Sfx Blog-2013

Aaaaand we’re back. This last year involved tag team work with Mr Kudos about the new Star Wars comic, more interviews, more reviews and my first ever piece of toy journalism.

 

And that’s it. Five years, about 291 pieces of work. There’ll be one more post after this collecting the paid TV reviews and ‘Isn’t It About Time You Gave THING ONLY ALASDAIR LOVES Another Chance?’ pieces but I’ll save that for another time.

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SFXed

For the last four years I’ve blogged and freelanced for SFX Magazine. I was actually the first blogger in place, when I approached them about doing pop science work. They couldn’t pay, I couldn’t not write the thing so I ended up volunteer blogging for them. It was good practice and it was a big stage.

Not long after that, they built a blogging program up. Twelve of us, covering whatever topics we wanted to. From there several graduated on to freelance work. Several colleagues of mine got small pieces in the magazine. I never did, but I did became a regular TV reviewer. I also curated the Blogbusters feature. It was fun, and like I say, it was a thematic open bar. As long as it was nominally genre fiction, they were happy to run it.

Earlier today the bloggers were contacted by Dave Golder, the site editor. He’s been given a new position and the site is, according to the official quote:

“Regarding the website, we’re refocusing on the print and iPad publications, which are still the core part of what we do, and the website will be streamlined to enable the team to look after it.”

Which means the blogging program is being shut down.

Today.

The reasoning for this, despite the volunteer nature of the blogging, is that with the website always a perennial time crunch, and Dave gone, it’ll be all the remaining team can do to post what they deem important.

Yes, you read that right. And yes, it is 2013. And yes, one of the largest genre fiction publications in Europe is functionally shuttering it’s web presence.

Let’s just say I view this as an impressively counter-intuitive strategy.

Incidentally, we’ve been told there will be no official announcement on the site because the company not only ‘doesn’t view this as an ending’ but also ‘doesn’t want to send out a negative message’.

I am Jack’s eloquent silence.

Being a nerd, to paraphrase the great Geek Lord Wil Wheaton, is about being enthusiastic and sharing that enthusiasm. Every one of the bloggers did fantastic work, and that fact can’t be taken away by the closing of a venue. I know, for a fact, the pieces I wrote raised awareness and sold tickets to events and issues of comics, books and DVDs. I helped creatives get paid, and that alone more than justifies my time and effort.

So, consequences of this decision:

-This became official so suddenly I know of at least two bloggers with completed pieces that may never appear on SFX. I’ve emailed the entire team and told them Open Mike Mondays is their slot any time they want it.

-Expect several posts of link-logs and re-printed content to make sure everything I committed to writing about sees the digital light of day. This will also serve as an archive for myself, as I’m not sure how long, if at all, they will remain accessible at SFX. Feel free to skip the archiving, there’s a lot of it.

-As one of the freelance (i.e. paid) contributors, it’s disappointing to know my series of Under the Done reviews will end with the fourth episode. I’m unsure if they’ll even be posted, but I plan to cross-post them here on my own site as well as possibly continuing forward. They just won’t be up simultaneously with the broadcasts anymore.

-Now more than ever, I remain available for hire. I’m a genre fiction journalist specializing in movies, comics and TV. If you want examples of my work here are two good starting points:

 

The San Diego Inclusive

 

You’ll Be Safe Here

 

My contact details are at the bottom of this and every post.

Lastly, and most importantly, thank you. Thank you to Dave for giving me the opportunity and being a pleasure to work with. Thank you to my fellow bloggers for excellent content and company. And thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed my work. It was great fun to work there.

 

alasdairstuart at gmail dot com

@AlasdairStuart

What I Did in January 2013

Well the first thing I did was realize I need to keep better track of the stuff I’m doing. And then I cleaned up some admin left over from last year, and I signed with an employment agency and cooked lots of things, but that last one we’ve already covered. So, let’s take a look at the places you could find my stuff this month:

 

-Duane O’Brien is a game designer, and one with a brilliant idea. Octo: Games of Spring, is a collection, print only, of one page roleplaying games from some of the best, most innovative designers on the planet. Duane’s eating printing and shipping costs and all proceeds are going to some startlingly worthy causes. I talk to him about it here.

-I interviewed Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer on the new Captain Marvel series which, to my mind, is the first time the character has been truly great in years. Captain Marvel’s kind of a hot button topic for me, because a lot of her old look neatly embodied everything that’s wrong with how comics view women. Or to put it another way, if you put a highly decorated air force pilot in a pair of black thigh highs and a leotard, people aren’t going to ask about her flight credentials. What Kelly Sue’s done is make her not only fun but human and interesting. The book’s brilliant, Kelly Sue is a fun interview subject and you should read the interview, then order the book, here and here.

-Equally brilliant is Sarah Cawkwell, Black Library author, force of nature and one of the nicest people I’ve met. I talked to Sarah about writing, how she got started with BL, what it’s like to be a woman in an area traditionally viewed as male-centric and what pieces of writing she’s proudest of. The interview is here.

-I’m a newcomer to the work of James P Blaylock and it was a pleasure to get The Aylesford Skull to review and interview Mr Blaylock. Both these pieces can be found here, and here, whilst my review for SFX is here.

-Welcome to the Empyrean. You’re dead. That’s the bad news. The good news is everyone gets to go to the Afterlife and it’s FUN. Jonathan Lock’s Afterlife Inc was, initially, one of my favorite indie comics of last year. On reflection it’s now one of my favorite comics ever. The story of the new boss in the beyond, the…odd circumstances he came to power in and what happens when Heaven isn’t a place on Earth, but you can send soldiers there, this is dizzying, massively inventive and incredibly sweet fantasy. It’s a beautiful book in every sense of the word and the review is here.

-If you’re a DC Comics fan and you like movie versions of their characters, like me, then, well…I’m really sorry. The chain of disastrous choices that DC make about every movie that doesn’t have Christopher Nolan behind the camera seemed to continue this week when it was announced that the Justice League movie would only happen if Man of Steel did well. Or did it? In a moment of slightly desperate optimis, I talk about why this might be a really good thing here.

-It has been a fine, FINE month for nerdrage. Not only did we have the fact the BBC appear (Note that word) to be pretty seriously short changing the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, the horror that a director that had touched/tainted/saved/obliterated the Star Trek series could be given Star Wars with the announcement of JJ Abrams as the director of episode 7, but we also had the confirmation that Princess Leia would not only be the star of the new Star Wars comic but fly an X-Wing! LOTS! QUICKLY! SOMEONE COVER HER ANKLES!

The responses to this ranged from welcoming to intrigued but troubled to ‘BUT SHE’S A WOMAN!’ and every repulsive derivation therein. So, myself and my learned colleague Steven Ellis put together two, two header pieces about the announcement; one a discussion, one a review. I’m all in favor of it, he’s interested but has issues, with Star Wars as a whole in fact. They’re interesting reading and can be found here and here.

-Anomaly is a vast, literally the thing’s a foot long, hardback graphic novel with staggering painted artwork, some fun AR components and a neat twist on the usual sci fantasy fare. I reviewed it here.

-The Wolfmen and Fall of The Wolfmen are a pair of excellent graphic novels set in a very nasty version of the London underworld. They’re also two of the huge range of great, varied books that Accord are putting out. I review the Wolfmen duo here.

-The Rose Black books are that rare breed; a modern vampire story that isn’t either A)A bad Twilight knockoff or B)A bad Twilight satire. Rose is a devout Christian, a spy and a vampire. She’s also in a lot of trouble in Demon Seed, in a story that neatly combines genetics with supernatural horror. Oh and if you look closely, you can see this exact book on the desk in the comic shop in Utopia, just before everything goes sideways. The review’s here

-Mephistos is another one of my favorite titles at the moment, following Maria, a quiet, friendly woman and her neighbour, who works in hell. But is actually quite nice. Even after she tries to kill him with a frozen chicken. Gentle, sweet and very funny, it’s a great book and the review can be found here.

-The nerdbait returns! Dredd has reached DVD and blu-ray (How long, I wonder, until we start saying that the other way round?) and I wrote a piece about what went wrong with the film’s marketing. The piece, in which I examine who killed the movie’s chances (Like a Judge, you see? Investigating a…crime…I’ll go), is up here.

-Finally, and also in nerdbait news, hilarity ensued earlier in the month when an interview with Rob Williams, one of the writers of Judge Dredd and on an absolute tear at the moment, was asked about ‘Closet’ an upcoming story dealing with homosexuality in Mega City 1. He was asked about Judge Dredd’s sexuality, explained how it didn’t really matter and…the quote was twisted into YOU ARE KILLING DREDD BY MAKING THIS MACHO FIGURE WEARING TIGHT LEATHER AND WIELDING A NIGHTSTICK A HOMOSEXUAL ICON! by fans who, apparently, don’t know how to read.  The piece I did about why 2000AD examining issues like this is why it’s great, is here.

 

-I’ve been incredibly lucky in my reading in the last couple of months. Firstly, after strep throat-induced MASSIVE insomnia for a fortnight, I was actually starting to panic about whether or not I’d be able to sleep. Which, of course, meant I didn’t sleep. Which, of course, meant I panicked and round we go. Anyway, Marguerite, being a genius and wonderful, suggested I read a chapter or so of a book before sacking out to help my brain close down. As a direct result, I’ve now read a couple of books I can see myself returning to over and over again. One of them, Warren Ellis’ frankly astonishing Gun Machine, is reviewed here.

-The new Star Wars comic I reviewed for SFX? I also reviewed for Bleeding Cool. It’s really good, sprinkles enough of the tone of the new Battlestar Galactica over the top to add some edge but is still recognisably all the bits of Star Wars I love. The review, which also re poses the age old question of which one would win, a Sopwith Camel or an F18 Hornet (It’s all in context, chaps, don’t worry), is here.

 

Neil Gardner, top audio producer and general all around good egg, has launched a new blog. Minifig of the Day is just that, a picture of a standard, or custom, Lego mini figure. Neil very kindly let me guest post, talking about my little Lego martial artist and what he means to me, and the piece is here.

 

SciFind is one of my favorite new sites, and they’re a pleasure to write for, because I’m basically completely off the chain for them. I wrote a wrap up of 2012, which gave me a perfect excuse to promote some of my favorite stuff, here. I also put together a reaction piece for them on David Bradley’s casting as William Hartnell in An Adventure In Space And Time here, and a piece about Duncan Jones getting the World of Warcraft gig here.

 

Who has two thumbs, speaks limited German and is the new co host of Escape Pod?! Da! Wait that’s wrong. Anyway it’s me, and I hosted three stories this month.

-Real Artists by Ken Liu is a chilling, and oddly cheerful, discussion of why certain stories have universal appeal and how they get it.

-Scout by Bud Sparhawk is a calm, considered, horrifying story about the exact nature of the self that’s lost during war.

-Concussion by David Glen Larson is equal parts sport story and desperate struggle for survival as a head injury allows a dying alien spacecraft to communicate with an American football player.

-Finally, Elias, Smith and Jones by Mark English is a glorious story about how a major propulsion breakthrough was discovered by a crew who specialized in ‘re-acquiring’ items from their owners. A must for Firefly fans, this one.

 

-Meanwhile, over at my true podcasting home, we had three fantastic stories hit in quick succession:

-The Persistence of Memory by William Meikle, explores grieving through music, the echoes we leave behind of ourselves and what happens when we let our past prey on us.

-Enzymes by Greg Stolze is brilliant, and unclassifiable, and sort of a love story, and sort of a tragedy and brilliant. Top five in the stories I’ve ever hosted for the show. Just amazing work.

-As is Venice Burning by AC Wise, equal parts horror story, romance, time travel and Lovecraftian fever dream. Venice has never looked so beautiful, and so very doomed.

 

So that was my January. As ever there’s about four or five things that didn’t quite make the date cut, but they’ll be covered next time. A good start to the year, lots of traction and I can feel my work load staying steady. In fact, a short word about that; I’m doing the Million Word Challenge, along with 11 other people. If you write 2700 words a day for a year, you hit a million words, which is widely regarded as the point after which your writing starts getting good. I’m on course for about 92,000 in January, so I’m off to a solid start. You can find out more here.

In the meantime, did I mention my book?

The Pseudopod Tapes Volume 1 is a collection of all the writing I did for Pseudopod in 2012, revised and expanded so you don’t ever have to read me ask for donations. You can just hear that. On the shows. Every week. And sometimes when you’re sleeping… It’s available in print or ebook form and it’s something I’m incredibly proud of. 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. So if you fancy reading me instead of listening to me, give it a try.

Want to talk to me about the article? Or hire me? Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.


What I Did In December 2012

Okay there was clearly sleeping and eating and Christmas, and visiting my parents (Which was lovely) and having a cold (Which was less lovely) but NONE.THE.LESS. this is what I did in December and the people I did it for.

 

-Blogbusters  only made one appearance this month, but it was a doozy, looking at the Naughty and Nice lists for genre fiction for 2012.

-I reviewed the wonderful Behind the Sofa, a collection of short essays by celebrities about their favorite Doctor Who memories. It’s a fantastic book, with proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Research and the review is one of the pieces I’m proudest of this year.

-My old friend Scott Harrison has a very well deserved and rapidly burgeoning career as a short fiction editor and an audio drama writer. He’s written the second of Big Finish’s excellent Confessions of Dorian Gray (Starring Alexander Vlahos, fans of Merlin!) series and I reviewed it here. It’s not, despite the frantic points-scoring in the comments, an unnecessary sequel (Although I would watch the SHIT out of The Mayor Of Casterbridge 2: The Final Battle), but rather the second in a series of short audio plays about Dorian Gray making his way through his endless centuries of decadent, beautiful, empty life. Scott nailed this, and it was a pleasure to review. I’ll be looking at Resurrection Engines, the steampunk take on classic literature anthology he edited, in the new year.

-The last year has been marked by a sudden and very welcome upswing in paranormal police fiction, with Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent Rivers of London series, Paul Cornell’s highly acclaimed London Falling (I’m sure it’s great I’ve just not had time to read it yet) and the graphic novel release of Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevellion‘s excellent Absalom. An aging, charmingly decrepit copper who worked with the best including Charlie Barlow and Jack Regan (The first not the second, at least so far…), Absalom runs a team which helps keep the uneasy peace between London and Hell. Steeped in the history of the city, crammed full of great dialogue and ideas and cheerfully horrible, I loved this. Now if we can just get the rest of Caballistics Inc collected…

-Professor Elemental is a steampunk British rapper. Oh and he has a comic. And it’s as brilliant as he is, which is to say rather a lot. Here’s my review of it.

-Whilst IDW continue to do great work with the Doctor Who comics, the UK-based Doctor Who Magazine have been doing them for a lot longer.Wider in scope, far more prepared to mess with the status quo as a result and frequently brilliant (The Iron Legion is still the stuff of my favorite nightmares) they’re one of the very few gems of Who fiction that remain largely hidden. I reviewed The Child of Time, a collection of the first few 11th Doctor strips and Jonathan Morris‘ first work on the character here, and it’s fantastic.

-Ecko Rising, Danie Ware‘s debut novel, does the near-impossible; making heroic fantasy interesting and grounded at the same time as avoiding sliding into the muddy booted slog that a lot of pseudo-Game of Thrones books become. It’s a stunning book, made all the more so by the fact it’s a debut, and I interviewed Danie here.

-Juliet E.Mckenna has been doing the near-impossible for a while now, with her Einarinn series of linked series mapping a fascinating, politically driven fantasy world into existence. They’re a stunning ongoing achievement and I interviewed Julie about them here.

-When I was about 15, the first Batman/Judge Dredd crossover came out and it was the single most muscular, flexed, teeth-bared comic I’d ever read. It still is, and I was delighted to see it and the three sequels collected in a nice hardback edition. I reviewed it here. I didn’t flex throughout writing the review. But I was tempted.

-I also contributed to the 25 Movies of the Year piece, getting to show some love for Sinister and Hotel Transylvania.

There’s some other stuff pending for SFX, including a couple of reviews and a look at some great small press work but this is what’s up right now.

 

-I didn’t so much consult on this excellent piece Brendon put together about the Star Trek Into Darkness teaser as endless watch the thing over a period of a couple of days and then provide a tiny insight into one thing. By the way, Brendon’s trailer breakdowns are extraordinary, go read this one, on Oblivion. You’ll learn stuff. Good stuff. I did.

-Thanks to him, I also got to do a little pictorial archaeology, when a series of Kevin Eastman sketches for an abandoned fourth live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie surfaced. They’re…let’s say muscular, but I had a lot of fun speculating as to what the plot of the movie would have been. Someone in the comments suggested it was going to be based on the After the Bomb RPG background and I can certainly see that.

-I also interviewed the heroic creative team on Amelia Cole and the Unknown World. I love Monkeybrain Comics‘ entire line but Amelia Cole is the standout for me and it was a pleasure to talk to the entire team, at length, about their experience on volume 1 of the book and what’s in it’s future.

 

 

It’s all go in Escape Artists Towers this month, and I’ll talk about why in…(checks watch)…about a week. In the meantime, our stories for December were fantastic, with the month kicing off with Episode 311: Flashes on the Borderlands XIV: Resistance! Flashes is our regular collection of flash stories and this was a corker, with Matthew Acheson‘s No Further (Read by my dad no less! Hello father!) followed by Jayne Chant’s The Conchie and Henry Lu’s Bitter Tea & Braided Hair. I’m very fond of Flashes, and it’s often one of our strongest features but this one is something special.

Hunter James Martin‘s chilling Feeding the Machine was episode 312, a story about work, drudgery, slavery and freedom and the point where all four meet. This is one of my favorites of the year and it’s the sort of story horror is uniquely equipped to provide, combining something relatively mundane with the fantastic to chilling effect.

Episode 313:The Dead Sexton is a J.Sheridan Le Fanu story, which, as some of you have probably already worked out, means getting hold of the author’s PayPal details proved a little…tricky. It’s an excellent piece, published in 1871 and steeped in regional dialect, set in the Lake District town Le Fanu invented of Golden Friars. It’s also an absolute beast to read so Shawn very sensibly approached my Dad again. My grandfather was from the region, so my Dad knew enough of the dialect to get by but it was still a hell of a challenge and he did fantastically well. Go have a listen, it’s a very different piece to what we normally run and a fascinating example of how horror has changed over the last century.

Episode 314 hasn’t been released just yet but you can read the outro for it early in the BOOK I HAD PUBLISHED THIS MONTH! YAAAAAY! (KERMIT ARMS)

 

The Pseudopod Tapes Volume 1 is a collection of all the writing I did for Pseudopod this year. Every outro I did is in there, revised and expanded so you don’t need to have just read or listened to the story to get them, and there’s also a collection of all the closing quotes and the answers to this year’s Halloween Parade. It’s available in print or ebook form and it’s something I’m incredibly proud of. One of the things I’ve always felt is a problem with my work is I never actually bloody finish it and this is a real thing, torn from my head and dragged into print by the fine people of Fox Spirit and my own hand. I love it to tiny pieces. And isn’t the cover by SL Johnson lovely? Delicious on cake too…

 

So if saying if you have left over vouchers from Amazon or you’re a fan? Give it a try.

 

That was (most of) December. Next up? Next year…

 

 

Want to talk to me about the article? Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.


NanoJourno Update: Day 20

 

Sometimes you get bogged down, and sometimes, ten metres away from the try line, you slow down. I used to get that a lot, I’d be passed the ball sprint and then…slow…I was already mentally across the line, already there and every single time that happened? SACKED. Dropped like third period French.

 

That hasn’t happened here. Because I saw it coming. Today all I had planned was getting two blog posts done and I did that. The idea is to clear my blog backlog as well, meaning that I have something on the site every day for a week or so. Yesterday the outstanding list was four long, today it’s two. One is the Retrovirus review that already went up whilst the other is a piece I initially submitted to SFX. It’s a thought experiment asking why the decision to cancel Hellblazer with issue 300 isn’t being marked with some sort of small press fan tribute. They didn’t want it because legally they could get reprimanded for it, which is entirely fair and they were very good about it so I’ve retooled it a little, combined the two versions I did, and it’ll go up in a couple of days. I’d love to see something come of it, because 300 issues is a hell of a run and John deserves a send off but I’m not hopeful. Still, the piece is done, and it’s scheduled so tomorrow all I have to do is two more blog posts and the GenCon follow up. Then I get to talk to you about the movies.