 4 have a long, proud tradition of having no idea what to do with genre fiction import drama. These are the people who showed Angel at tea time and wondered why people complained about up to ten minutes being cut. These are the people who bought the rights to Stargate SG-1 then not only cut what is arguably the cuddliest genre TV show of the last two decades, but buried it in their hangover programming on Sundays.
These are the people, along with the BBC it should be pointed out, who had The Simpsons and had no idea what to do with it.
So Channel 4 getting Agents of SHIELD didn’t go over too well, with me as much as anyone else. However, when I dug down a little bit more, the story wasn’t quite as clear cut. Friends pointed out Channel 4 had treated Lost very well. More recently, homegrown shows like Utopia and Misfits have been not just well treated but have found an audience. Even more recently, fantastic French spookfest The Returned was treated like an actual grown up drama by them and it had (sort of) zombies in it and everything!
My deliberate facetiousness aside, the point stands. Channel 4 no longer view genre fiction with fear, merely slight suspicion and yet so many people responded to this news with a full on eye-roll.
Now take a look at Affleck and the reasons many people are citing why he’ll be awful. The movies Gigli and Daredevil and the fact he once dated Jennifer Lopez.
All of which happened around 10 years ago.
Which is also roughly the same time that Channel 4 were faceplanting again and again with Stargate SG1 and Angel.
It’s also around the same time that a lot of the generation of geeks who have twitter accounts now, were coming of age.
In the immortal words of Bill Hicks, I am the weaver…
What this seems to say about fandom culture is both very good and kind of awful. The good element of it is that fandom falls in love purely and completely and will defend its corner for decades. Look at Doctor Who, and the fact that close to two decades after it was first cancelled, there are still people convinced that the BBC are looking for an excuse to murder their massive commercial success and cash cow. Or to put it another way, Agents of SHIELD is all but certain to be a colossal success. It may actually be an idiot proof piece of TV in scheduling terms and yet everyone, including me, is still waiting for the sort of decisions made a decade ago to be made here because we remember the failures more than the successes.
As SHIELD, so Bafleck. People are looking at his work ten years ago and seeing that actor projected forwards. It’s ridiculous when you see it written down isn’t it? If you know anyone who is exactly the same in terms of personality, skill level or body shape as they were ten years ago? Check by the side of their bed for a large seed pod and be prepared to run from people looking like this.
In the intervening ten years Affleck hasn’t just turned in good performances he’s become an Oscar winner so well regarded Warners offered him the big chair on the JLA movie despite him never having done a big scale Summer movie. He’s an immensely smart director, a damn good scriptwriter and yes, I’ll say it, a great actor. He’s not just a good choice, he’s the sort of choice that should evince sighs of relief not lynch mobs. As someone put it on Twitter earlier today:
Oscar winner cast as Batman. Fandom riots.
I know it’s tough to be positive sometimes. The cultural story of the geek is one of perennial oppression, of being the outcast or the weirdo and it’s very difficult to move past that. But if you can, if you can approach something on its own merits rather than the merits of what’s gone before, the world is a much more entertaining place. You’ll be happier too.
So, I’m staking my claim. I welcome our new, colossal chinned Bostonian Batman and I look forward to Channel 4 treating Agents of SHIELD right. I may be disappointed on both counts, but I’m not going in looking for it. If you’re sensible, neither should you.
Alasdair Stuart hosts Pseudopod, the weekly horror fiction podcast and co-hosts Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast. He writes for lots of people. He’ll write for you if the job’s fun and you pay. Seriously, ask him, he’s right here. His book, The Pseudopod Tapes, is available through Fox Spirit now and he has stories in Tales of Eve and several of the Fox Pockets too. When not here you can find him at alasdairstuart.com or on twitter at @AlasdairStuart.
Exciting times at Fox HQ as we are expanding just an itsy bit.
I’m delighted to announce that in addition to our forthcoming new imprint (still under wraps for now) we have a new team member joining us. Alasdair Stuart is not only one of our authors and the awesome host of Pseudopod and half the hosting team at Escape Pod, but he’s one of the UK’s most awesome genre journalists. With extensive knowledge and boundless enthusiasm Alasdair has for years been on the scene sharing his thoughts on all things genre.
We here at the den have taken advantage of SFX’s (totally unannounced) closing of their blogging section to nab some of Alasdair’s time and get him on staff. He will be doing a monthly column for FS covering interesting doings in the world of genre because we reckon the sort of people who write and read Fox Spirit books are the sort of people who watch and play SF, Fantasy and Horror too.
I will let Al introduce himself and his column in September when it all kicks off.