Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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/

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!

Only a week after the event, here’s my event report. Just like back in school. The short version: a great time was had and lots of new and interesting people were met, including some heroes of mine in within fiction writing. Can’t say fairer than that…

 image_00004

So I arrived on Wednesday evening, and stayed through to Sunday evening. We managed to get in early on the whole registration thing, which was good because it got kind of lively when the convention proper commenced. All told, this one had 10,000 guests which makes it the biggest World Science Fiction Convention held yet! So it is just as well the ExCel Centre in which it was held happens to be HUGE. Seriously, this thing is so big, it has TWO Docklands Light Railway stations for access.

Now, I’ve never been to this particular type of convention before, and discovered rapidly that having that word in the title can mean many different things. I looked at the event and thought it looked interesting, but got a nudge to do some stuff for it several months back by some good friends in Emma and Esther and said, ‘sure, I’ll happily do a panel or two’ (having never done panels before). By the time I reached the event, I had signed up for six, and a book signing spot. I approached initially with a fine combo of eager excitement and a degree of terror, but actually found the sheer scale of fixtures a great help on this one. I spent more time on the Wednesday night finding my way around a wonderful iPad app, which essentially provided a scheduler for me, choosing which other events and panels I was provisionally interested in attending, that I kind of forgot about the pre-panel prep.

Well, apart from the first one, for which I needed to source good examples and stories behind fiction and film which ‘got London wrong’. I had a little chat over a tea with Michael, (who was kind enough to put us up for the duration, even lending us his bedroom. Hero!) and between him, Joy  and myself, we managed to add a couple of examples to the reserve. For the record, I now need to watch the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes at least twice, so I can finally get round to watching it, and to spot everything we cited both at home and at the panel . Thor’s rather curious London Underground travel route in Thor: The Dark World I knew about already.

The first panel I attended was amusingly titled, ‘LOLcats in Space: Social Media, Humour and SF Narratives’, and had a frankly brilliant line-up, including Jean Johnson as moderator and Charles Stross on bass guitar (the instrument part may or may not be an untruth).  Energetic, insightful and packed, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to have got started on my little tour.

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Then, very relevant to my current chosen path and equally entertaining, The Changing Face of the Urban Fantastic. Another cracking panel team including none other than Paul Cornell and Robin Hobb, moderated by the excellent Liz Bourke. Good as this panel was, migration started quite early, though I soon remembered why. Straight after this, A Conversation with George R.R.Martin, Connie Willis and Paul Cornell. Yep—that did mean Mr Cornell needed to run, or figure out how to co-locate. He chose the former. Luckily, that meant he could go straight in, whereas when I left at the end, I got into the first very large queue to get into the double suite that this popular fixture hosted. That was a lot of people. Paul did a great job keeping the conversation and the questions flowing, and a good time was had by all. I finally got to my panel that evening and for a first one, I was happy enough with it. I did discover a thing though; being on panels with other authors often just helps you part with money as you seek out their work. Mike Shevdon was on this one with me, and I am now the proud owner of a copy of Sixty-One Nails, following a fascinating conversation about some of London’s more interesting traditions still kept today. The source of that book title is one…

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Two readings concluded the day, catching some from Frances Hardinge, as usual sporting her trademark stylish hat, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, reading cool new things.

And that was only Thursday!

On Friday, I arrived to be overwhelmed with panels I wanted to attend, and ended up not making either of the 10ams I wanted to see. I will keep checking for transcripts. However, this was because I was queueing for a Peter V.Brett signing with Joy. Well worth it, and got Sixty-One Nails signed by Mike Shevdon in the same hour. Being there got us a chance to catch Paul Cornell just before his signing and say hi too.

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 I really enjoyed a swordplay for writers workshop, of which I was sure to take photos and odd notes here and there. Definitely educational. I sat on two panels, Developing LARPs—World vs. Character and got plenty of interest out of that, then Urban Fantasy: London, which I enjoyed immensely. There was a lot to talk about in an hour, including the obvious question of ‘why London’? and mentioning a bunch of other cities, with Manchester coming up too thanks to certain questions and myself and Tony Ballantyne being resident there at present. Learned a lot, talked even more, both after the panel and throughout the con. I also managed to get to the Titan/Tor party thanks to Tony, and enjoy a beer and a chat with a bunch of people in the publishing world. Finally met artist Sarah Anne Langton thanks to Ian Whates and a natter with Peter V.Brett, to name a few. Also, got a bit of tasty birthday cake.

Saturday, I went wandering around the gallery section and chatted to Ade Brown after seeing some tremendous artwork. He has the Where Angels Fall website currently under development, but I’ll be sure to check in once it is done. There were many other incredible exhibits, but no photos of course from me. However a chance wander helped me bump into none other than Ben Aaronovitch, author of the Peter Grant series [Rivers of London/Midnight Riot in US) being the first]. We ended up going for a coffee and effectively a small kaffeeklatsch, which was about as pleasant a way to spend a morning as I could ask for.

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I sat on two panels, Race and British Speculative Fiction, which may have run from 13:30 to 15:00 on the programme, but I was still talking with panellists and guests two hours later on that one. And enjoyed every minute of it. Then LARP Safe: Building Inclusive Worlds in the evening. Perhaps my smallest-attended panel of the con, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Also, I collected a surprise moderator badge for this one due to the original not being able to make it. I would like to say now that this wasn’t anything to do with me seizing an opportunity and bundling the original moderator into a cupboard for an hour. That’s not how I roll.

Finished up the day with a top-quality 80s Night Dance. No, really. It had exactly the right level of cheese for my tastes, though they almost killed this poor chap by seguing several 80s wolf-themed or mentioning songs in. Go on. Think about it. There were a quite a few. In fact, perhaps a competition is worth thinking about…

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Though the con did run to Monday, Sunday was my last day there, regretfully.

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The morning schedule proved relentless, with a signing first thing, sharing a table with the delightful Melinda Snodgrass, straight into a kaffeeklatsch with Adrian Tchaikovsky,  great fun, and then a rush out to my final panel, Representation, Whitewashing and Internationalism in Fandom. My last panel, and a superb one, thanks to a brilliant audience and a top panel in Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Eylul Dogruel and Andrea Horbinski. I felt we all had something different to bring to that table, and we again had a long chat afterwards. Sadly couldn’t get into the Charles Stross reading because I’d been beaten to it, and my final official thing was getting along to the Robin Hobb signing.

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A note on that signing. I thought I was mostly going along to help Joy carry some books at first, but over the panels and events attended where Robin was present, she very much sold me on reading her books. So by the time I got into this photo, I was very definitely a fan!

I didn’t attend the Hugo Awards, just because we had a long drive back that evening, so had to content myself with reading the results. But we did stop to quickly chill before we left, reminding me that I hadn’t mentioned any of the many parties going on in the evening. As well as advertising future events in the Fan Village, some other entertainments were laid on including the Tolkien Society running a big quiz, bidders for future WorldCon events giving us a flavour of their nation and city, quite literally in most cases. I’ve tried a salty liquorice liqueur courtesy of Helsinki’s bid for 2017, Kansas fed us several times some delicious pulled pork, and Japan introduced us to several fine whiskies and the wondrous green tea flavoured Kit-Kat, to name but a few.

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Overall, this was a truly amazing experience in which I got firmly bitten by the convention bug. I’m already setting plans in motion for next year! Next up this year, an entirely different affair by way of the Labyrinth Literary Festival up in Stockton, where I shall have a reading and be happily to sell you and/or sign books. I look forward to seeing some of you there!

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Hi, my name’s Russell and I’m a live (action) roleplayer. This hobby of mine sees me dress in a bunch of costumes, battle friends of mine (who often become better friends for it), figure/blunder my way through a serious of socially precarious situations, make decisions which affect many, many people and sometimes save the world—or break it.

I also write books under the name R.A. Smith, as most of you reading this will likely already know. My involvement with L(A)RP puts me in a number of situations which help me think/reason/bludgeon my way through, often inspiring creative writing, the planning of worlds, designing heroes and villains and coming up with increasingly outlandish plots in which to save or break the world.

I gave a talk over the weekend at the LARP Awareness Party in Leicester. In its own way, it was about just that. LARP awareness. I thought it might be nice for them to know what some of the people who walked amongst them on a treacherous Saturday afternoon battlefield did for a day job.

It wasn’t all about the namedropping either. Initially, I wanted to say something to counter some high-profile and unfounded negative publicity around my pastime. But when I did a little research, I ran a Google search under ‘famous LARPers’. I’m not going to lie to you, some of the results returned weren’t very nice. Read for yourself if you feel the need, but I’m sure as hell not linking them up here.

So I took a step back after that and looked at what it was I was actually trying to find. It raised one big question with me:  how exactly am I defining ‘famous’ here? What *is* fame within the context of this query? And once I’d done that, I found myself well on the way to an answer.

Let me tell you, there is a wealth of talent in this pool. Here’s one for you that I didn’t know until the organiser of the LARP Awareness Party, Ian Knope, told me about: Bertie Carvel. Check him out and his IMDB entry. That’s right—Star Wars: The Old Republic. The most recent Les Misérables film release. Primeval. Dr Who. And he’s LARPed too. He said himself:

“It was clear I would make a committed actor when I took the Tube and train to Chislehurst and back dressed, bearded and armoured as a dwarf, aged 14. “

There are some other people you might know who have at the very least dabbled, such as Paul Ross, Ben Elton and Dara O’Briain, who fellow LARPers may well know did a wonderful stand-up comedy routine, quite tailor made, a while ago. If you haven’t seen it, you really should.

Roleplaying, whether pencil and paper on a tabletop or donning a suit of plate, involves a certain amount of ‘getting into character’. Certainly a relation of acting then, in which you may have more of a script, but very much have that same challenge to face. I like, then, to think of it as a ‘gateway’ hobby. A computer gamer may find their RPG leads to dabbling in tabletop gaming, wargaming and/or LARPing, with the reverse also true.

There are plenty of people out there who know much more about cosplay than me, but if you’re anywhere near the Internet at all, even if not a participant, you’ll be aware of its popularity. There’s a clear connection with LARP in that character and attire bear importance, though the costume onus is to provide an interpretation (not necessarily a replica), of a known character from another medium, such as a film or animation.

Now this brings me back to that question on how to define fame. Constant interest from the media likely confers a person a degree of fame in the more traditional sense. But surely the rise and rise of social media confers fame in very much the same way? I mentioned Jenna Marbles as a good example of social media celebrity power. Within the hobby, we have Tabitha Lyons. As well as creating some magnificent props, armour and armaments with Artyfakes, Tabitha is a cosplayer of some renown, being not far off a quarter of a million likes on her Facebook page at the time of writing. All that, and she can occasionally be found in a faction or nation somewhere amongst us.

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If you’ve ever read my bio, you may have seen that I’ve had a few stints as a Tudor. Pay a visit to certain places of interest and you will find historical interpreters quite literally bringing history to life. Playing the roles of either well-known figures from the past, or lesser-known characters from a specific era, they will take you there with their performances, providing a balanced blend of entertainment and education. Dan Osbaldeston has played many parts, including a number of King Henrys and other famous and infamous figures at the Tower of London, Dover Castle and Sherwood Forest, amongst others. Be sure to catch History’s Maid as well. Kate, the director, has been working hard with the BBC of late during the Great War centenary activities planned for this year.

And last but not least, writers. There is of course, Jim Butcher, of the Dresden Files amongst others. It’s in his bios and everything. Another is Adrian Tchaikovsky, of the Shadows of the Apt fantasy series, a number of shorts and about to take the sci-fi world by storm. There’s Craig Hallam, a Steampunk Market veteran like myself and author of Greaveburn, and K.T. Davies, author of The Red Knight (which you should read if you haven’t already), who  I have had the honour of fighting alongside in the past. And I believe Steven Erikson belongs on this list too, at the least because of a tabletop RPG campaign or two certainly helping with the writing.

[EDIT:] You see how a bit of sleep helps? I’m going to let you into a not so secret secret organisation who readers of my novels may have noticed popping up in the credits: the ‘Tea Society’. Amongst them, Ninfa Hayes and D.A. Lascelles. Now, I’ve had a strong enough response to put up a second part – more authors, occupations and the like that I already have names for! Drop me a message if you think I’ve missed anyone.

So there you have it. That’s quite some list, eh? I don’t think that even scratches the surface of who we have amongst our ranks, and I’m sure some of you will be able to mention even more people worthy of honourable mentions. A hobby to be proud of, for sure.

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Once again, I inevitably find myself apologising for the length of time between my previous post and now. There are many reasons, mostly the length of time it’s taking me to get my final edits together, but also the emergence of a new day job at the end of August. All good things, as it turns out, but they are proper time-eaters. And unfortunately, have turned out to be at the neglect of aspects of my social media.

Now, there have been some good things too. For a start, I’ve been getting out and seeing people buying my books live (and indeed signing some of them!) This, in turn, has generated some rather nice photo albums. If you’d like to have a look for yourself, I’ve put links on here and here, for example.

The other part of this has been a few bits of novel news that others may know about, but I haven’t put up here yet. So first of all, the fact there’s a second edition of Oblivion Storm now [for those interested in such things, it’s a different ISBN as well, of course]. Have a look for yourself on the links, and whilst you’re there, I’ve got a few reviews too. Maybe I’ll have a few more after this!

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News the second: the follow-up to Oblivion Storm is currently on schedule for a JANUARY 24, 2014 release, so mark it in your diaries! It has the title, Primal Storm, and takes you on around a year after the first adventure. I’m busting a gut putting finishing touches on this, and hope you like what I’ve done with the place! Some familiar characters will be there, with new hobbies and fresh challenges. Parkour, for example. It’d be great to see you all on board. 

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Now, a goal for early next year is to ensure I have a website up and running for my writing work too. I’m very happy with initial talks getting it organised, so that’ll be something else to look forward to, on my part at least.

As I can’t guarantee I’ll get another post up before Christmas, I should also like to take this time out to wish all readers a merry Christmas, whatever they may be doing, and hope you all have a wonderful 2014. I’m certainly looking to make it another big one!

Nerd East 2013

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

This time, it’s personal.

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Well, not really, but that always seems to be a good tagline, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?

Anyhoo, following last year’s fun at the ever-growing Nerd East con, I’ve signed up to do it all again. This time, my writing talk is on the wide topic of characters, so I’m planning to focus on a couple of aspects and hope for the best.

I love the challenge that comes with the Nerd East talk; trying to combine gaming and writing and spotting the crossover. Also, I’m aware I’m still pretty new to this business, so even the research I’ve done from this has taught me a lot. I’m hoping it all comes across well, and am planning to bring some relevant visuals to the party this time.

I’m going to be bringing some freebies along, both from myself and one of my writing buddies D.A. Lascelles. 

As an added surprise since I signed up (to me!), I’m going to be involved in another talk as well, as you can see from this here schedule. So come along, have a laugh, and optimistically on my part, bring along books for me to sign!

I look forward to seeing some of you there!