Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Moving to Wordpress....

From RIGHT NOW onwards, you can find this blog over at Wordpress:

See you there!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Y the last issue??

It's been a good year for books so far. I've somehow managed to read three (well, five, I suppose, as one is a trilogy - although another is as long-running comic series, comprising ten trades...let's just forget the numbers), all of which have all leaped quickly into my 'all-time favourites' list.

His Dark Materials

I received these for Christmas - Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Surprisingly, I can't help but think the American title of The Golden Compass is more fitting for the first book, slotting in nicely with the 'objects of power' theme in the other titles.

Having been deemed slightly too old to read them when they were first released, they'd gone rather beneath my radar. My mum, who worked in the school library at the time, certainly seemed impressed with them, but I knew little else. It was only when the movie was nearing release and the denser end of the religious spectrum started trumpeting that I paid attention. If there's one thing that'll encourage me to investigate something, it's if reactionary religious evangelists dislike it.

Great stuff, as everyone knows, although the ending really did leave me with a rather gaping hole in the heart. Yes, it's important for events this epic to have resonance and consequences (I've always thought LotR's main flaw is that everyone gets off rather lightly...). Yes, it makes for a more memorable story. But...couldn't they all have just lived happily ever after?

p.s. I also thought the movie was good, though covered with dirty studio-meddling fingerprints.

Rendezvous With Rama
That it's taken me nearly 28 years to read this is rather unforgiveable. Despite loving good ol' hard sci-fi, loving Asimov as a kid and then Kim Stanley Robinson as a 'young adult', for some reason I never really discovered Arthur C Clarke.

I read a collection of his short stories a while back and then zipped through Earthlight while in hospital in 200...5? Rendezvous With Rama is one of the biggies, though, and thankfully it didn't disappoint. Clarke's power to describe something completely alien and bring it to vivid life is really quite enviable - I feel like I've been to Rama, like I know exactly what it looks like, in all its massive scale. I have memories of traversing the staircase and staring up at the sky/ground and the circular sea.

Y: The Last Man
Finally, I just this evening finished the last issue of Y: The Last Man. I am now in a mission to hunt down everything else written by Brian K Vaughan. I'm quite glad that I read the series over the last couple of years in the trades, rather than issue-by-issue since 2002. If I'd been invested for that long, the ending would really have been too difficult to bear. Not because it's sad (though it is, in some ways), but because it means there's no more.

No more tales of Yorick's bumbling foolery, no more ass kicking (and repressed feelings) from 355, no more disapproving glances from Dr Mann. No more poo throwing from Ampersand.

There's only one solution really: I'll just have to start re-reading the whole thing from the beginning.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Piece by piece

We're building the set for the FXhome Film up at work at the moment. I've never really done anything quite like it (not being the DIY type) and it's rather fun, seeing it taking shape piece by piece, each beam or panel making it seem more and more like a space station and less like a bunch of chopped up trees. I've really no idea what it'll look like once completed, in terms of quality. Will it be Battlestar Galactica or Doctor Who quality?

Talking of which, Battlestar's mid-season break was fairly astounding. It really is the best show since Babylon 5, for me. I'm still not entirely sure how it manages to be consistently better than any cinema scifi of the last 10-or-so years (Starship Troopers and Serenity excepted, of course).

Mass Effect continues to be rather captivating, perhaps a little too much.


Pages: 219
Words: 81,357

I must be approximately two thirds of the way in now. Our heroes are crossing the mountains en route to Aviar, where they will find many surprises. Everything's going to be gradually slotting into place for the finale from here. While I thought setting up the plot, setting and characters was a crazy juggling act, getting everything positioned naturally for the climax is looking like it's going to be just as tricky.

What I'm actually looking forward to the most currently - other than finishing the first damn draft - is the editing process. That's when I can really start to tighten all the strings, make sure all the themes are in and developing properly, iron out any plot creases and, hopefully, end up with a properly readable book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mass Effect

The problem with being a PC gamer is that, while you sometimes get better versions of games, you tend to be writing about them a year-or-so after the rest of the planet. PC scoops are often old news to everyone else.

Which brings me to Mass Effect, a game that 360ers have been enjoying for a good long while already. The PC version is prettier, more stable and has better combat, while retaining all the good stuff from the console version. If you want to know more, it's probably best just to Google.

In an effort to raise a smile (or pitying shake of the head), above you can see my attempt to create a character that looks a little bit like me, if I happened to have a more heroically chiselled jaw.

In other news: I'm going to try to write my first legit gaming article soon, so that I can start pushing it aggressively in editors' faces. Not sure that's how it works, but the worst they can do is call the police.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bring Firefly Back!!

That was all I had to say. I'd rather be Zoe than Kaylee..

You are Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)

Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Inara Serra (Companion)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
River (Stowaway)
A Reaver (Cannibal)

You are good at fixing things.
You are usually cheerful.
You appreciate being treated
with delicacy and specialness.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Future history

I first came across the term 'future history' inside the pages of an Asimov novel - most likely one of the Foundations and almost certainly a reprint, probably containing one of the man's excellent introductions. Apparently it was coined by Heinlein as the title of a short story and was then co-opted by John W. Campbell (who else?) as an actual term.

By 'apparently', I do of course mean 'according to Wikipedia'.

It's something I've always enjoyed reading as well as writing - hence my vast collection of notes, historical timelines, character bios and maps for Evinden (though I suppose that isn't a future history, rather a fantasy history). Even for the 'Detective' stories that I wrote as part of the creative writing course we did last year (links on the right!) I worked out a simple history, both of the world and the character: The progression of robot development, the rise of anti-robot sentiments, how the detective's parents had effectively had their lives made irrelevant by the robotic march, thus fueling his hatred.

I find it fairly essential with sci-fi, as the kind of sci-fi I like to roll around in is all about ideas, often relating to technical advances or discoveries, and you simply can't do it without knowing what's what. This isn't to say that characters, story and structure aren't just as important - probably more so in most cases. But you can have the best characters in the genre and it won't matter one jot if they're emoting within an empty world, or - even worse - and inconsistent or clearly made-up-on-the-spot world.

The reason I'm gabbing on about this is that I spent a brief part of this afternoon indulging in some flagrant future history writing for the FXhome Film Project, carefully filling in the fictional details of the story's mining operation (well, prospecting operation, to be precise). Tomorrow we're opening up some of the design to the community to see if they can come up with some cool visual concepts, and I felt this background was essential for them to have a context, given that we're not releasing the actual script at this stage. I can't wait to see what they contribute.

On another note, we went to the gym this evening for the first (proper) time. Good god it was knackering. Fun, though, and I'm looking forward to the next one. Good to be focused and regimented from time to time, methinks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Plot hole diary

The big experiment begins this week - can we crew the film project partially with community members? It'll be interesting to see what happens. Completed this round of video interviews today (the one with the writer went extremely well - he's a very enthusiastic chappy), although I'm still waiting on the director to get me his in the post. Alas, the making-of budget doesn't cover flight expenses for me to go down there in person. ;)

In even more exciting news - I've finally resolved my Evinden plot hole! It all came about due to a idea that came to me rather suddenly and inconveniently while writing a recent chapter. Bearing in mind I'm over halfway through the book now (probably...), this idea was awkward in that it fundamentally changed the relationship between a couple of major characters (and, thusly, it also changed much of their impact on the story and world), which isn't normally something I'd want to contend with having already written so much. I couldn't get the idea out of my head, however, as it's simply a rather delicious plot twist - not in a Sixth Sensey kind of way, but more in an undermining-a-character's-faith kind of way. It's a mean, unpleasant plot twist that should make the reader wince with sympathy while simultaneously giggling with evil glee (actually, that might only be the prerogative of the writer).

The trick was that the plot twist rather invalidated a couple of earlier chapters, including a major sequence involving the introduction of the Tarn character. Typically, this introduction has always been a particularly favourite scene of mine, having been present in every single draft of the novel (and, prior to that, the film script). But, as they say, sometimes the scenes you love the most are the ones you need to cut.

Having wrestled valiantly to resolve the plot hole created by the plot twist via some cunning retcon, instead I've opted to completely re-write that earlier section of the book. I think it'll actually be for the better, resulting in a much more realistic couple of chapters at quite a crucial part of the book. That the favourite scene has been there from the beginning is probably a good indication that it hails from a time when the story - and my writing skills - were considerably less advanced than they are now.

It's all worth it, though. The plot twist is awesome. You'll see, one day!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The new project revealed

At last the FXhome Film Project has been announced, so I can finally talk about it! I'm heading up the behind-the-scenes stuff, hence the previous blog about video interviews. The first one with Josh went up with the announcement and there will be lots more to come in the next few weeks, starting with crew intros this Thursday. All quite exciting! As for the film itself, we're currently trying to confirm studio space, as we've got a few options, each with their pros and cons...

There's other exciting news, but I'll try to get Leiali to post about that...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Video interviews

I conducted my first proper video interview today. And, no, the amusingly rushed Zurich interviews don't count.

Of course, I've done my fair share of interviews while at FXhome, chatting away to various indie filmmakers all over the world. But almost entirely they have always taken place via email - which is a pleasant, easy way for interviewees to consider answers without feeling under pressure. It also enables them to formulate a decent, detailed and cohesive reply that is to the point and resists rambling on and on (well, unless it's the Atomic brothers, of course! But that's why we love them).

Video interviews are entirely different proposition, not least because I'm face-to-face with my subject and they're caught in the lens like a startled rabbit in the headlights. The main problem is that it leaves you far less editorial elasticity, especially if you're intending to remain an off-screen, implied interview presence. Ideally I don't want to have to include the question itself, or cut to lame reaction shots of myself nodding and stroking my beard: I want the interviewees to do the talking and guide the video piece from start to finish in a sexy, natural manner.

Which, inevitably, requires some rather carefully chosen questions. It's all about leading them down a particular route in order to provide editable footage. Easier said than done, considering that you have no idea what the interviewee is going to say.

The first interview went extremely well today, with Elly delivering some spiffy answers that ticked all the boxes. She was eloquent, funny and honest and her personality really shone through, which was great. Nils performed his own interview and, despite some sound issues, should also slot in nicely - he filmed it next to a ridiculously epic bridge somewhere in Sweden (hence I couldn't be there in person), which was rather impressive.

Next up is Josh tomorrow. Which should be interesting. :)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bioware pull a fast one

Remarkably, Bioware/EA have changed their DRM policy on Mass Effect and Spore, following the furore over the 10-day check system. Reading between the lines, I can't help but think that Bioware deliberately announced the system in order to provoke the inevitable uproar, so that they could then present evidence to EA in order to have it altered. Given that they're now owned by EA, they probably didn't have much say in the matter, unless they could actually make a decent case.

Bioware staff carefully focused all the discussion into a single topic, and even went as far as advising people on how best to complain, carefully steering the response down the path required. While still retaining plausible deniability.

Clever stuff, really. And I'm now chuffed as it means I can buy the damn game...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bioware/EA turn DRM up to 11

Bioware/EA have decided to employ a hugely draconian DRM system on the forthcoming Mass Effect, which rather aggravates me, given that it was a must-have purchase for me until the SecuROM anti-piracy gubbins was revealed this week.

In a nutshell, after the initial Internet activation (fair enough), the game needs to perform further Internet checks every 10 days, otherwise the game will cross its arms and sit in the corner in a huff, refusing to play with you until you do what it says. Ethical and privacy issues aside, the pracctical flaws in this system are pretty self-evident, with the only potential result being a) an increase in piracy and b) a drop in sales. Surely not quite what Bioware/EA wants?

Interestingly, it's extremely similar to the oooold anti-piracy system we used at FXhome, although ours was only turned up to 8-or-so on the Annoying-O-Meter. It required an Internet check every 6 months-or-so (can't remember exactly what the time interval was), otherwise it would cease to function.

The results?

1. Our software was pirated almost instantly anyway.

2. Many of our legitimate customers were inconvenienced when the check occurred.

3. Customers without the Internet were simply unable to purchase our products.

4. Many customers simply didn't purchase because they objected to the system, for various ethical/practical reasons. Reasons that, in retrospect, we agreed with.

There were literally no benefits. At all.

And so we dropped the system. We still have anti-piracy systems in place on our software, but it is much less intrusive and doesn't do silly timed checks and lock-outs. Piracy of our software hasn't increased - in fact, it would seem to have reduced a little, if anything, despite our current products being more popular and well-known than our old ones. I suspect this could be because we're no longer provoking them with a 'challenge', and because we're no longer pissing off potentially legitimate customers.

If there's one thing more annoying that the bastard pirates that cause this problem in the first place, it's short-sighted publishers resorting to dubious Orwellian tactics to try and 'solve' it. As with most aggressive, retaliatory action, all it tends to do is provoke.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Guardian knows stuff

The Guardian recently ran a rather inciteful piece on gaming, which you can read here. As you peruse the article, you'll no doubt notice the worrying lack of sensationalism; the clearly misguided lack of panic and fear; the disturbing amount of understanding and genuine research that has gone into Bennett's writing - in an unprecedented move, the woman actually played some computer games before writing about them. The deeply concerning conclusion is that a professional journalist has actually had the gall, the sheer rudeness, to treat gaming as a serious subject!

Still, The Guardian being The Guardian, the article will no doubt be completely ignored at best, or outright dismissed at worst, with the rest of the mainstream media sticking to their mission of demonising the medium of games. The politicians, after all, do need some kind of material to get their teeth into in order to rile up the plebs.

What never fails to amaze is the inability of politicians and journalists - both, presumably, enjoying at least a basic knowledge of cultural history - to identify that this has happened over and over again. It's happened at the dawn of every new form of art/entertainment. The poor old world of music has to suffer it again and again as new, 'threatening' genres emerge. And every time - every single time - the usual process of hegemony absorbs the new upstart and within a few years it is either diluted beyond recognition or entirely accepted. That those making all the noise fail to recognise this fairly obvious trend makes you wonder why anybody listens to them at all.

Anyway, all this is a prelude to me saying that I'm intending to stick my nose into gaming journalism a bit more this year. I'm not entirely sure how yet, of course, but it's something I'm going to investigate. Time to broaden my readership, methinks.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Northumberland 2008

Northumberland 2008
We returned on Friday from our week's holiday to Northumberland, where we had travelled to see castles, walk through gardens and take in some refreshing sea air.

As you can see from the photo album above, we certainly got our fair share of all of those. First we had to contend with a 6-hour drive from Norwich to Dunstan, where we were staying. Twice as long as any drive we'd attempted before, I was a little intimidated by the distance but, in the end, if wasn't a problem - especially with Leiali taking up a good 2 and a half hours of the journey time.

While the cottage we stayed at wasn't anything special (and which had a kitchen so miniscule that it managed to make our one at home seem large in comparison), it was ideally placed as a central HQ for exploring the area. It proved to be a packed week, but here are the highlights:

Lindisfarne - A bit further north, this island is only accessible by a causeway that spend half the day submerged beneath the sea, thus requiring careful checking of the tides so as not to get stranded. The drive across was consequently rather exciting, as we timed our arrival to coincide with the causeway's appearance. On the island itself is an old ruined priory and the castle itself, perched up on a rocky hill. Intriguingly it had been used as a holiday home during the early 20th century.

Bamburgh Castle - The best thing about a castle-based holiday is that it doesn't really matter what the weather does. If it's sunny, great; if it rains, then it just makes everything more atmospheric! Bamburgh was a good example of this, as the fog rolled in off the sea during our visit and had entirely enveloped the place by the time we'd finished looking around its plush interior. This resulted in some great photos and a spooky walk over the dunes to the beach. Standing on the beach, looking out to sea, with all your surroundings past about 50 metres blanketed by a thick white fog is quite a memorable experience. It would have been easy to get entirely lost, if it weren't for the useful navigational hint of the roaring waves!

Alnwick - In contrast to the authenticity of Bamburgh and the ruined history of Lindisfarne, Alnwick felt more like an attraction created by Disney. The gardens, which have apparently received a huge amount of lottery funding lately, were a largely soulless affair, with most of the garden rather sparse and dead, with spring having not yet reached Northumberland. As such all that remained for viewing were a series of elaborate water fountains - which were, admittedly, extremely spiffy. Each highlighted a particular behavioural aspect of water and they were really quite fascinating, particularly the 'vortex' whirlpool. Overall, though, it was all a bit gimmicky and antiseptic. Alnwick castle was better, with parts having featured in the Harry Potter films, but there was still something rather staged about the whole thing. Rather too many photos of the current owners and inhabitants, lounging about in their posh, inherited luxury, for our liking, too! :) I did have my best Cake of the Week at Alnwick, however.

Cragside - The major highlight of the week for me, Cragside is an astounding place built by one Lord Armstrong in the 19th century. Armstrong was a highly innovative engineer and entrepreneur and the house and grounds show this at every turn. Most notably, the house was the first in the world to enjoy full electrical power, thanks to Armstrong's harnessing of hydro-electricity via the multiple lakes dotted about the grounds. Remarkably the building also featured a three-storey elevator! The grounds were equally impressive, including a 6 mile drive around the perimeter that reminded me ever-so-slightly of the tour in Jurassic Park - though less deadly, thankfully. An inspiring place that unfortunately can't hope to be properly represented in our photos.

Howick Hall - Earl Grey tea was invented here. Which may not sound like the most exciting of facts, but I'll admit to the tea being extremely good - and I'm by no means a regular tea drinker. The massive gardens were refined and tamed in comparison to Cragside's exciting wilderness but were nevertheless most enjoyable, with the Silverwood rohdedendron forest being particularly beautiful (it also sounds like a location in World of Warcraft, which makes it instantly cool). We had a particularly relaxing river walk here, aided by the sunny weather.

Warkworth - The final castle of the holiday is a generally well-preserved site on the coast at Warkworth, a pleasantly picturesque little village. Although the motte and bailey had long since collapsed, the keep itself was in good condition. With the help of a fantastic audio guide the place really came to life and was a satisfying conclusion to the week.

All we have to do now is win the lottery, thus enabling us to buy Cragside and go live there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Evinden update

Time for an update on Evinden, I think.

Current word count: 77,905
Current page count: 221

Start date for project: 11 April 2001, allegedly. This is the oldest file I have archived on the computer relating to the project - a file called 'Ideas.doc'.

Rather terrifyingly, that means I've been working on this damned book for seven bastard years. Seven! That's quite clearly utterly ridiculous - there are children out there whose entire lives encompass seven years, and yet I've somehow managed to take seven years to write a book; in fact, to write half of a book, it's nowhere near finished yet.

One thing's for certain: if Evinden turns out well and I write more books, I dearly hope that they prove to be rather less ponderous in their creation. Of course, Evinden went through a bit of a funny early development in that it was originally to be a screenplay and had an entirely different structure, before before restructured in (I think) 2004 as a novel.

Still, with James providing spiffy feedback and a few select other people having read and enjoyed the book, I'm rather more spurred on to finish the damn thing than I ever have been before. The Eastercon 2008 convention also rather invigorated my writing spirit - I couldn't help but think this is where I want to be. Once I got used to the lingering nerd smells and the Klingon guy, anyway.

Reading over this Ideas.doc file is really quite enlightening, reminding me of where I was coming from in the first place. While it's changed vastly and become infinitely more detailed, some of the early notes make for an amusing list of "Fantasy Clichés 101". This was back in the days when I hadn't read any fantasy, and before Fellowship of the Ring hit cinemas. A different age!

Check it out:

Basic ideas/concepts

  • Magic
  • Sword-fighting
  • Flying (flying characters, or flying vehicles?)
  • Hero’s Journey
  • Epic
  • Huge, towering cities
  • Demonic creatures
  • - invasion?
  • Dark/light? How ‘serious’ are we getting?
  • Mythology
  • History
  • Flawed characters
  • Characters have past connections
  • One character appearing to several, drawing them together?
  • - Mentor/wizard character?
  • Must protect somebody?
  • - on a journey?
  • - both physical and mental?
  • - Extending swords?
  • - must have!
  • - huge variety of extending cool weaponry!!!!!!!!
  • - Girl from above rescues Cut from work?
  • - City perched atop clouds (hidden)
  • - Waterfalls!
  • - Cut can save his people from the tyranny of the Telladors.
Not a particularly auspicious start.

I'm really not sure what I was thinking calling the lead character 'Cut'. I mean, there's no way a typo could have made that one embarassing, eh?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The wise words of Mr Gaiman

Neil Gaiman wrote an interesting thing in his journal recently:
"The worst thing in writing something for someone else, and I've found this several times over the years, especially in movies, is where you talk to an editor or an executive and you think that you're talking about the same thing. Then you go away and do what you thought you were talking about and hand it in and find that you were quite wrong, and while you were describing (say) a romantic comedy with ghosts in they were buying a scary ghost story with perhaps some love in, and nobody is happy and the project is doomed."

A very similar thing happened on a film project I've been working on since last Autumn. Having wrestled through four incarnations of the script, plus another two written by other people, we seem to finally be getting somewhere. Unfortunately my scripts were rejected, but that's how it goes sometimes (though that actual rejection process was...interesting, to say the least!).

So, yes, we're now on track, it would seem, which is rather damn exciting. The team is slowly coming together and some of the people lined up to be working on the film are awesome.

The project will be announced officially soon, at which point I'll be able to say more...

In the meantime, time to write some more of Evinden.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Battlestar Galactica is back with season four. Remarkably, it is still extremely good. In fact, it remains quite clearly the best thing on television - at least in as much as I am aware. It's also the best sci-fi for about two decades, irrespective of TV or cinema.

So say we all.

Creative madness!

The creative process is a pretty bonkers thing, especially if you're attempting to work in a group, with everyone bringing disparate and conflicting ideas to the table of what the finished article should be. As part of a film project I'm working on, this week has seen the most intense example of that process I've ever seen.

Remarkably, given how slow and ponderous I tend to be when writing creatively, I've completed three screenplays in the last four days. One was in collaboration with another writer while the other two were off my own bat. They're shorts, of course (I'm not that fast), but that's nevertheless the most creatively prolific I've been for a while.

It's partially helped by it being related to a larger project, of course, so that, rather than it just being for my own amusement, it's also intended to provide a solid foundation for the work of everyone else. Whether it gets to that stage or not remains to be seen, of course - I'm very happy with the third script, but I know other members of the team have their doubts.

It's an interesting exercise, to throw yourself into a script only to have it torn apart by peers. Painful, yes, but it most cases it does end up with a better final result, as long as you can pull yourself back together and look at the task from another angle - which is exactly what I did with this third script, abandoning the structure and characters from the earlier interations and retaining only the setting and themes.

I call the third script 'Katabasis', which is a vague attempt to sound intelligent. As I understand it, Katabasis has multiple meanings, all generally along the lines of 'going down' - most commonly with regards to going from the centre of a country to the coast, or a descent into the underworld. All quite apt, for numerous reasons.

You'll no doubt have noticed that I've not dropped any specifics about the project or the scripts - alas, until the project is officially announced that's the way it has to be! But with luck I'll be able to say more soon.

In other news, it's suddenly started snowing again. Time for jumpers.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

If there's one thing that can't be rushed...

I discovered something on Friday, much to my chagrin. Video, it would seem - yes, even YouTube videos - simply cannot be rushed. We were due to announce the winners of the FXhome VideoWrap competition, the selection process of which had taken a little longer than expected due to the excellent calibre of the finalists. After we had selected the overall winner and runners-up, I put together a spiffy article with mini-reviews of each with which I was perfectly happy.

Then it hit me. This had been, primarily, a YouTube competition, announced and managed through that distinctly low-fi phenomenon. We really, really needed to announce the winners through a YouTube video, not just a well-written news piece on our site.

In an attempt to make the announcement video interesting I unwisely opted for the 'throw everything in there' approach, and ended up with a bit of a mash-up involving a greenscreen, a greenscreen suit, a floating Holly-style head and wavy, dis-embodied arms, not to mention some slightly ropey motion graphics.

Needless to say, I wasn't overly happy with it, but that's the way these things go sometimes. It's a shame, as a lot of people that entered the competition clearly put loads of effort in, so I hope they don't feel we skimped on the announcement. Still, the decent prizes hopefully offset that.

Next time we'll make sure to put together an astounding announcement video that will amaze everybody. YouTube competitions are remarkably good fun, we've all decided.

Nothing like hundreds of people around the world watching you prat about. :)

p.s. In other news, lots of hugely exciting things going on at FXhome at the moment. Of course, I can't actually say anything about them yet due to contracty things....but soon, soon!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Orbital 2008

We just attended our first convention! Or 'con' as everybody calls them, which was at first slightly worrying. On Friday we jumped in the car (after completing Leiali's Integral Cleaning Regime, that is) and headed off for a lovely long weekend break at....Heathrow. Not exactly the number one choice of holiday destination, but thems the breaks.

The drive down was surprisingly trouble-free given the Bank Holiday weekend (I was continuously expecting a gargantuan traffic jam to rear its head, and with every passing minute that such a creature failed to appear I become increasingly convinced that it was simply biding its time) and we arrived at the Radisson Edwardian hotel in good time - just in time, in fact, to get completely lost in its labyrinthine corridors, occasionally resembling a well-lit Shelob's Lair (look: a fantasy reference!).

After checking in (after locating reception) we carefully consulted our maps and started to discern a kind of reason within the architectural madness. Leiali became instantly excited when she spotted Neil Gaiman lurking in a room, mostly disguised by a slatted blind but clearly given away by his big, Gaimanish hair that really refuses to be hidden.

And thus commenced the panels. These usually took the form of about 4 people seated behind a desk talking at the overly-nerdy audience, before opening the debate to the floor. Almost all the panels were excellent, with particular highlights focusing on 'politics in young adult fiction', 'the use of mythology' and 'fantastical London'. Gaiman's solo talk and reading was also absolutely superb - he's a remarkably natural public speaker for someone that should, by all rights, be a quiet, bookish writery type.

Plus points:

+ Neil Gaiman & China Miéville (both frighteningly clever)
+ Graham Sleight & Roz Kaveney
+ The Canadian author whose name escapes me, but who was spiffy
+ Excellent panels
+ Very well organised event
+ Unexpectedly bumping into: Nat from Canterbury, Nik from the sci-fi writing course and Leiali's old mate Jo
+ Leiali finally managing to track down the elusive Joe Abercrombie in the bar (of course), making up for a false positive the first night (another tall guy with a Himalayan nose)
+ Really, really friendly atmosphere
+ Easy drive there and back (despite all the snow!)
+ I'm feeling properly inspired to get on with my book again!

Negative points:

- Lots of super-nerds = bad smells, nose picking & eating and other unsavoury habits
- Bizarre temperature changes in every other room, which would have deeply concerned Egon Spengler
- The guy that wasn't Joe Abercrombie
- I want to be on the other side of the panel