Our third special Spyfunk! agent will take us to the 1970s and beyond.

File #3’s contact:

Gavin Matthew

See the full mission briefing below...

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

My story was inspired by my love of 70s Black action films and my fixation with train rides. Part of it is also a nod to how espionage-like the Black Power Movement conflicts had been.

2. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

The two protagonists are motivated by a loyalty to the Black community. One has dedicated her life to the fight for freedom against oppression. While the other is forced into action for survival. The glue that binds them to their heroic goals is the sacrifices others close to them have already paid in pursuit of their mission’s success.

3. What’s your favourite spy movie?

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

4. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

The entire list Civil Rights and Black Power cloak & dagger conflicts. It is interesting and maddening how hard a whole government fought to abuse, control, and profit from an entire people despite there having never been a threat from them. Then the resilience and intelligence of our people to overcome such an enemy is simply invigorating.

5. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

Of course. In reality the idea of good guy is murky in espionage. Weatherman committed terroristic acts but they also stole and leaked evidence that shined a light on countless government sanctioned acts of violence and surveillance. Then, at the same time, fiction breathes life to events that could have happened, allowing us to paint an idea about situations we may never know the truth about.

6. Best spy hero?

Dan Freeman

7. …and favourite spy villain?

Dr. Kananga

8. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

My protagonist weighs the relationship partner’s ethics and then gambles with telling them the truth. They then deal with either a new ally or a new enemy.

9. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I would watch it with hopes that is well written with cultural ideas woven amongst its classical tapestry.

10. Any questions you want to ask me?

Do you have any pointers on how to secure life as a full-time writer and novelist?

[Russell – as I’m not at this point a full-time writer or novelist; in fact more of a full-time student these days, I may not be the absolute best person to ask this one! That said, I’ve seen enough of it to know one or two things. The main one in this case is there’s a difference between full time and what I’m doing that everything else you’re doing is depending on it, income, timetable etc. but the fundamental matter of that is that you need the output to get the input. So you have to be actually writing very often. Sounds obvious, but at that level it’s like an exercise regime, that you have to keep up at least a basic level of fitness to be able to do it. It isn’t how much you’re doing; it’s that you’re frequent, and that makes the rest easier for you.

I’ve another completely converse point there, in that given you’re centring your occupation around that, you’ve got to be prepared to do other things which *aren’t* writing in order to get yourself where you’ll want to be. Some of these are fun. Some will not be. But just be ready for that aspect too.

Are you ready for an excerpt from Gavin’s story, Train, Pain & Naturals? Of course you are.

Gavin Matthew is a writer known for his unique characters and lively dialogue. His projects are rich with culture and tend to have feature strong images of women. He is a screenwriter and a novelist, having a deep love both the creative mediums. With his belief that writing can be another form of freed fighting, he seeks to inspire any and everybody who reads his work. Gavin Matthew is the writer of the short story Train, Pain, & Naturals which is one many tales found in MVmedia’s Spyfunk! Anthology.

Spyfunk! Author Interview subject:

Joe Hilliard.

Known Aliases:

El Originario Extraño del Kalypso Kid

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

 When we moved from rural Michigan to Los Angeles in the early-80s, one of the big connection points to the other kids was lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), comic books, and tokusatsu. That was my youth. Lucha libre became a real cornerstone when I started writing, the masks, the milieu, that feeling of anything is possible. Watching the 60s and 70s films where Santo or Blue Demon could go from spy to vampire killer to Nazi Hunter to time traveller to solving the Bermuda Triangle, with a, “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!” and out the door. When Milton Davis pushed out the original Spyfunk call in 2017, I wrote “Dory Dixon” in a notebook, and printed out some research on the 1954 Caribbean Games. That initial draft played on a defection and hidden staircases and double crosses. Real Cold War tropes. While that draft “An Incident at the Embassy” never came to fruition, the true life story of Dory Dixon (noted in the coda to my piece) kept haunting me. It wasn’t until post-COVID when I started going to live lucha libre again here in SoCal and saw local guys like Mike Cheq that I realized I was looking, even in a Cold War setting, to capture that hype of live lucha, and the theatrics of those films. Milton reopened the call for stories, and Dante Davis leaped out as a reluctant hero caught up in intrigue, and finding his place in the world. He’s a bit of Dory Dixon, a bit Blue Demon, working on his Napoleon Solo.

Dory Dixon
  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

Like a lot of us, Dante Davis is driven by a few different engines – loyalty, doing what is right, and yes, a desire for excitement, for an adrenalin rush. We all know having those engines driving in all directions, especially when we are young. As the titles says, this is his origin. He is coming to terms with who he is, what those drives mean. How he can live with them? How can he change to fuel those engines? Should he change?

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

Just one? Ah! While far from traditional, Bernardo Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST (1970) is as intriguing a betrayal of loyalty as you will see. More traditionally, Fritz Lang’s MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944), Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949), and Peter Glenville’s THE COMEDIANS (1967), all based on Graham Greene novels really kill it, and I will watch them over and over again. Or, it’s simply JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN, fight me on the brilliance of Rowan Atkinson in that!

  1. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

I’m a sucker for the oddness of  Wild Bill Donovan’s OSS, the World War II precursor to the CIA. There’s something about the wide net of recruitment, this throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. Moe Berg the baseball player. Julia Child. Who is hiring these people? How is this real? I think of the opening sequence to the film THE RIGHT STUFF where they talk about hiring circus performers and barnstormers to be astronauts and you have this same feel. It’s what backgrounds the end of my story, where you have a wrestling promoter running your spy ring. It’s real, it’s not believable. It’s “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!,” which is pretty amazing in real life.

  1. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

I think the tension is, no matter how crazy you think your storyline is, there is someone attempting something that much crazier in real life, which should give anyone pause. Look at all the Fidel Castro assassination plots that the CIA cooked up in the 60s. It’s been going on forever. Never underestimate the human capacity to concoct means of violence and subterfuge on his fellow man…

  1. Best spy hero?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mickey Spillane’s Tiger Mann. They are some of the first spy novels I remember reading as a teen, even before Ian Fleming. My love for Fawcett Gold Medal 60s spies knows no bounds though. The “Assignment” novels by Edward S. Aarons starring Sam Durrell – 125 pages, no waiting. So, so good!

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless from the “Wild Wild West” tv show. So diabolical, and so fascinating!

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

Dante Davis is not the James Bond/Napoleon Solo lothario. He would undoubtedly look to an alternative. We see that he lives in a crazed Cold War place, but the underpinning for him was much more of the straight-forward character. The impetus for this was the Santo/Blue Demon films of the 60s/70s where the hero is “noble” in the traditional sense. Even when spying. And the tokusatsu heroes like Kamen Rider or Ultraman. Not that they are childish, or naïve, but that’s not the main impetus here. Perhaps a little more pulpy than saucy. That’s our Dante. But some of the other rogues that show up in this piece? They would have no such compunctions.

  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I was a little crushed Elba didn’t get the Doctor Who gig actually. I love me some science fiction Elba more than anything. Bond still is an intriguing thought. His Luther was (still is), so compelling, I think it would be tempting to compare any Bond appearance by Elba negatively in that light. Much like how Roger Moore’s work as Simon Templar influences my view of his James Bond performance. Or Remington Steele invades Pierce Brosnan’s Bond for me.

  1. Any questions you want to ask *me*?

Who’s your go-to wrestler, when the chips are down? And, when can I come visit you in London???

(Well, there are many fine choices. But if we’re talking in their prime, I tend to look no further than the Deadman. To this day I don’t remember a debut impacting me quite like that one. These days I’m loving Blackpool Combat Club. The latter would depend upon when I’m actually *in London these days, which is not always easy to know! See the introductory post 🙂 – Russell)

Joe Hilliard. Writer. Luddite. Teller of Tales. Michigander by birth, in the wilds just outside the World’s Largest Walled Prison. Misspent teenage years in Los Angeles on a diet of Blue Demon, Chester Himes, Philip K. Dick, the Circle Jerks, Judge Dredd, and This Island Earth, on the fringe of 80s Hollywood. Graduate of the University of Michigan, which only added Kawabata, Tsui Hark, Krazy Kat, and William S. Burroughs to the mix. Marks time as a paralegal in sunny California.

Besides, SPYFUNK!, his short stories can be found in DIESELFUNK! from MVmedia, THE LEGENDS OF NEW PULP from Airship 27, HARD-BOILED SPORTS, SHUDDER PULP, JAMES R. TUCK’S HEROES OF HOLLOW EARTH, and ORIGINS AND ENDINGS VOLUME 1 from Pro Se Productions; AUTUMN PAINTED RED from Asylum Ink; MEAT FOR TEA: THE VALLEY REVIEW; and BLUE COLLAR REVIEW. His non-fiction comic book work can be found in APB: ARTISTS AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY from Rosarium Press and COLONIAL COMICS VOLUME II: NEW ENGLAND 1750-1776 from Fulcrum Publishing.

I don’t have an online thumbprint these days. Just LinkedIn for the day job. Find me there!

In conjunction with the imminent release of Spyfunk! I’ve managed to get hold of some of the authors in order to ask a few questions and find out more about the authors. Your first mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find out more about Napoleon Wells. See below for answers, and in addition, you can read an excerpt from his story entry...

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character? 

My story exists in a larger world of Black Speculative Fiction, and I like to think of some of my imagery as Blackanime/Africanime where the world, concepts, conflicts and characters are all Black and fully realized. The world around those characters is always dangerous and my main character, Bul, has constant purpose and complicated motivation. He came from my need to see characters like him in stories, but finding few.

  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

 My hero is probably closer to an antihero and sometime mercenary. Still, he will do his job and try and save the world he knows. My villain’s motives are murky past, gaining enough power to tear this world apart.

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

I’d have trouble picking between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tenet, From Russia with Love and Our Man Flint.

  1. Best spy hero?

Considering his relative clarity and absurd luck, I’d say Ethan Hunt.

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

I prefer rich, layered villains, with a bit of style, so Bond’s Silva edges out Blofeld.

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

 Bul would do just about anything to see the mission completed, as long as the mission runs close to his own ends. Relationships, like weapons, his nanos and his power, would have to be a means to an end. They are a distraction he can’t afford while working, otherwise. Outside of work…

  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

My thinking is that we need our own iconic Black characters in all areas of storytelling, so we don’t have to marvel at the novelty of a “Black Bond.” There are many richer Black/African world’s and stories to pull titans from, and we should start there. A film or series following the trouble of my character Bul would be dope, given the world around him, the stakes, it’s centering on Black characters and the peril.

Here’s an excerpt of his Spyfunk story, A Bullet From A God’s Gun.

Napoleon Wells is a Clinical Psychologist, Professor and author of Black Speculative Fiction. He focuses on stories that center Black lives, mythologies and experiences. His works tend to incorporate the Psychology of Black/African experience across the diaspora as a means of building rich, fully realized frameworks for stories centered on Black heroes, villains and worlds. He believes that the erasure and exclusion of Black existence from many genres can be directly and necessarily defeated by the stories being brilliantly told by Black Griots and artists. He builds stories based on the magnificent reality of Black futurism which he already sees in daily life. If he isn’t busy writing something strange and beautiful, he is likely treating patients, writing a social justice column or watching a rap battle. You can find and follow him on social media at:

https://napoleonwellsphd.medium.com

https://www.instagram.com/napoleontheblerdpsychologist

https://twitter.com/napoleonbxsith

Hey everyone!


This is a good time to dust off this here page and apologise for not being around in a while. Things have been very busy, and in a really good way, though this has of course affected other things. I’ve not had any novels out that I haven’t told you about or anything; the last tale I had out was in The Elementals, where I had a fun time telling the tale of a young East London witch just trying to hang out with her cousin and being thwarted at every turn. If you happen to still be after a copy of this doorstep of an anthology, do get in touch – might be able to help you out there!


Meanwhile, I’ve been busy retraining somewhat as a historian as well as a writer. There have been reasons, and I’ll probably report more on that when I get the chance, though mostly spending time elsewhere on that front. If you want to know more about what I’ve been doing with that sort of thing, I can point you at some volunteering work with the RAF Museum in London which I have been up to in the last year. I should also probably tell you that I’ve additionally been busy taking a History M.A. at the University of Leicester but when I’ve finished that – this is happening:

https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_851573_en.html

Back on the writing; I’ve had a fantastic return to Milford, this time for a retreat on which I got back to one of my favourite places which recharges me like little else. It’s taking time, but I’m working through an Arthurian tale I would really like to tell, though I’m hopeful it will be worth the wait to release it to you all.

However, I’ve been enjoying working on some shorter stuff in the meantime which I’ll keep ensuring sees the light of day. In fact one of the things here is to let you know there’s another story coming very soon, if you didn’t know already. This time, it’s a step into the murky world of espionage as the legendary Milton Davis has compiled a collection of fine spy stories from past, present and future eras centring characters of African/African Diaspora descent, including my own, Rundown in Jamdown. We’ll come to that in one of the future posts but for now, I’m starting with this here intro to what sort of thing to expect and a link to the excerpts up so far. Also, where you can order, because obviously we’d all love you to read the rest! All that remains is to begin introducing you to some of our authors, which will of course begin imminently!

https://www.mvmediaatl.com/product-page/spyfunk


Stay tuned; however be reassured that these messages will not self-destruct.

Earlier this week, I dusted this thing off to post on here with a guest blog from Timber Phillips, which if you missed don’t worry, you can always find a way.

Since this time, we have officially launched! And if you want a copy of this mighty tome, you may find our characters slinging various spells at a rate up there with any of your other shopping deals this weekend.

But once more, we have a guest post, in the form of long-time friend and fellow writing type D. A. Lascelles. You can catch his own posts on the Lurking Musings site, when he’s not round here for tea, virtually or otherwise. Anyway. *drumroll*…

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, I write as D.A Lascelles and I am a lapsed romance writer. I started out writing with the BBW Romance Writers group and had my first novella, Transitions, published in 2012. This was a paranormal Romance with an ancient ghost, a boy and a very clever and strong willed student called Helen who you will get to meet if you read this anthology. I’ve also published a collection of shorts (called Lurking Miscellany) which also feature characters from my story in this and a fantasy called ‘Gods of the Deep which has no relation to The Elementals. However, it does feature Rachel Drake and Lady Catherine who you may recognise from Out of this World Alphas.

 I live in Manchester in the UK. I also dabble in photography and, on occasion, I have been known to indulge in some teaching.

This anthology is all about elements. Which element or elements are dominant in your story?

In this story no single element is particularly dominant. The elementalist is someone who talks to all four of them pretty much all the time and they like to help him out. Though, I guess in one critical scene his control over fire is very important, but you would have to read the story to find out how.

In the Elementalist character, I was exploring an idea I have been playing with for a while, particularly in Lurking Miscellany, about elemental magic and environmentalism and things that can taint the earth, water or air and what the manifestations of those elements might think about that.

Author! What’s YOUR element of choice?

The reason why I made my elementalist character a wielder of all four is because I actually cannot choose one over the others. I see any elemental theory of magic as being about balance and and control so to use one to overwhelm the others defeats that purpose. Though I am reminded of the XKCD cartoon which riffed off The Last Airbender and introduced Mendeleev – bender of all 118 elements.

Yes, I studied science at university. Why do you ask?

How did you find your way to this anthology?

I got involved with one of the previous anthologies – Out of this World Alphas – and had such a great time with that I signed on for this one too. Though I struggled for a long time to get a story idea down that I was happy with. Then, one day on a train, I sat down and started to write and by the end of the journey I had the first scene where Ash visits Helen in her new office. And the way this story ended, there is room now for another sequel that I am currently pondering…

Author! You have just been imbued with the power of your choice of ONE of our anthology elements. Which do you go for and why? What might you enjoy do with your powers?

The two powers I would like from my story are not elemental based. I’d love Ash’s ability to change form and manipulate perceptions using glamour. It is also hinted (more in Transformations in Lurking Miscellany than here) that Helen has an incredible will power – she is very difficult to fool with mind control or illusions and can often think her way out of problems really easily.

However, if I had to choose an elemental power it would have to be the ability to control the weather, which I guess is mostly Air and Water. The recent bad weather in the UK has absolutely nothing to do with this decision nor does Manchester’s reputation as a very rainy city…

Finally, a question for one of your characters. What’s going on in this story?

Helen: *sighs*Look, do you know how difficult it is at the moment? I have a PhD viva in a couple of months I have to prep for, and we just had this awful time at the archaeological site where we were confronted with this…

Tina: Shhh, spoilers.

Helen: What do you mean, ‘spoilers’?

Tina: I mean, we can’t tell them big secrets about what happens in the book.

Helen: But, look, he asked. He sat there, with his note book, looking so journalistic, and outright asked us what goes on in this book. How am I supposed to do that without mentioning the…

Tina: Ah! Stop it. *waggles her fingers* No one likes spoilers. You wouldn’t like it if I told you how your favourite TV programme ends.

Helen: My favourite TV programme is that documentary about the death of Julius Caesar I watched last week. I think the whole world and anyone who has ever seen a Shakespeare play know how that one ends. Anyway, it can’t be spoilers, it has already happened. We lived through it.

Tina: Yes, but they haven’t read about it yet.

Helen: Who are ‘they’? And why are you waving your hands around at empty air like you are at a very slow rave?

Tina: *sighs* I’m doing a fourth wall break. You know, like Deadpool.

Helen: Who?

Tina: Never mind.

Interviewer: So, what can you tell my readers?

Helen: Well, there’s some fascinating archaeology, a bit of Latin, a really interesting library and an excellent example of a Roman fortress that demonstrates some fascinating principles of bronze age archi…

Tina: You aren’t selling it, Helen. You have to mention the magic, the weird mind stuff and the sex scenes otherwise they won’t bother to read. Oh, and Simon, you have to mention him.

Helen: I was hoping to avoid thinking about him for a while, actually. I’m in a weird place with him at the moment. And what do you mean ‘scenes’? There was only one sex scene.

Tina: *shrugs* At least your love interest doesn’t change appearance at will and have a really complicated family of creepy fae.

Helen: You met Ash’s family?

Tina: Not yet, I think that’s planned for the sequel. I caught a look at the author’s notes yesterday. They weren’t very well secured. Or neatly written. Or at all coherent, really.

Helen: The sequel? Is that where we deal with… well, you know… HIM… properly?

Ash: Can’t we have a rest before we do any more really dangerous stuff? I’m sick of running around woods chased by an insane Elementalist.

Simon: Oi, who you calling insane? And what’s this about love interests?

Interviewer: Excuse me, I’m fairly sure I only asked for one person to answer this question….

Helen: Yes, me. So, there’s Roman stuff, Archaeology, some Elemental magic…

Ash: Some faerie magic too…

Helen: Yes, that too… Something dark buried in the heart of Manchester we aren’t supposed to talk about because Tina says so, and probably a bunch of other things I’ve forgot to mention. Now, can I please just get back to my work? Did I mention I have a viva in a few months?

Links:

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B001K883WS

Website: https://dalascelles.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles/

Timber Phillips

Hi all! I haven’t posted on here in long enough that there was an entire update in the time it took me to post again next. But if you haven’t heard already, I have some new writing about to be released for the first time in…well, you can probably tell because it was the last time I posted about such on here. As it’s part of an anthology – this one in fact:

And so, without further ado, I shall get straight into it with my first guest! Take it away, Timber…

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, I’m Timber Philips, and I write romance rooted in fable and fantasy. I was born in the magical land of the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve lived here all of my life. I’m especially drawn to writing new twists on rarer or little-known Welsh and Irish myths as that’s the majority of my genetic makeup. I’m also trying to branch out into other fables, but try to stay away from the more popular and well known fairy tales as I don’t find them challenging enough.

This anthology is all about elements. Which element or elements are dominant in your story?

For my story, I focused on the element of water. I have a tough, bounty hunting water witch with the ability to scry out her quarry at will. She has a bevy of other water related powers, but you’re just going to have to read Like Water to Stone to find out what they are.

Author! What’s YOUR element of choice?

Technically I am an air sign by birth, but I have always had a major affinity for water. In fact, according to my mother, it was my first word!

How did you find your way to this anthology?

I’ve written for Knox Publishing at least twice before. The first piece was for last year’s Halloween time anthology, Immortal Lust, which happened to be about Vampires. Then again for this Halloween time’s anthology, Romanticizing the Gods, where I focused on the little-known Irish God of the Sea, Manannán mac Lir in my story The Lightkeeper’s Daughter. In fact, that anthology is still available right now. You should check it out in addition to The Elementals. Come to think of it, both of the anthologies I’ve written for for Knox Publishing this year have been water-centric in their own ways. I really do have an affinity for water!

Author! You have just been imbued with the power of your choice of ONE of our anthology elements. Which do you go for and why? What might you enjoy do with your powers?

That’s a tough one, it really is. In my world of elemental witchcraft, each element has their own micro-chasm or niche of latent ability. Earth witches are healers by nature, able to sense out what is wrong with a person just by being near them or with a simple touch. They use plants and herbs as medicine and imbue their healing magic into tinctures and teas. Being a sort of healer has always appealed to me, though. So, I think Earth might be the way to go. You can read more about it in the first Witches of Loving book that’s been out for a while now. It’s called Love Springs Eternal.

Then there are the Air witches. They have the power to see what is and what was. Meaning they can glimpse things going on in the present and with a simple touch of an object, gain impressions as insubstantial as air from them. Seeing where they have been and into the hearts and minds of those who have come in contact with them. It makes my air witch Blyn in the upcoming second book in my Witches of Loving series invaluable to the police and the FBI. With a simple touch of the evidence, she can lay out precisely what happened – see the whole crime. A very useful skill to have.

Fire witches have the ability to see what is, what was, and what could be… they can also communicate beyond the veil to those that have gone before meaning they can be strong and powerful mediums. My fire witch is actually male and a blacksmith, bending the fire to his very will. he is incredibly powerful, frightening, and dangerous to the point his government of origin are very hands-off and want nothing to do with him, declaring him America’s problem now.

Finally, Water has the ability to scry out what is and what could be. A few drops of consecrated oil in a puddle, they can share their visions with those around them making them very effective bounty hunters and skip tracers. Which you will definitely get more about in my story Like Water to Stone in The Elementals anthology!

Finally, a question for one of your characters. What’s going on in this story?

Ha, ha, ha! According to Ashlyn, “A lot of s^#!” She’s trying to make it through the untimely death of her twin sister and prove to her boss, Hatchet, that she has what it takes to go solo on a fugitive recovery operation. Unfortunately, what she does off the clock is casting her abilities in serious doubt with her boss and so, he’s saddled her with a partner for this latest recover mission and Ash? She doesn’t like it one bit.

Thank you, Timber! And if you want to get in early, you can pre-order here; https://amzn.eu/9knN0jM , with an official release on November 28th! Stay tuned for more guests very soon!

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After being asked to make this talk available, I have opened a SoundCloud account and thanks to the excellent Chad, have an audio recording of the session available. You can get an exclusive first ever reading of my new novel WIP there as well, but that is not the focus of this post and so this will be my one and only plug of a thing some distance from more tangible existence at this point.

And so, here is some kind of transcript of the talk I gave on April 21, 2019!

I introduced myself, but most of that stuff is available via older posts here or on social media pages elsewhere, so I’ll try not to repeat that one too much. And then I got on to the main focus of the talk, which I framed around answering some questions which came up from an older discussion I had. These were:

  • Why was this such a strong episode?
  • What good things did the show achieve with this episode?
  • Does it succeed in its aims?
  • Which events from the episode were true?

I also had a sub-category I nominated as ‘F.A.Q.s’ because they were some of the criticisms I saw a lot. And I guess didn’t agree with. So I used them to assist with the talk! They went thus:

  • ‘But what about that Quantum Leap episode?
  • ‘This is bad sci-fi’
  • ‘The villain was rubbish’
  • ‘The message was a little heavy-handed’
  • ‘The message was simplistic’

Before getting into it, I mentioned two facts about the airing of the episode that I found important to note. First, that it was initially aired in early October 2018, which happened to fall within Black History Month UK. The second, on that same note, was despite that, this was one of the episodes clearly commissioned with the US audience in mind as well. The main event of course was one which resonated internationally. Needless to say, I pointed out then, and do again now, that there will be spoilers for the episode Season 11, Episode 3, ‘Rosa’. I also pointed out that as the main spoiler was that the real-life event went ahead, I would note that there are probably worse spoilers to be caught out with.

So Let’s Get on the Bus…

Rosa bus

The episode opens in 1943, Montgomery, Alabama. If you ever wanted an ideal example for an opening chapter setting the scene, this is it. It answers several of the questions in and of itself straight away. I invited the audience to take a look at the bus, how it’s set up, how deliberately oppressive the entire scene looks. And to take a good look at that driver too. That first couple of minutes shows the systematic racism Rosa has to face just to get on the bus, let alone find a seat, let alone sit on it. It sets a mood for the audience immediately. And the first true and accurate details are in effect here. She deliberately sat in a ‘white’ seat in order to pick up her purse. (Thanks, E.K!)

The next scene shifts 12 years later, in 1955, exactly the same place. The team find their initial premise for investigation in the way of rogue Artron energy, a similar emission to that the TARDIS gives out. But it can’t be them, of course; they’ve only just arrived. In the town, a white couple are seen walking with the woman dropping a glove. Ryan attempts to give this back to her. He is rewarded for his efforts with a hard slap to the face.

Are you paying attention yet?

That’s what is being asked of you, dear audience member at this point. It also doesn’t break the Fourth Wall, rather than dragging you through it. Whether you like it or not now, you are one of the team members. Which you identify with most is up to you, but there’s no going back now.

Rosa Dr and Friends.jpg
Watch how they each react. And very soon, it is down to Rosa herself to rescue them with some fast talking. She knows the ‘rules’. She knows her place. Ryan doesn’t. This sets up the first seed of outsiders, of passing privilege and gives an opportunity to tell the story of Emmett Till’s murder.

Krasko
It’s just after that in which the ‘villain’ rocks up. He seems to have an ‘everyman’ air about him, which is inherently unusual, as that is so often attributed to more heroic protagonists. Although the Doctor notes the tech he has acquired, she also does something quite subtle and important throughout the episode, which is to label him ordinary, nothing special, from the start. She constantly does it when he’s around. And he is not important to our audience education either. So we’ll get back to that.

Graham and Grace

While the team our pooling their knowledge of where they are, the others find themselves amazed that Ryan doesn’t know who Parks is. ‘She’s the bus woman, right?’ he states. ‘The first black woman to ever drive a bus.’ It’s a strong impact point because not only is that not true, but Rosa wasn’t even the first black woman to have made the protest that she had.

We’ll come back to that later. Because a second interesting point comes up very shortly afterwards. Grandfather Graham responds with, ‘Your nan would have a fit right now. How could you have been in a class named after the woman and not know who she is?’  He has learned all about Rosa Parks from his deceased wife Grace which we discover he did very early in their relationship. The true brilliance of this comes from something not mentioned in the episode. Something I learned answers his own question in a way by offering a question back. The answer being, ‘how do you, a British bus driver, not bring up the Bristol Bus Boycotts of 1963 here? Or at any point during the episode?’

bristol-bus-boycott-1963

Yas even says, ‘her arrest started a boycott of the buses in Montgomery.’ Even this doesn’t trigger that knowledge with Graham. But this is surprisingly understandable. I had only heard of it relatively recently myself, and if you didn’t already know, I’m within a demographic of people who would have found it incredibly beneficial to have found out about this at school.

Their investigation takes them into a cafe, and with it, further direct discrimination. ‘We don’t serve Negroes’ – the waitress rather venomously snipes at Ryan. Who responds:
‘Good. Cos I don’t eat them.’ The line has been spoken by and attributed to several 20th century figures including one Muhammad Ali, so it is great to have been positioned here!

That same waitress assumes Yasmin is Mexican, so she  gets the same refusal of service and ‘othered’ but the subtle trick being played here is that there is a delay on focus until after they go for Ryan. It’s a second use of passing privilege but this time nuanced differently into tiers of racism as a construct.

Then very shortly after, the Doctor, notably having a female presenting incarnation for the first time ever, observes, ‘it’s easy for me here. It’s more dangerous for you.’ It’s a clever placement of words when unpacked. Followed by yet another: ‘You can walk away from all this.’ To which the response comes:
Ryan: ‘Rosa Parks can’t.’
Yas: ‘Rosa Parks doesn’t’.

Who is in the best place to be able to walk away from this of everyone? Who is largely ignored by the public of Montgomery unless he chooses to interact? That would be Graham. Even though he is by definition also an outsider here, as a foreign visitor also out of his time. His privilege as a white male is well highlighted here, that he is the only one who *doesn’t* talk in that particular part of the scene, and when he does next, the one thing he mentions is about being peckish. It’s the most minor issue anyone has in the scene and is cleverly highlighted as someone who can see and hear what is going on but doesn’t deal with the impact of it here.

We move on. And oh, look, it’s this guy again…

Krasko and Rosa

He encounters Rosa in a form of confrontation, but we the audience might well wonder why all he does, all he seems able to do, is to act in a menacing manner. He puts on a local accent and blends in with the locals. To an extent. The Doctor calls him out again on being basic, and also rubbishes his equipment, dismissing the Vortex manipulator as ‘Cheap and nasty time travel.’ She really rubs that one in, in fact. And some time into the show, we don’t even have a name for him, or any idea of what he’s really up to. There is *literally* nothing special about him. Again, this is kind of the point.

“What do we know about Rosa Parks?”

Yas studies

A well-placed exposition scene sets up exactly what it needs to. Like Yasmin mentioning the part about the claim of her not standing from being tired from work despite the fact that this was a falsehood:

“People always said that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” – Rosa Parks in ‘My Story’

It’s also a hint of one of the ways we know about the level of organisation behind Rosa’s protest. Again, we’ll get back to this!

Mason_(Rosa)

We move on to a real mix of dangerous suspense and dark humour when the police come knocking at the door of the motel room they are using as a hideout. One might note a writer’s acknowledgement of previous Doctor/companion relationship dynamics because they play the moment for cringeworthy awkwardness between Graham and The Doctor. Which is also funny because of items of relationships between previous Doctors and ‘companions’ of their time. Note, Season 11 has quite specifically moved from speaking of ‘companions’ and now goes for ‘friends’ where possible.

motel.jpg

So after that scene we have what I consider a pivotal piece of dialogue between Ryan and Yasmin. They’re out of time, but what we heard from Ryan about 1955 is something I can tell you I’ve heard and still hear far more recently.

 

Yas and Ryan

 

The entire conversation serves to reinforce an important point already made. Whoever that guy in the leather jacket is, he really ain’t the Big Bad. He just serves it. It’s much bigger than any one individual, it’s all around, and it’s not restricted to that particular point in time. Not at all.

Yas responds perfectly too. Her experiences are remarkably similar. Watch the scene if you haven’t already.

motel opener

“This isn’t history here, Yaz. We’re hiding behind bins…I’m having to work so hard to keep my temper every second here. I could have slapped that guy back there,as soon as we arrived. Thank God my nan taught me how to keep my temper… Never give them the excuse.’” – Ryan

Blake

 

Remember him? First scene. Bus driver. His name’s James Blake. ‘Blake the Snake’ as Graham lets us know. Blake drove both on the 1943 day in the opener and also on the day of Rosa’s protest. So this is another accurate detail. And in the latter case, a deliberate choice of driver to target. And so it’s right and proper that the Doctor and team revisit their own version of that scene. It gives you, audience member, another chance to look around the systematic oppression. Around the layout of the bus. Around the structure of who gets to sit where, if at all.  The Doctor and Graham just sit down.  Ryan gets a perfect, however understated line. ‘This is me. On the back of the bus.’ And it’s an understandably despondent statement which has made its way into generally villainous parlance since. Yas has a key spot here though. Where does she sit? They make the point that they still assume her to be Mexican, but the lets her on at the front. There is media out there to suggest it’s likely she’d be in the same position as Ryan in actual fact, but that would have robbed us of a chance to revisit the passing privilege mentioned earlier. The whole scene is a bit of a revision summary to see if the audience are keeping up, in fact.

Another tiny but critical point in the scene order is that after Ryan’s defeated observation, Graham, mutters, “I’m so ashamed.” Then louder, “You shouldn’t have to do this.” It shows he has come on a way in understanding since the initial lament of absent food.

Then the Doctor agrees and apologises to Ryan, despite it being part of their plan at this point. That’s important. But I’d implore in that scene observing Yasmin. Watch her face, where she looks, the camera’s emphasis. The turn order of all of this happening is stunningly executed. “The driver let me on at the front of the bus,” she says. “What does that mean for where I sit…’does ‘coloured’ just mean “black” in 1955?’

Then look at Ryan’s face. It’s as if he’s just had his soul ripped out.

End of the revision session: a perfectly delivered spot for the purpose of pointing out the absurdity of race as a construct and a selective  convenience for those who choose to wield it. And finally, Rosa gets a line of explanation for something us, the audience, may not have already known. “Ma’am, if you keep sitting there, we’re all going to have to move.” All of that in less than one screen minute. Not easy to do at all.

 

Krasko

26 minutes in and we STILL don’t know this guy’s name! We do find out he’s a ‘Stormcage’ escapee (sounds like something else, but we’ll skirt over that) as his prison tattoo gives away.

He casually mentions that he was there for murdering 2000 people. It’s not even just a lack of remorse, he deliberately understates and then revels in the full extent of his confession. The date of writing is May 2019. And that admission strikes shockingly poignant. Do we get to call him a terrorist? Does he even deserve to be named? I’ll leave that to you to decide. Just before the 29 minute mark though, he makes more effort to reveal his motivations a little more. The audience also find out that he hails from the 79th century and there are still nasty racist folks out there. For him though, his era  “…is where things started to go wrong.” We finally have a name for him though, Krasko. “Don’t like it,” says the Doctor, dismissing him again. We talked about this already.

He doesn’t say how they go wrong. But he does at least critically let us know what he’s about.

“I’ve had a little time to think, and I realised that tiny actions change the world.”

“History changes when tiny things don’t go to plan.”

Compare this to a later quote from Blake speaking to Graham at the pool table.

“Just the way it is. No matter how much they complain. Ain’t gonna’ change.”

Krasko and Ryan

 

Ryan’s fortunes take a turn for the better after he has suffered so much up to now. It starts with yet another very clever but super subtle note. He follows Rosa, uncomfortable at the thought of doing so (this whole thing is a conversation for another day). However, he gets to go somewhere very important. Important for him, and for the audience getting to know some people in that room. That, there, is Dr Martin Luther King who probably needs no introduction if you have read down this far. The other two male African-American males in that room might need a bit more lead in. Rosa’s husband is just referred to as ‘Parks’ in this scene.  Rosa was an active member of the NAACP who did lots of secretarial work for them and also attended communist meetings with her husband. (thanks, E.K!)

Ryan and Martin Luther King

Fred Gray gets an introduction too. We don’t get much about him, but he’s done some big work in the legal profession, for the Civil Rights movement and is definitely another true element of the story.

Fred Gray

Ryan is quite literally in The Room Where It Happens. If you see how much his eyes light up, I can tell you I’d have behaved exactly the same as he did over there.

Rosa and Husband

Yas – ‘Everything here’s a fight for you. Don’t you get tired? What keeps you going?’

Rosa – ‘Promise of tomorrow.’

Something we do find out once he takes his proper position is that despite the Doctor’s many put-downs, Krasko isn’t stupid. It’s easy for us to call those with ideological differences stupid. But doing that doesn’t prevent them at their most harmful. To deal with his damage, The Doctor and her crew have to be smarter. Time and again, he proves to be enough of a step ahead that they all have to react to his multiple adjustments. And that’s just it – the main antagonist he may not be, but nor is the Doctor here to save the day. She and her team are just there to make sure the person who is there to do it, does.

This prompts my most direct response to the earlier question claiming the Quantum Leap episode, [S1 Episode 7: The Color of Truth]  was better. Before we get into bigger comparisons and my big, ‘hmmm, I dunno…‘ spot, a simple narrative difference is that Sam’s entire remit differs from the Doctor’s in that he interferes with and changes history in almost every episode. Critically for this episode of Doctor Who, all the Doctor does is ensure this essential point in time (note, *not* a fixed point in time such as Vesuvius in The Fires of Pompeii, S4 Ep2) goes ahead. Vesuvius_Erupts

It’s more of a lynchpin point under threat in the episode. That for me struck very poignant. We find ourselves at a crossroads. We have the power to fix this. We also have the ability to break it even more. It is changeable. Krasko knows this. Ask me again about whether or not he’s a good villain?

Ryans_Heroes_Highlight_-_Episode_3_Doctor_Who_BBC_America (2)

What that allows is for Ryan’s day, already massively improving, to be given yet another major boost: the opportunity to exact retribution against the one person he can. To do this, it is interesting that Ryan gets to deliver Krasko’s reckoning. He gives Krasko one last chance to cease before he does.

Krasko of course refuses. “And your kind won’t get above themselves…stay in your place.” That’s really quite interesting, because it isn’t a statement followed with anything immediately contemporary; it sows a seed of hope to a reader, which we were talking about.

And…AND, Ryan calls back to the scene with Yas and his keeping his temper. He is a stone cold MF as he delivers quiet, stylish justice. And just like that, an anachronism sent back (in a touch of mild comedy again) to the settings dialled back as far as they can go. Maybe the Stone Age.

And so finally, back to the bus one last time. Were the Doctor and Friends were part of the deus-ex-machina just by sitting on a bus? No, not really–they were just sitting on the bus. They could have been anybody.

Graham refuses the call.gif

Ryan is an important component and once again, Graham gets a suitably poignant spot. ‘I don’t wanna be part of this’. Again, that’s to the audience, I think, to some extent. And note, he doesn’t get to run away and think about the sandwich he didn’t have this time around. They do not miss a beat with the episode cues, I think.

In The Moment, Rosa makes eye contact with Blake before settling on the exact form of her protest. Which wasn’t planned in advance. I noted at the talk that I had been lucky enough to have caught Tommie Smith give a talk last year, and one of the things he spoke about was that on the very morning of his own iconic protest, he didn’t know exactly how that protest was going to happen, just that there was going to be one. Family providing gloves, Black Panthers being there; it all came together. Tommie noted it as a critical moment during a time when a number of factions all ultimately were heading in a similar direction, but couldn’t quite agree on the path or ultimate destination. They chose particular symbolisms.

The personal element seeded earlier was important, as was the NAACP gunning directly for Blake in full knowledge of his previous history with Parks. The staging is important.

Blake – “If you don’t stand, I’m going to have you arrested.”

Parks – “You may do that”.

True to the event.

And in case you were wondering who Tommie Smith is, you probably already know. Him, John Carlos, and Peter Norman. They all played a big part in history.

Panthers

I was saying at a different programme item that I was really happy that Doctor Who dialled back to its essence in Season 11 as a children’s/family show, and I believe the episode was covered with a great deal of maturity. There are some things that we could argue all day long on regarding whether some parts could have done differently and how, but it’s important to remember the episode was never written as a final word on Rosa Parks or the Civil Rights movement. Use it as quite the opposite, in fact, in that it is a great place to start a discourse. Got some inaccuracies you want to check up on? Fine, by all means. But I think the things they may have tweaked for reasons of a 50 minute narrative were very much for the right reasons.

The brave stand of Rosa Parks is one which will be long remembered in history.  Specifically chosen as the face of this part of the movement by the NAACP and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). They’re still fighting even now. She wasn’t the first, and a matter with such protests is not knowing exactly how they’re going to go. –We remember the famous images now, but they started off in a very different way.  Rosa was chosen. James Blake was chosen. And between these things, history was made. You’ll never forget her name. It is the first that will likely come to you when talking about this bus boycott. And the bit about the asteroid is also true.

Asteroid
But before you leave here, I would invite you to remember some other names. Take a look at these faces. Aurelia Browder, , Jeanetta Reese, Susie McDonald:

Susie McDonald

Mary Louise Smith:

Mary Louise Smith

and Claudette Colvin:

220px-Claudette_Colvin

…were amongst the names of the first to sit down protest on the Montgomery buses.
So, say what you like about it in terms of how you thought it went, but the important thing is to be talking about it. About these things. And maybe that way it brings in a new set of people to be able to do stuff about it too.

Some final things:

Remember what I mentioned about Quantum Leap earlier?Not going to go into that much longer but there are other reasons that the episode comparison doesn’t really fit, well, it’s not _actually_ a Rosa Parks story, for one. It’s probably closer to Driving Miss Daisy. Let’s not get into that now, eh?

QLRace

Besides, why can’t both exist without the need for comparison? Different things.
What I will say is that it was recorded 20 years ago. The film, Detroit, was released in 2017, set in 1967. So despite Yas and Ryan stating it will get better, we’re still needing to talk about it. So I’m not buying that ‘the villain was rubbish’ statement at all. If you want to hear how Rosa is the hero of the story, there is an excellent article on that one too.

Also, did you know that Malorie Blackman, Mark Tonderai and Segun Akinola (all pictured below, are between them the first black writer, director, and composer to work together on a Doctor Who episode in its 55-year run? 

If not, you do now!

 

I have some quotes from friends in response to some of the earlier questions too:

“The fact that the villain is from the future, and has explicit racist motivations, was a nice touch – it helps re-enforce the fact that this is still a problem (as well as the conversations the companions have).”
“Great history lesson wrapped in entertainment. We all loved it.”
“One tiny thing in the episode that had a larger-than-expected impact was that while I’d kind of understood the segregated seating… the fact there were actually two doors I’d never twigged before.”
“I think the directness was necessary. It is sad, uncomfortable, unacceptable part of reality now, and it was much, much worse then. I see no reason why to be subtle about it.”
“I thought it was very clever how they had it so the Doctor and team’s job were kept in the background to keep history on course. It meant that Rosa was the Hero of the show, and didn’t belittle or take away from her actions by having the Doctor actively step in.”
“Bad sci-fi? It was excellent sci-fi! It examined alien experience within our own world, examined levels of oppression, had a bad guy working around artificially implanted restrictions, Ryan making a morally questionable but understandable choice, potentially lethal environment that couldn’t be fought via conventional means. Honestly I watched it and was reminded of stories Star Trek wanted to tell and tried to tell but fell short.”

So there you are. Until next time, have fun and play nice!

Opening Credits

Well first of all you’ll notice I’m doing this on my rarely-used-these-days blog page. Perhaps that’s a sign of something in itself? Probably not. Try not to read too much into it.

So 2018 then? Well, I’ve got very mixed feelings about it, which I’ll get to with a bit of preamble. The main thing is that it showed signs of improvement in the final quarter, which I need to carry into 2019 at full speed. But to really nail down where I’m at with it, I guess I’ve got to talk a little about the last three. You haven’t seen me much on this blog page, and I think I can briefly explain why.

Anyone around me in 2015 will know that it was the kind of nightmare for me one can only wade through, and truly kicked of a patch of total awfulness, some of which remains under repair. Mostly autopilot through that and into 2016, which was somehow arguably worse. 2017 was not great by any means and ended on a rough note. That led to starting 2018 with a Grand Tour. If you ever need anyone to stress test your suitcases I’m probably a good bet. Think I got through four of them in total.

I spent most of January in Stoke recovering from a bout of fatigue I didn’t even know I had until I worked out the headache and entire days in bed *might* have been related to this. Thanks to Farah and Edward, Miles and Ivan, I got through to the next stage. I spent some time in 1987 in an excellent LARP I managed to attend because I have amazing friends. I have more thanks to that weekend, not to mention a fresh spin on With or Without You, We Are the Champions (for the first time this year) and We’re Not Gonna Take It . These days the Void is conversational when screaming into it, which is a reasonably positive development. I had another year whereby I was not exactly prominent in LARP areas but got to some great stuff.

The tour itself ended up being a lot of bouncing between London and Manchester thanks to a bunch of great people keeping me moving. I’ve had a great base in the last few months thanks to two in particular. And I’m never short of pet company either.

So the less good things so I can get them out of the way. Had a miserable year of job hunting frustration overall. Biggest interview I had did everything they could beforehand to ensure I was wracked by nerves, which isn’t me in interviews at all. The real kick though has been that on at least four occasions, I got as far as interviews, and then the employer disappeared off the face of the earth as far as I was concerned, no matter what approach I took to chasing up. I’ll politely say other aspects of my life have been remarkably similar without getting into detail.

Also, just as I built up a bit of writing momentum in the second half of the year, I had it rather dramatically swatted away by something out of my hands. I have a couple of potential solutions in place but only time will tell how that one pans out. However I’ve a good chunk of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles book 3 drafted, and I think the finished work will be fine once I have polished it to what it needs to be. I had plans for a fourth book, but they have altered quite considerably. More on that some other time. Get me a drink first.

And one particular loss hit me very hard this year, and a few others in one of my little gaming community. A really good person gone far too soon, but certainly not forgotten there. We’re seeing to that.

2018 is a year I’ll remember for letting go of some rather unexpected things I was close to. But the saying goes, as one door closes, another opens. I’ve had a bunch just slam in my face as I was walking too, but in a few cases, just end of an era, or an enforced change I didn’t necessarily see coming. It’s okay; just required deep breaths and a bit more of a plan going ahead.

So, good things. I have managed to do pretty well for conventions this year. Eastercon in Harrogate was great, though I have unfinished business at Betty’s Tea House as I didn’t make it while I was visiting, and also the guest house I stayed in was fantastic, complete with fresh baked bread at breakfast each morning and a brilliant room mate. I’ll be honest, he’s a regular for me on that front and we’ve been friends just about half my life now, but that’s just an additional bonus point, David.

Nine Worlds I’ll mention because I’m pretty sure I had a great time, great company and I have learned so very much in the programme role I worked on in the two years I was doing it, and made yet more excellent friends. I step down from that spot happy in the knowledge that I have some great stories to tell from there, and experiences that I can take elsewhere to other capacities. It’s been emotional.

And Fantasycon, whereby I am one of the Redcloak volunteer staff, as well as happy panellist. I’ve got myself a little con family there, which is just amazing and far beyond any possible expectations on my part. I’m certainly looking forward to the 2019 adventure there!

Deadlands convention counts as well. I wasn’t threatening to go up the Doomtown world rankings at any point there but I did run an RPG, I think the only one I’ve run this year, and loved it. You can do an awful lot with a good bunch of players. Plus, I got to play cards. Lots. More of this please. Oh, and UK Games Expo. ‘Survived the Bear Pit.’

 

A huge surprise was getting along to the amazing Adventure X convention, which totally rekindled my love of gaming just by hanging out with some great folk involved in the industry. Maybe…

There were a couple of other LARPs, both of which down, once more, to really lovely folk who helped me to get along. The Danger Market took me back to the 60s as a spy, and cosmetic factory employee, in one of the most fun opening acts I’ve had to an event yet. Players believed I was crew for quite a while, so evidently did my job! Most recently, I attended the second run of Returned, which was wonderful, terrifying and every other kind of entertaining in between.

2019 then?

Well, I don’t have a huge amount of power to poke the things blowing up around us all at the moment, but behind the scenes prodding is something I occasionally do very well, provided I can find the right buttons. So I can assure you I’ll be looking. MPs have been spoken to, petitions signed, and other letters written as well. I might not talk about it that much but something affecting us all so also doesn’t find itself easily ignored.

I haven’t had the space to set myself any goals or targets in recent years: once I’ve stuck at the top of the list, ‘GET THROUGH IT’, that pretty much took up the entire page. Hopefully personal focus will move slightly away from emergency survival mode protocols and more into featured activities, though thanks to the loveliness of others I have still managed to turn up to things. This part has a good schedule already, with Worldcon being held in Dublin and having my fond enthusiasm for some time now, and of course more than delighted to don my Red Cloak once more. I intend to play more cards, continue to hang out with excellent people and all of that fine stuff.

However note that I’ve taken on at least one small writing project for life after book 3, which you will see in some capacity in 2019, sorry for keeping you all waiting, but I can assure you it’ll be worth it in the end. I’ve laid the groundwork for some new projects, including a different urban fantasy universe, something a little more historical; something a little different, and a more space-shooty thing which I’m more than enthused about and will be delighted if sees the light of day. I’m also going to be jumping on more short stories because I enjoyed the bug I got for a few I did this year. Didn’t get published unfortunately, but at least they got out somewhere. Long-ago followers will know how much of a big thing that is given my third paragraph on this post. Oh, yeah—I’ve taken on editing an anthology as well, which you will know much more about as 2019 unfolds. Unexpected? Yes. Exciting? You bet.

And as well as new faces, I’ve made some contact with some of my classic friends too. This is on one hand long overdue and on another, timely. You’ll see!

So here I am, raising a glass to what has gone, to the wonderful people I have, and to what is to come. There are some gritted teeth in there of course, but if I can get half of what I’m planning to done, I’m already eager to give you that review this time next year! This is before we even get into the thing I’m enquiring about that some of you already know about.

Good luck to all of you out there who have read this, and thank you for everyone who has had my back up to now. There aren’t enough words to express quite how much I appreciate it.

It’s funny how the lightest of gestures can become something much bigger whether by accident or design.

For me, the last two years have felt somewhat lost to me for the most part, with personal circumstances meaning at times anything beyond getting through the week in one piece was pretty much off the table. Things remain off-track, but have at least settled enough to take a few deep breaths and work out where to swim to next.

In the last few months, some pretty good things have turned up, including a chance to portray a fascinating historical figure in front of a museum audience, but that is a story I shall revisit another time. Earlier this week, I had something crop up I could only consider a massive opportunity, but of course it was then that the weight of self-doubt landed on my head. So I decided to do what any person with such reservations would do. I took to my personal Facebook page, of course.

The response was…pretty good. And further to that, I’ve seen several friends ready to Do The Thing, or already doing it, this week. So it felt like something I should probably at least partially look after, or champion for the time being. Here goes!

First of all, I would like to thank Emily’s Diary, for bringing this wonderful and encouraging tiny potato into my life. It’s always handy to remember when one forgets.

tiny-potato

Secondly, I should probably stick down the list of known planned attendances this year, and also planned activities which might affect the year’s movements. Should there be anything you readers see that you either think I should probably be at, or would perhaps like to see me at, you need but let me know and I’ll add/check the diary/tell you I’m double booked at earliest convenience. And of course, some of these will be subject to change or cancellation on my part.

Current Writing plans:

  • Finish and release Winter Storm. This is a priority task, having not managed in 2015 or 2016 for enough reasons to cover a very personal blog post which I’m not going to be doing. However, know that words are happening again, which is the start you always need with stuff like this. I am also doing my damnedest to make sure it’s worth the wait for you all.
  • Should that succeed, I do have the first of a new series to draft. I won’t be done with the Grenshall Manor Chronicles by any means, but this thing is something I’ve been talking about and sketching ideas for when I’ve had five minutes of late. It’s a very different setting from what I’ve done so far, and it needs to happen (at least for me). I won’t get ahead of myself, but if I got this far, I’d be very happy.
  • There is a possibility of short stories in and around this time. No promises to myself or others, but if the opportunity presents itself, both in terms of my time and a place to put it/them, then activity shall happen.

Provisional planned convention attendances:

9Worlds_GeekFest_2015

  • LarpCon –3-5 March 2017, Leicestershire
  • Eastercon– 14-17 April 2017, Birmingham
  • Nerd East July 3 2017, Durham
  • Nine Worlds—4-6 August 2017, London
  • Worldcon 75 –9-13 August 2017, Helsinki
  • Sandbach Author Signing Event 23 September 2017, Sandbach, Cheshire
  • FantasyCon 29 September—1 October 2017, Peterborough
  • Octocon—6-8 October 2017, Dublin

Third, and finally, as previously stated, my task appears to be to wave and encourage people to Do The Thing wherever appropriate and/or possible. I shall start here. And know that of course the definition of Doing The Thing is an intentionally broad one. It doesn’t have to be rulership of a global power. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes there are days when making it out of bed should be celebrated as the triumph they are. Only you yourself will know what you can do, and want to get done, on a given day. But know this: I’m going to do my best to be there for you in spirit, and if you want to tell us about The Thing you are doing, please feel free to comment away below!

I’ll also designate this post as a permitted spot for getting hold of me and checking on progress with the things I have listed above for myself. Know that this isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list of missions I happen to have for the year, but it’s an important enough list for me all the same.

To those of you out there who are going for it, I wish you the very best of luck, and look forward to hearing tales of your victories and your valiant deeds.  I’m keen to have some to share with you, and also hopeful of adding more cool stuff to the list in future posts, should the year allow it.

Good luck, all! Go out there and shine. You’ve got this, one and all!

axe

P.S. If you got here already, you probably know about my other social media outlets, but in case you don’t:

Find me on Facebook as R A Smith

On Twitter: @RASmithPSL

Also Xchyler Publishing website:

And their Facebook page!

20161010_133254Oh, doesn’t time fly when you’re not paying attention, eh? You won’t have seen me much on here due to yet another lengthy state of flux. Now that I’m posting to say things are showing gradual signs of settling down now, I do have some fun announcements.

First thing: early tomorrow, I’m getting on a plane to Dublin as a guest for Octocon! This is a great honour for me, and I shall be on several panels in my time there. I’m very much looking forward to it!

Speaking of honour though, the following weekend sees me up in Leeds City Museum, performing a historical piece and portraying the amazing figure that is Walter Tull. If you’ve never heard of him, you’re probably not alone, but take some time to look up his story, I promise you will find it interesting at the very least. And I have a show on Saturday October 22nd entitled Know My Name for this precise reason. It’s Black History Month in the UK, and Walter Tull has a significant place in modern history. The images you see are from a field trip I took a few days ago to Sixfields, Northampton, of the memorial to him raised in 1999. But don’t just take my word for it, look him up! Big thanks to History’s Maid, by the way, for pointing this my way, so show some love!

Finally, Book 3 of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles is in progress, though of course has been the victim of significant delays on my part, for which I can only apologise. The upside to it is that things I have come across in the delay time may well find their way into the book, and will only help things along. Let’s just say Tull’s story isn’t entirely unrelated.

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