Open Mic Mondays: JC Hutchins

Morning, welcome back to Open Mic Mondays. Over the next few weeks you’ll see a range of writers talking about subjects close to their heart here and it gives me immense pleasure to introduce JC Hutchins to get us kicked off. Hutch is one of the reasons I got into podcasting. He, the Variant Frequencies team (Especially Matt Wallace) and Escape Artists were the first podcasts I listened to. It was a 56k dial up modem so it took about twenty minutes for one episode to stream but it was worth it every single time. Without those writers, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Now, Hutch is back with a new serial called The 33, the first part of which is available now. I invited him to talk about the worldbuilding process he uses for the series and he was kind enough to oblige. So, over to you Hutch.

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What I Did In February 2013

The first thing I did in February 2013? Draft this post so I don’t spend three hours at the end of the month building the thing. Usual rules apply, names and titles are usually clickable and the magic word ‘here’ will transport you to my wordspace. Or something. Anyway, first off, this happened!

So, a couple of weeks ago, Damien Walter put this piece up about Artisan authors, and how it’s a much more attractive, freeing way to get published than going through normal publishing houses. This pissed me off. Quite a lot at the time because I was having a lousy weekend. Instead of letting it fester, I got in touch with The Guardian, explained the problems I had with the piece and the stuff I felt Damien had missed and they, to my rank, slack jawed amazement, gave me a slot on the blog. It was huge fun and Damien, who remains a controversial figure in a lot of authorial circles was incredibly classy about me showing up on his patch and telling people, in a roundabout way, he was wrong. Or rather that there was a third way aside from the two he’d discussed…Regardless, it’s a piece I’m really proud of and it’s here.

 

-Controversy tango once again! Despite the press’ best efforts to convince the world that Judge Dredd would be tripping through the field singing tiptoe through the tulips whilst wearing a pink tutu and kissing boys, ‘Closet’ turns out to be a fantastically smart, very sweet story that reminded me, yet again, that I enjoy Judge Dredd far more when it’s about people rather than ‘LOOK! IT’S A THINLY VEILED POP CULTURE SATIRE! WE JUST KILLED!’ like it was for the ENTIRE 1990s. I review prog 1817 in its entirety here and my colleague Mr Steven Ellis has interesting points to make about the way the story was reported here.

-I love science, but I fear math(s), and as a result I tend to go a bit Gir when science goes past a certain ceiling of complexity for me. I was therefore utterly delighted when Ben Tippett, who is an actual real genius Doctor and everything, asked me to be a guest on the Titanium Physicists podcast. Every episode, the show has a guest on, who asks questions and a rotating cast of scientists answer these questions. In a way which frequently involves alcohol, often involves dirty jokes and in my case involved Arnold Schwarzenegger hurling Danny DeVito into a black hole to demonstrate time dilation. It was massive fun, Ben and his team do great work and I was delighted to blog about them here.

-Mitch Benn is one of my comedy heroes. One of the best musical comedians working today, he’s an essential part of The Now Show, a massive Doctor Who fan and is working on producing an entire album, from a standing start, in 24 hours, for Red Nose Day. I blogged about his plans here.

-In December, Merlin was wound up after a five year run. Two weeks ago as I write this, Being Human followed suit. The manner of both announcements was odd, and their close proximity triggered alarm bells, or seemed like it should..I blogged about pareidolia, the human tendency to see patterns where there aren’t any, and what it might mean for Doctor Who‘s oddly small scale 50th Anniversary year, here.

-Fearless Defenders, the latest new title in Marvel’s Marvel Now! relaunch was released early in the month. It’s huge fun, teaming street level detective and martial artist Misty Knight with Valkyrie, the last Shield Maiden of Asgard and Doctor Riggs, a really enthusiastic archaeologist. A full on action movie of a book (The first issue features Viking Zombies. VIKING. ZOMBIES.) I reviewed it here.

-I also talked to Fearless Defenders writer Cullen Bunn about the book, his acclaimed supernatural western Sixth Gun and it’s upcoming TV pilot. You can find that interview here.

-Aaron Murphy is one of the best, most talented indie comic creators working today. I took a look at Aaron’s work and the life of the indie creator, here.

-Zero Hour involves the Rosicrucians frantically hiding a huge object beneath a European cathedral as they race to complete 12 clocks that will be handed to the 12 new disciples who will save the world from Hitler, only to be brutally murdered just as the object beneath the cathedral is moved. Then it’s the present day, in New York, and a conspiracy journalist and his wife find one of the clocks.

Then the opening credits hit.

Zero Hour is not remotely calm, and is already getting savaged critically because, frankly, most of my contemporaries are idiots who have two modes ‘Heartbreaking genius/Sucks’ and wouldn’t know the middle ground if it walked up to them, shook their hand and said ‘Hello, I’m the middle ground.’ I, however, am very familiar with the middle ground and really rather liked Zero Hour. My review of the first episode is here.

-Lightfields is the follow up to last year’s surprisingly excellent Marchlands, a done in one season ghost story on ITV. Set in 1944, 1975 and 2012 at the same building, it follows a death, the consequences leading up to it and the terrified ghost it leaves behind. It’s great and my review of the first episode is here.

-Meanwhile, immensely talented writer and artist team Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton have decided that the best way to bring back the old 1960s adventure newspaper strips is to write and publish a new one and pretend it’s an old one. It’s a very clever idea, complete with Avengers-style kink and fashion and an entire back story for the poor doomed creators. I interviewed them about the project, Goldtiger, which is on KickStarter right now, here.

-Achtung!Cthulhu is a fantastic looking new Lovecraftian RPG set during World War II. Speaking as a postmodern nerd, the concept of being able to marry HP Lovecraft’s work with Hellboy‘s past, Indiana Jones, The Mummy franchise and Charles Stross’ The Laundry series has me positively giddy and that’s even before we get to the game itself. The KickStarter is active now, and I talked to Chris Birch, head of publisher Mophidius Games about it and the upcoming Mutant Chronicles relaunch, here.

-JR Blackwell is one of my idols, an amazingly talented photographer, writer and game designer amongst many other things. She’s also the Creative Director of Galileo Games, who, with games like Bulldogs!, Kingdom of Nothing and Shelter in Place are pioneering the idea of games with a social conscience which manage to talk about issues without being preachy. I spoke to her about the IndieGoGo campaign for The Lost, the fiction anthology that ties into Kingdom of Nothing, as well as Galileo’s overall plans, here.

-We Are Monsters is a fascinating, and deeply nasty looking, horror movie currently being funded on KickStarter. I interviewed John Shackleton, the writer and director, here.

 

Monkeybrain Comics continue to be one of the smartest, and most diverse digital comics companies out there. I reviewed the first issue of their latest title, High Crimes, a crime comic set on Everest, here.

I have a thing for really good police procedural drama, stemming from an early exposure to the wonderful Homicide: Life on the Street. As a result, I grabbed the chance to review Red Team issue 1, written by Garth Ennis and with art by Greg Cermak, with both hands. The story of a detective unit who decide to kill a suspect and find they’re both good at it, and have a taste for it, it’s the best thing Ennis has done in some time. The review is here.

-Amelia Cole and the Unknown World is one of the best titles Monkeybrain Comics put out. It’s smart, fun take on urban fantasy is like Harry Potter if Hermione was the main character crossed with Supernatural and a wicked sense of humor. I talked to writers Adam P Knave and DJ Kirkbride about the end of volume 1 and the plans for volume 2 here.

-Hellblazer is dead, long live Hellblazer. Vertigo’s iconic, 300 issue British horror title finished this week and, after talking to fellow Bleeding Cool staffer Adi Tantimedh, I put together a piece about something which may ease the post Hellblazer blues. Pilgrim is a series of radio plays following a man who has lived 800 years, knows every secret the UK holds and wants one thing; to die. It’s a stunning series of plays that’s just started it’s fourth run on Radio 4 as I write this and I walk you through what it is and where to find it here.

 

Some time ago I jokingly mentioned that Sue Perkins, one half of one of my all time favorite comedy duos (Seriously, Morecambe and Wise, Garrus and Wrex, Mel and Sue, in that order), would make a particularly excellent female 10th Doctor. This was partially because I was watching Great British Bake Off and partially because, being a contrary bastard, the ‘EEEEEEEEEEEWWWWW! GIRLS!’ response that the real ale section of Who fandom had when the idea of a female Doctor was floated really irritated me.  And when the idea was mentioned again on Twitter a few nights ago, I got thinking. And that means stuff tends to happen. So, I wrote an alternate history of the show, as if the Doctor had always been a woman. So, if you want to read about Joyce Grenfell’s turn as the 1st Doctor, how the 4th Doctor and The Good Life are connected and who is currently playing the 11th Doctor, go here.

Oh and this story went CRAZY. The NME picked it up, as did the Sun‘s website, the Mirror‘s website, Digital Spy, io9 and Ghana Nation. I’m still getting it retweeted into my twitter feed from people who I don’t even follow. Which is BRILLIANT. And yes I’m working on a follow up.

-On a more sedate note I prove, using science, and by science I mean words, that Die Hard 5 is actually Mission:Impossible 4.5. See the truth here.

 

Don’t call it a comeback, as Lionel Lionel Cool J once sung, but I’m back at travellingman.com!

-Achtung!Cthulhu is a splendidly adaptable new RPG combining the mythos with the Second World War. I talk about their KickStarter here.

-Goldtiger, by the mighty duo of Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton, is the greatest 1960s newspaper adventure strip that never was. OR IS IT? I talk about this complex, smart, fun project’s KickStarter here.

-Whilst my issues with how DC have been comporting themselves with their creative staff, and several of the choices made, continue to grow, they’re also continuing to put out interesting work. My review of the first issue of Justice League of America is here.

-I was also pointed at a very interesting looking KickStarter campaign for Sorako. Written and drawn by Fujimura Takiyuki, it’s a subtle, slice of life series that’s very comparable to the work of creators like Eddie Campbell and Marc Ellerby. My piece about the campaign is here.

-Speaking, as we were up page, about Hellblazer, my review of that final issue is here.

-Whilst my review of the very excellent first issue of the Nova relaunch is here. I loved this, very much The Last Starfighter, crossed with the horror of being trapped in a small town back Glee had in its early, best years, and superheroic punching.

-Kill Shakespeare is a fascinating book exploring what happens when Shakespeare’s characters are all real, all worship him and go to war…The third volume, Tide of Blood, has just started and my review of the first issue is here.

 

 

 

-They Go Bump by David Barr Kirtley is a very clever, subtle, hideous story about invisibility. Actually it’s about three different levels of invisibility; the invisibility of individual identity in the military, the invisibility of the lower ranks to the upper as anything other than a deployable asset and the invisibility offered by an experimental piece of technology. It’s a nasty, fun piece of work and I narrate it here.

-Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Tamarisk Hunter is a story I’ve actually seen the genesis of first hand. I’ve seen Tamarisks in Texas, know what they do to the soil, and having spent four months in California know how delicately balanced it’s ecosystem is. The story’s a fascinating, bleak piece of near future environmental SF and I introduce it here.

-Michael Swanwick’s The Very Pulse Of The Machine is either tragic, hopeful, or a little of both. It’s a hard SF disaster story with a head dose of neo spiritualism and optimism to it and it’s one of my favorite stories of his. I introduce it here.

 

-Marc Laidlaw wrote the Half Life games, all of them and I’m delighted to see that he’s clearly used the hundreds of hours of my life I willingly paid that experience to create some fantastic short fiction too. Episode 319-Cell Call, is one of my favorite episodes of all time, a wonderfully constructed, utterly chilling look at what happens when you pass through the looking glass and don’t even know.

-Matt Wall provided the second story for February, with episode 320-The Man With The Broken Soul. A considered, measured, terrifying look at the consequences of splintering a human soul, and the immortality that comes with it, it was read with typical authority by Elie Hirschman.

-Episode 321-I Am The Box, The Box Is Me by Kyle S. Johnson is a slow burn stream of consciousness piece that speaks to both the stains left by trauma and a particularly horrible version of the afterlife. It’s a difficult piece but stick with it, it’s more than worth it.

-Episode 322-Cry Room by Ted Kosmatka is one of my favorite stories. Ever. Ted draws a subtle knife of implication and horror across social expectation and the daily grind of looking after a family to create a story which, like the Cry Room itself, is exactly what you bring to it. It’s hopeful, horrific and utterly brilliant.

 

So that was February, where I lost a couple of days to illness and grind. It’s okay, I’ll make the time, and words, back up and there are a few holdovers that should land in March, with luck:

-Various SFX blog pieces

-Several roleplaying projects

-Two more introductions to books.

-A short story. I got commissioned for. Seriously.

 

Oh and I mentioned the book, right?

 

The Pseudopod Tapes Volume 1 is a collection of all the writing I did for Pseudopod in 2012, revised and expanded. You won’t hear me ask for donations, won’t her me use the words Creativecommonsattributionnoncommercialnoderivativeslicence which I’ve now said so often they just become one. No, none of that. Instead you’ll get;

-A discussion of the cross medium fictional geography of Gotham City

-Pieces of history, personal and global.

-Why climbing is a bit like meditation.

-Discussions on horror, personal and fictional.

-A single piece of flash fiction.

-The 2012 Halloween Parade

-Answers to the 2012 Halloween Parade

 

And loads of other stuff. I’m really proud of this book and I’ve been deeply honored by how well it’s been received. So if you fancy it it’s available in print or ebook form. Adele and the crew at Fox Spirit along with superlative cover artist SL Johnson did amazing work, as did the nice people that put it on cake for the launch party. See? The cake was NEVER a lie.

 

See you…actually in about a week. These articles are INSANE, even collating them as I go, so I’m going to try weekly roundups instead. So, check back in seven days for Chapter 1 of All The Words I Wrote In March! Shorter! Faster! More explosions! Probably not actually but definitely the first two!

Want to talk to me about the article? Got something you need written?  Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.

 

Where’s Al?-The Bigger on the Inside Edition Part 1

It’s been a busy few weeks, so busy, in fact that ‘Where’s Al?’ needs to be broken up into two entries. First off, let’s take a look at what’s been going on at Hub, Pseudopod and Escape Pod recently..

Podcasting
Orrin Grey’s ‘The Worm That Gnaws’ followed Mark Felps’ ‘Raising Eddie’ at Pseudopod. It’s a great piece, a period story about the very real and very supernatural dangers of grave robbing.

Blake Vaughn’s ‘The Leviathan’ was up next and is one of my favourite Pseudopod stories in a while. It’s a piece about what it’s like to brush up against something unknowable on both the intimate and the supernatural scale and reminded me more than a little of Ray Bradbury’s classic ‘The Foghorn’.

Things got meta the week after that with the debut of the first ever Escape Artists metacast. It’s interesting listening, with Ben our CEO, Steve, our founder, Rachel the co-editor of Podcastle and myself all contributing with details of where the company stands, what processes go into making an episode and how we feel about doing the work.

The week after that, Felicity Bloomfield’s haunting ‘Wave Goodbye’, a story that balances first world guilt with third world horror to terrifying effect.

Regulars’ was up next, with Frank Oreto deftly using the social contract between barkeep and customer to focus the deep, personal horror of the piece.

Jim Bihyeh’s ‘Reservation Monsters’ followed it, exploring Navajo culture with tremendous subtlety and atmosphere.

Most recently ‘Got Milk?’ by John Alfred Taylor explored what happens when you don’t notice reality start to curdle until it’s much, much too late. I narrated this one as well as introduced it and it’s a blast, simultaneously very funny and utterly revolting

I also spent a month in the woooorlld of tomorrow! Or Escape Pod as we like to call it, where I guest hosted four episodes. The first ‘Cathargo Delenda Est’ by Genevieve Valentine is a story about what happens when something is about to happen, that moment before the singularity, before everything changes.

Skinhorse goes to Mars’ by Jay Lake was up next, a highly entertaining combination of demented pulp invention and grounded, almost Firefly-like universe building.

The Monkey Will Never Get Rid Of Its Black Hands’ by Rachel Swirsky followed it, which I also narrated. This, to my mind, is one of the best stories we’ve ever run, a fascinating, troubling combination of alternate history, seething fury and vast human tragedy.

Finally, ‘Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast’ by Eugie Foster is yet another in a run of massively inventive, intelligent stories from Eugie. This and Rachel’s piece are two real highlights in what’s been a very strong year for all three podcasts.

Hub

Issue 95 kicked off with ‘Last Flight’ by Malin Larsson as well as a look at the Vampire in fiction by our new columnist Janet Neilson and reviews of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes 19-21 by Richard Whittaker.

Issue 96 featured ‘Obsession’ by Jo Thomas as our story and featured my look at Ivan Reitman’s flawed but fun Evolution in our Big Screen Future feature. It’s not a perfect movie, but I’d contend any film which allows David Duchovny, Seann William Scott and Orlando Jones to sing ‘Play That Funky Music, White Boy’ has got to have something going for it. The issue is rounded out by a review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode 22 by Richard Whittaker.

Issue 97 featured ‘The Locked Room’ by Gaie Sebold and Martin Owton. The reviews section was given over to a Blockbuster round up covering Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Terminator: Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Orphan. The issue was rounded out by Gary McMahon’s excellent Bleeding Words column, looking at the difficulties of transitioning from the small press to the big leagues.

Most recently, issue 98 featured an exclusive; ‘The Clockwork Hunter’ is a short story by Andy Remic set in the same universe as Kell’s Legend, his new novel from Angry Robot. It’s a fantastically nasty, very odd fantasy world delivered with Andy’s usual flair and this story is a perfect chance to see if it’s your thing.

The reviews cover Sarah Pinborough’s superb The Language of Dying, Neil Blommkamp’s fascinating District 9 and a combined review of Inglourious Basterds and Shorts. I’m a big fan of movie reviews at the best of times, you may have noticed, but the Inglourious Basterds review is something genuinely very special. I don’t agree with some of the points raised in it but I’ve yet to see another review approach the film as an exploration of film itself in quite so much depth.

The other stand out review this issue is a double header, as both Janet and I take a look at Personal Effects: Dark Art. A fascinating, transmedia novel that comes with a packet of documents that inform the story and sits in the centre of a cloud of websites that allow the reader to interrogate the story, it’s the print debut of podcasting giant JC Hutchins. Check out the reviews to see what we thought of it.
The issue is rounded out by another Big Screen Future, this time looking at James Cameron’s The Abyss. To my mind it’s not only Cameron’s best film but also the one that his new movie, Avatar, appears closest to in terms of approach. Whether Avatar will be instantly successful, in the way The Abyss wasn’t, is going to be fascinating to see.

So that’s what’s been going on with the podcasts and Hub recently. Check back tomorrow for a break down of what else has been going on.