Tuesday, 30 November 2010

New from Cinebook

I think we're all agreed the Cinebook produce just about the best comics around. Here are a few of there latest releases, all of which we would recommend, even though we haven't read them yet. That's how damned good they are!

In 1982, conflict erupts between Great Britain and Argentina, putting important forces into play. Argentina decides to seize the Falkland Islands, which had been occupied by the United Kingdom since the beginning of the 19th century.

Captured by neo-Taliban tribesmen along with French businessman Cordez, Najah is taken to Pashtun territory. Sam Nachez is looking for her, and French Intelligence are looking for Cordez, but none of them know precisely who took her or why. Nor do they know that Najah isn’t one to miss an opportunity to escape. Chance encounters, tribal politics, international finance… The justifications for Project Insider keep piling up–as do the threats to its only agent.

We had a look at this next one at Thought Bubble, and it is utterly gorgeous.

Twenty years after the events of Treasure Island, Lady Vivian Hastings knocks on Dr Livesey’s door. Her hated husband has sent word from the Amazon: He has found the fabled city of Guiana-Capac, and his brother is to sell the entire domain to pay for an expedition, dispossessing Vivian in the process. So the lady has come to seek the one man who can help her: Long John Silver…

Monday, 29 November 2010

Doctor Who: Nevermore review

One of the things Who has always done well is play about in other worlds and tropes. The Brain of Morbius was Shelly’s Frankenstein, Weng Chiang the Phantom of the Opera etc.
Who has flirted with Gothic Horror many times before, so it was surprising to realise, while listening to this, that Who had never played in the world of Edgar Allen Poe before.
On the face of it, this is a trip through a number of Poe’s most famous creations. So we get a Black Cat, a Big Gothic House.
And Ravens. The Ravens here are wonderful creations- massive mechanical prison guards in a very peculiar prison.
Again we get the classic Who stuff- the aforementioned big robot creatures, mistaken identity, escapes into danger and the Doctor doing some furious name-dropping.
But beneath all this familiar stuff, there runs a darker theme that seems to be informing this whole series, and it’s something I’ll mention further in later reviews.
In the meantime though, Nevermore is great fun, and probably more so if you’re a Poe fan. It is always a treat to hear his wonderful prose being read aloud (he’s one of those writers that you can only really appreciate when it’s recited, I think), particularly when it’s a voice as distinctive as Paul McGann’s doing so.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Thought Bubble

We're a little bit late with this report, so please accept or apologies- but here we go!

Your trusty Hi-Ex organisers may have gained some extra time by cancelling Hi-Ex 2011, but we’re by no means skiving on our comic duties. We travelled to Leeds to attend the Thought Bubble festival of sequential Arts for the first time.

Thought Bubble is a long festival with many events across multiple venues, culminating in a one day convention with all the usual madness of costumes and the strange crowds of people you’d expect to see at a comic convention. 
Thought Bubble distinguishes itself from other events in a few ways. Like Hi-Ex, it is family friendly and there was a brilliant mix of boys and girls, men and women, stormtroopers and catwomen. It is also a very welcoming and friendly event.  They combine fun children’s activities, zombie walks, after show parties with lectures, talks, masterclasses, art happenings and academic discussions.

The guest list was more than impressive, with John Romita Jnr ( Kick-Ass and Spider-man artist ), Tony Harris ( Iron Man ), Adi Granov ( Ironman artist ), Barry Kitson ,  Bryan Talbot and, as the saying goes, many many more. There was something for every fan, many queued for hours to get sketches or signings off these comic greats.

There was much talk about Hi-Ex too. It’s pretty sad for us that we’ll have to wait so long to put on another one, but talking to the Leeds organisers as well as other events organisers from across the UK and Ireland, we are not alone in the struggle for funding. Things will get tougher too as the cut-backs bite in over the next few years. But seeing the fun everyone was having at Thought Bubble has definitely boosted our determination to keep Hi-Ex going, whether we can go back to an annual event or stay bi-annual we don’t know, but we will start work soon to try and organise some things for 2011 and fundraising ideas, both to fund the event and to support Children 1st as we’d hate to let them down.  Thought Bubble has got us all enthusiastic again!

One of the things which had previously put us off attending was also the travel from the North of Scotland, but via train it is actually pretty easy to get to and not that expensive if you book ahead. We will definitely go next year. 

Alan Moore IS Santa Claus

Why didn't we see this before?
Big flowing beard, living in the far reaches of the North... erm... am army of elf helpers... or something. Okay, so that analogy might not have legs, but he has proven to be a thoroughly nice man in this story from the Northampton Chronicle, which was linked on Facebook by his daughter, comic writer and all round gorgeous person, Leah Moore.

Find the story here.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

John Hicklenton's 100 Months review

I've been trying to get a review of this book written for about a month or so now, and the fates have variously conspired against me.
I did have a few hundred words written, but have somehow failed to save them, and it has since disappeared. But the main reason it has been difficult to review this book is because it is a very difficult book to review.
As most of you I’m sure will know, John Hicklenton was (I just wrote 'is' and had to delete it... see, already it’s getting hard to write this!) a comic book artist, probably best know for his work on Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock. Indeed, it is one particular panel in the story The Two Torquemadas that, for me, sums up everything that is dark and lunatic and scary and disturbing and blackly funny about John’s work.
This one:

In 2000, John was diagnosed with MS, and he took his own life in Dignitas in Switzerland on 19th March 2010, proving to be as uncompromising in death as he was in his life and in his art.
And so it is with this weight of knowledge that the reader must approach 100 Months, John’s final work. Written, as it was, with the full knowledge that it was to be his swan song, his final testament. Indeed, John took his life only days after completing this book. Now you perhaps understand the reviews dilemma here!
This book cannot be viewed, in my opinion, as simply a book. No, it has to be taken, as I have said (and again, in my opinion), as Hicklenton’s final statement to, and on, the world.

And what has he to say about it/us?
On the whole, this is a bloody bleak read. It tells the tale of Mara, an Earth Godess, who’s face we hardly see, thus making her both everyone and no-one.
She is seeking out a creature called the Longpig. Longpig is a true grotesque. A repulsive and ugly beast who represents all that is worst in humanity, and eventually Mara and Longpig must meet and battle, a brutal and visceral battle, for the soul of the world.

As with all great Art, there is great ambiguity here. Hicklenton seems to have a low opinion of us as a race, ‘Shaven apes tearing up the image of god,’ and of the mess we are making of this planet, and who could blame him? But the book, which (at the risk of repeating myself) is not an easy read, ends on a note that may just be hopeful. Perhaps, if we are given another chance, we might not be so wasteful and arrogant..?

It is amazing to me that I’ve written this far and not yet mentioned the art. It is, as you’d expect, breathtaking. If you’re a fan of Hicklenton’s work, you’ll maybe have an idea of what to expect, but he manages to surpass any expectations. There are images where Mara travels across a landscape of bones and twisted bodies that stop the reader in their tracks, demanding that they dwell on the image and tease out each and every last detail. And there are also deeply disturbing illustrations too- blood and flayed skin are high on the agenda. It is not  comfortable reading. It’s not supposed to be.

As I said at the beginning, this is a difficult book to review, and even now, I’m not sure I’ve managed to.
This book truly is the comic as sequential Art. It is disturbing, as I have already said repeatedly, but only because what Hicklenton is saying about us true. We are greedy and selfish and hateful, but as he points out, we ‘were meant to be more than this, warm with potential.’

I do think though, that Hicklenton has confidence in us as a race, and in our ability to perhaps one day overcome our shortcomings.
I hope he’s right.
Meanwhile- should you buy this book?
Absolutely you should.

Art from the book is featured in the exhibition ‘That’s Novel’ at the London Print Studio, 425 Harrow Road, London until 18th December 2010.
(Thanks to Phil for the Nemesis scan!)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Doctor Who: Situation Vacant review

If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s an 'hilarious' send up of a popular television series. I’ve read a number of Master Chef send up comic strips in the past few weeks, and the idea- for what it is- is tired and, in my opinion, more or less done to death.

I say more or less, because sometimes you encounter a send up, and for one reason or another, don’t click that’s what it is. Which is what happened with Situation Vacant. It was only when listening to the extras that I realised (well, I didn't realise- I was flat out told) that this had an Apprentice riff running through it. Perhaps I don’t watch enough television?

So, what we have here is an idea I’m surprised hasn’t been thought of before. The Doctor advertises for a new assistant, and sets the four applicants a series of tasks to perform, eliminating failures along the way…

See, now I’ve written that description, I feel a bit stupid at not spotting the reference!

Of course, the Doctor holds the interview/test in a hotel where there happens to be a convention of big brained scientists also meeting, so you know things will get serious soon. And they do.

What I really liked were the characters of the four prospective candidates. Each genuinely has something that an assistant needs- courage, intelligence, common sense etc, so any one would, in an ideal world, have made a great companion. And the fact that the one we get in the end is so unexpected speaks volumes for both the quality of writing and acting throughout.

But seriously... part of me is hoping that one of these will eventually end up to be a dud. Nothing yet though, I am, as I have said before, genuinely surprised by the consistent high standard of the Big Finish Who’s I have listened to so far.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

New from Metaphrog

Some exciting news from the lovely folks at Metaphrog, who we managed to speak to at Thought Bubble last weekend.

The book Loius-Night Salad is out now, and you can read a preview of it here.
And there is also a trailer on youtube that, if I have done this right will appear below this:

The book has already been getting lots of features in the media, including The Scotsman, The Big Issue UK wide, The Library Journal in the US, with more to come in the next few months.

This is what The Library Journal has said about it:

A dream-quest theme persists throughout this colorful book, which brings to mind many classic, if somewhat less unsettling, adventures: Harold and the Purple Crayon and Where the Wild Things Are. Established fans will delight in this volume; like Louis, new readers will enter the story perplexed but exit with joy.

They have also revamped their website into something even more brilliant than it previously was- check it out here.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Doctor Who: Death in Blackpool review

Now in a Lost style flashback, we’re going back a few episodes for the previously reviewed Deimos to the start of this particular season of Eighth Doctor adventures…

So, just imagine that sshhhooom! noise they do in Lost and read on!

Like it our hate it, but one of the most remarkable things that RTD Who has introduced to things is the Christmas special. It’s hard to believe that a series that was merely a fondly remembered childhood show for most people (and by that, I mean your normal man or woman on the street, not sci-fi fans!) is now a mainstay of Christmas Day television, up there with Eastenders and The Queen’s Speech.

And so it came to pass that the tradition has leaked over into the Big Finish range, with this Christmas set tale.

And a heart warming one it is too- full of festive cheer that will warm the cockles of your cold, miserly heart.

Well, actually, that is a lie. This is very much in the great tradition of the British TV Christmas special. You need to think Eastenders or Holby City (which gets name checked in the story) to get where this is coming from.

It’s pretty grim, to tell you the truth. But this grimness brings out the best in the actors, as we see one or two of the Doctor’s many chickens coming home to roost, along with a splendid red herring or two thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ingrid Pitt RIP

The BBC has reported that horror legend Ingrid Pitt has passed away at the age of 73.

Ingrid starred in many many classic horror movies in her time, including a raft of Hammer films, which were the staple diet of young men of a certain age...
She also starred in what is possibly the greatest film ever made. That is, of course, The Wicker Man.

She will be missed.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Cowboys and Aliens Trailer

Jon Favreau has just posted a link to the trailer for his new movie, the comic book adaption Cowboys and Aliens.

Now, if there's one thing we love here at HiEx it's movies with aliens in. And if there's anything we love even more- it's movies with cowboys in!
So, you throw in some Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, and we're pretty happy with this!

Green Lantern movie trailer

Well, this one has been a long time coming.
And while we don't quite understand why this was made before a more recognisable product like Wonder Woman, it looks pretty good so far.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Doctor Who: A Death in the Family review

Up until the advent of Matt Smith, Pat Troughton had been my favourite Doctor, but I have always had a soft spot for McCoy’s regeneration. I think he is underestimated (among non-Who fans at least). His Doctor became a much darker and manipulative figure than pervious incarnations, and with it became a much more interesting one.

I've dipped in and out of the previous Big Finish McCoy Whos, so only have a limited knowledge of the back story leading up to A Death In the Family. I’ve met the companion Hex on one other occasion, but the villain of the story was a new one on me. This was not a problem though, as he is introduced and explained perfectly as things unfold.
So, we begin in the usual Who fashion, with much running about and impending threat. But this is not your normal Who tale.
Episode one contains everything you’d normally expect from a four part adventure and really is plotted to the hilt by Steven Hall. It also ends on a pretty surprising cliff-hanger, which leads into the real story.
Now, obviously I can’t go into details without spoiling the plot, so I’ll try to limit my comments to things I can mention.
The writing for example. As I said of Deimos, this really is crammed full of plot.
I love my Who as much as the next man, but sometimes on TV, it can be plotted a bit… thinly. Not so here, where the producers cannot rely on visual spectacle to distract you from storytelling shortcomings. Here, if each scene doesn’t hit the mark, then things will quickly fall apart. But honestly, as a writer, I am very impressed by the standard of writing on this.
Acting next. McCoy knows his Doctor inside out and is as excellent as you would expect. Philip Oliver as Hex is also superb and gets some splendidly meaty scenes to sink his teeth into. I could go through them all and say all the cast are pretty much pitch perfect.
But I really want to single out Sophie Aldred. One of the episodes focuses on Ace and her part of the story. The performance she gives is incredible and really, it’s worth getting this story for this episode alone.
And yes, reading back on this it does sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. I really enjoyed this tale- and there have been some of the Big Finish range that have not impressed me at all- so I don’t feel bad about my rather positive review!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Green Lantern- first look

Ahead of the trailer in a few days time, a couple of shots from the new Green Lantern movie have been released.
Now, we haven't checked the comic forums, but are prepared to bet that there are thousands of comic fans pulling this apart frame by frame and talking at length about how it is just wrong and explaining how it should have been done.

Still, it looks all right so far!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Green Poo anyone?!

Behold the Dennis & Gnasher deliciousness that our Friend Alison made!

Alison tells us " The cake was for a friend's son's 10th birthday party. Dennis the Menace was requested. The inside was bright red Victoria sponge with black butter icing -
ideal for making 10 year olds' tongues black and poos green!!
I've been making novelty cakes for nearly 30 years for family and friends. I graduated in Illustration and Printmaking 30 years ago with a bit of an artist's block and turn my hand to most things creative, but knitting is my passion. You can see some of my creations on my artist's block blog www.alitheartist.blogspot.com and almost all my knitting on www.ravelry.com, ID knittinggran. "
Three cheers for comic fan Grans- and Thanks for Alison for virtually sharing her cake with us!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Dandridge Interview! Exclusive!

Dr Spartacus Dandridge has just embarked on a new adventure in the pages of 2000AD.
The good Doctor was kind enough to take a few moments from his bust schedule to speak to us here at HiEx.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Doctor Dandridge.

You’re most welcome.

Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Certainly. My name is Doctor Spartacus Dandridge. Those who know me well might accurately describe me as a man of fashion, a man of letters and, of course, a man of science. I am also ghosthunter by appointment to His Majesty Edward VII. Or at least I was. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I presently find myself - sans corpus - in the year 1981.
I understand my world differs quite significantly from your own, so allow me a moment to explain. In my world, the spiritualists of Victoria’s age developed a means of harnessing the psychokinetic energy (that’s ‘PKE’ to the layman) produced by ghosts, spectres, wraiths and so on. Certain captured ghosts became regarded as valued antiques, while ectoplasm or ‘white gold’ was soon employed as a fuel alternative.
While I tragically departed this life in 1905, I understand the development of ecto-technology continued apace and the empire has prospered well into the decade in which I find myself now. The cultural specifics of the 1980s elude me at present. However, I must say expectations of attire and of conduct befitting a gentleman appear to have fled before the dawn!

The last time the readers met you, you died! How’s that working out for you? And how did you find your way back into 2000 AD?

Death, I would hardly recommend! Now, before I explain how I came to record my engagements for the benefit of 2000 AD, you must understand that times are hard in my own world, and funds remain scarce. I was therefore compelled to contact Mr. Tharg the Mighty, who promptly began bellowing at me from the other end of his dimensional telephone. How had I gotten hold of his number? How would I like a ‘Rigellian Hotshot’ for my troubles, and so on? I calmly pointed out that it was me who had cleared up an infected chakra for him a while back and how unfortunate it might be if the circumstances of the affair were communicated to the terran newspapers.
Following several hours of intense negotiation, he finally agreed to pay me for my contributions. However, I fear I ended up somewhat short-changed. I was hoping for a biographer of quality, Mr. Wagner, Mr. Mills or perhaps that young fellow who looks like a lumberjack. Sadly, the recessionary pressures currently affecting your world forced me to make certain… allowances.

What do you think of your biographers, Worley and Pleece?

I’m sorry? Pleece? Yes, I must say, I rather like them. ‘Walking on the Moon’ was especially good…

No, Warren Pleece?

Oh. Well, I read it years ago. Dreadfully long-winded…


Oh, forgive me! This is a terrible line. Yes, Warren Pleece. Worked on several terran comics of note, I understand, including ‘Hellblazer’, ‘The Invisibles’, and ‘Life Sucks’. As a long-standing patron of the arts, it is with no small amount of pride that I have him aboard as my co-biographer. In fact, I believe he and his brother Gary are currently engaged at the ‘That’s Novel!’ exhibition at the London Print Studio. (www.londonprintstudio.org.uk)

And Mr. Worley?

As I mentioned before, one has had to make certain ‘allowances’ as part of my current arrangement with 2000 AD. Mr. Worley’s involvement unfortunately being one of them. As I have explained to Tharg on several occasions, Mr. Worley is annoyingly prone to tantrums, crying, and hurling himself across the furniture screaming ‘leave me alone’, ‘I hate you’ and so on. While such gothic outbursts may be tolerated coming from a teenage girl with an enthusiasm for the works of Ms. Stephenie Meyer, it is rather less becoming in a 36-year-old man resembling a poorly attired Liverpudlian soccer player.

Do you think they do you justice in their depiction of you?

Mr. Pleece, certainly. Worley, however, lacks a certain refinement. Incidentally, if you ever meet Mr. Patrick Mills, can you please give him my card and ask him to call me…

What kind of japes can we expect from you in 2000 AD?

Japes? On the contrary, my engagements are of the utmost seriousness! Look here, I really don’t want it to be presumed that I am here to amuse readers. I aim to bring a sense of dignity and decorum to their favourite publication. A cursory glance over recent issues of 2000 AD only emphasises my point. Any editor who allows tramps to become undercover detectives, zombies to trample the Tower of London, and overmuscled Irishmen to run amok in kilts has clearly taken leave of his senses! However, that Russian laddie has a marvellous sense of style.

Can we expect any further adventures from you?

Indeed you can. Mr. Worley is currently penning another engagement as we speak, at least he was when I left him a moment ago. He may have sneaked out again to visit his friend at some sinister dwelling he refers to only as ‘Gregg’s’.

I need a new pair of shoes. Can you give me any advice?

Avoid plimsolls at all costs. Too many young people these days are told such items are ‘hip’ and ‘practical’. They are, however, merely unnecessary. The man of affairs maintains an unhurried pace in the face of any peril. For this reason, two dozen pairs of classic brogues are a base requirement for any supernatural investigator’s wardrobe. While the brogue has, in my opinion, become somewhat ‘modernised’ since Edward’s day, the Chelsea boot affords a sublime alternative. These allow an investigator to maintain a dashing air of command, whether engaged in a particularly messy exorcism or seated in the wingback chair of his occult library.

Dr. Dandridge, thank you for your time.

A pleasure.

Episode 1 of 5 of DANDRIDGE: RETURN OF THE CHAP begins in 2000 AD # 1710 – out now. For further details, visit the 2000 AD website or Dr. Dandridge’s blog.

We would like to extend our thanks to Mr Alec Worley, who made this unique interview possible.

How do they do this???

I've just bought the dance game thingy for the Kinect. But I have one very big question- how the hell does this work?
How does it know that when you're pretending to kick a ball, your foot has hit where the ball is supposed to be and translate that into pictures on the screen?
I have thought long and hard about this and have come to the only logical conclusion.

It is magic.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Walking Dead gets a second season!

We didn't get around to reviewing the first episode, so here's a brief one (with spoilers!):
It was brilliant. The opening scene- a long silent section that ending with the hero shooting a child (albeit a dead one) in the face- certainly set the scene for the grimness that was to follow.
There were many highlights- Morgan's terrible heartbreak as he watches his dead wife through the sights of a gun and the astonishingly tense sequence where Rick was caught below a tank and feeling pity for half a corpse as it dragged itself across the grass to name but a few. It's great to see scenes from a comic come to life in such a perfect fashion, and equally as pleasurable to see scenes changed- but for the better.
Roll on the rest of the season.

And more good news follows, as The Hollywood Reporter, er, reports that it has been given a second season!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tron- Trailer 3

Now, there's a lot of love for the original Tron movie out there on the internet (a fact that is itself full of irony), but I have a confession to make- I was never a fan.

Oh, it looked good and all that, but it lacked little things like a narrative structure or a storyline of any kind... This looks thoroughly spectacular though.

The amazing blog of Mr Alec Worley

2000AD writer and all round nice fellow Alec Worely has, it seems, started a blog- and we thoroughly recommend you have a look- and indeed hit the follow button on it!

For the next few weeks, Alec tells us, the blog will be guest written by by Alec's superb creation Doctor Spartacus Dandridge.
So head on over there and have a look!

Michael Carroll Speaks!

So here we have it! The first in what we hope will be a long series of interviews with artists, writers and all round cool people.For anyone who has been to HiEx, Mike should need no introduction. He's a spectacularly good writer and also a good friend of ours- as well as being responsible for the majestic looking HiEx website.

And here we go...

Tell us about your books…
The New Heroes (published in the USA under the title Quantum Prophecy) is a series of superhero novels – and short stories – for the “young adult” market. To date, four novels have been published and the fifth is scheduled for publication next summer. I’m currently working on the sixth… The plan, should it all come together, is for eight novels in total.

The first three books (The Quantum Prophecy, Sakkara and Absolute Power) tell the story of two young teenage boys who grew up in a world very much like the real one, except that until ten years ago there use to be superheroes… All the superheroes (and supervillains!) disappeared following a great big battle. Our young heroes, naturally, start developing superhuman abilities of their own, and this triggers a sequence of events that, ultimately, leads to a battle for world domination!

We learn pretty early on in the first book that the old superhumans didn’t all die, they simply lost their powers. That’s the “first phase” of the story, and the third book wraps up most – but not all! – of the plot threads.The second phase begins with the fourth novel – Super Human – which is set about 23 years before the main storyline of the first phase, back in the days when many of the old superhumans were still in their teens and early twenties… And still had their powers.
It basically tells the story of how the world of the first phase came to be, plus it plants a few seeds for the future.
The fifth novel carries on from the fourth, but I’m not saying a word about that one, other than that it’s called The Ascension and it’s tremendously exciting!The sixth novel… Well, it’s part of the second phase too, but it’ll be quite a bit different to the others. That’s all I’m saying!
How long have you been writing? What got you started?

I’ve been writing since… um… a long time ago. My first published short story appeared in 1990, and my first novel in 1993. That was a YA novel too, and it’s scary to think that the thirteen-year-olds it was aimed at are now thirty.
As to how I got started… I’ve always wanted to write, from as far back as I can remember. I don’t remember ever actually making the decision to be a writer – it’s always been a part of me.
But, as I’m forever telling other would-be writers, wanting to write is not the same as writing. When I was in my early teens I wrote some absolutely rubbish short stories, and more than once I started a novel. I don’t think I got more than a few pages into any of them.
One I recall quite clearly was my unofficial novelisation of the first Judge Death story from 2000 AD: I was very impressed with the character of Judge Death and thought it would be an ideal way to delve into the history of Judge Dredd.
That one was hammered out on my mother’s old portable manual typewriter… You young people today with your word-processors! You don’t know you’re born, you lot! The portable manual typewriter… Man, it was tough going. To get some idea of what it was like, try sending a tweet on your smartphone while wearing oven gloves and a blindfold. The keyboard didn’t have a one or a zero: instead, we were expected to use lower-case L and capital O. And – here’s the kicker for anyone who’s never used a typewriter – when you got to the end of the page you had to take it out and put in a new one. Plus there was no Undo!
Anyway… That Judge Death novel didn’t survive more than a couple of pages either.
I didn’t really get started writing until I joined the Irish Science Fiction Association in 1989, and I only found out about the association because I saw a flyer advertising the appearance of Harry Harrison – my all-time favourite author – at an upcoming meeting. This is where all the links begin to join up, guys… I discovered Harry’s books because his novel The Stainless Steel Rat was adapted in 2000 AD.
Once I joined the association I submitted a short story to their fiction magazine FTL, and three months later I somehow became the magazine’s editor (and shortly after that, chairman of the association).
Around that time some members of the association decided to run a convention – Octocon, which still takes place every year in October – and they advertised for people to help out. One of those people was Leonia, with whom I immediately fell in love and subsequently married (best decision I ever made!).
At the second Octocon in 1991 I met the writer Michael Scott, and mentioned to him that I’d “always wanted to write a novel.” Michael responded with, “Well, why don’t you?” I didn’t have an answer for that… That was the key event that turned me from a wanna-be writer with a small handful of rather badly-written stories behind me to an actual writer working feverishly on his first real novel. Which also turned out to be rather badly-written, but I didn’t realise that then!
So it all started with 2000 AD!

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m finishing up the pre-development work on the sixth Quantum Prophecy novel, plus I’ve got some strips for 2000 AD in the pipeline, and I’ve just finished an adult novel based on John HigginsRazorjack graphic novel. That’s not a novelisation, mind you: it’s an original tale inspired by John’s excellent work! It’s called Double-Crossing and it’ll be coming out from Com.X next year, alongside Al Ewing’s wonderful and incredibly disturbing novel Wire Mother, also a Razorjack novel – hopefully, they’ll be just the first two of many in an ongoing series!

Following the sixth Quantum Prophecy novel, I’ll be laying down the plans for the final two novels in the series. I’m so looking forward to that I can barely contain myself! The seventh book ends on the mother and father of all cliff-hangers, and the eighth one... Well, I’ll just say that it wraps up the whole storyline in a way that no one is going to see coming!

In an ideal world what would you like to be doing?
I’m doing it! Writing is the best job in the world! Ideally, though, I’d like to be doing what I’m doing now, only with more money. It’s not that I’m greedy, it’s just that all of the money in the world is mine. Most people don’t yet seem to have realised that.

What is your biggest frustration as a writer?
Gaah! Where do I start? There are so many frustrating things about this job… It’s hard to pick just one! See, even though I said it’s the best job in the world, it does have negative points. For example: when a celebrity comes along with a book someone else wrote for them and it tops the best-seller lists. That’s annoying – they’re already rich and now they’re taking money away from real writers!Also annoying: when a fictional character on TV has written a book. In those cases, their books are always best-sellers and they always get to plug the book on Oprah.
In real life, 99% of writers earn less than the minimum wage, there’s almost no promotion, there are no swanky black-tie launch parties, and bookstore signings run the very high risk of absolutely no one turning up to meet the writer (that has actually happened to me!).
Equally annoying: When a publisher gives a brand-new writer a seven-figure advance which completely blows the budget for the next couple of years, leading to established writers – whose books were plodding along quite nicely until then – suddenly finding themselves dropped. Grr! (Still, at least there’s the satisfaction of watching that brand-new writer’s books go straight into the bargain bookstores!)
But my biggest frustration as a writer… When a publisher tells you the bad news that a book didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped, so they won’t be taking the next one. That’s bad, but what’s even badder is when the publishers invested exactly zero money in promoting said book.
I mean, that’s their job! My job is to write the words, their job is to make sure the book sells. If it doesn’t sell, it’s their fault, not mine! The quality of a book has very little to do with how well it sells: we can all name absolutely rotten books that are massive best-sellers.
Of course, it’s important to understand that it cuts both ways: when a book sells really well, it’s almost never because it’s a good book – it’s because the publishers have got a good marketing team and they’ve invested a lot of time and money into promoting the book.
Therein lies a great danger, though… See, even though the author’s name is prominent on the cover, we don’t do this alone. Very few authors are so good that they can produce a perfect manuscript right out of the box: Good books need good editors to kick them into shape. But when an author’s books becomes a huge success the idea starts to form that the success is entirely theirs, that their words are sacred and should not be altered. When that happens, when the author becomes more important than the book, the quality of the finished product starts to slip.

What is or has been a particular high point for you?

I’ve had a lot of high points: Having one of my stories picked to appear in a school textbook, being named by a very well-known literary critic as his favourite living Irish writer, having my first story appear in 2000 AD, seeing someone on the train reading one of my books and laughing out loud at the funny parts…

But probably the biggest high point was a couple of months ago when I received an e-mail from a woman in America: she said that her son was a very reluctant reader, way behind everyone else in his grade, and they had tried everything to get him interested in books. Nothing worked, until they found the Quantum Prophecy series. He ploughed through the first book in only a couple of days, and then begged her to buy the rest of the series. Now, she said, her son is a voracious reader, his grades have shot up, he’s paying much more interest in school – he’s now top of his class – and, even better, he’s turned from a sullen, sulky loner into a bright, out-going young man who is “a lot more pleasant to be around!”
I can’t claim credit for all of that, of course, but it’s nice to know that my books provided the spark. That’s why I write. That’s why I put in eighty-plus hours a week! Not for the fame or the money, but for the satisfaction of knowing that there are kids out there, most of whom I’ll never meet, who are reading my books, enjoying them, and – hopefully – discovering the joy of reading.

Did your education help or hinder the work you do now?
I reckon it helped… I should point out that I left school at sixteen so I don’t have a lot of formal education, but I had a couple of great English teachers in secondary school who really helped me to appreciate the written word. For most of my formative years I read only science fiction, but Mister Murtagh and Mister Pender taught me to expand the boundaries. There are good books that don’t have monsters, robots or aliens in them! Astonishing!
I do often wonder how my life would have turned out had I stayed in school and then gone to college (not because I have any regrets, but because I’m a writer and my job is to wonder about everything all the time).
What is your writing work regime if you have one?

I generally get up at about ten, and work through until my wife gets home at six in the evening. Then I work from eleven that night until about four the next morning (and I get a lot more work done in those five hour at night than in the eight hours of the day – mostly because the phone doesn’t ring!). At the weekends, I generally do about eight or nine hours each day.
It all depends, though, on what stage I’m at in a book. For each book, I generally spend about six months in “pre-production”: working out the plot, designing the characters, pulling together all the necessary research, and so on.
For the plot, I start with a bunch of ideas and constantly go over and over the story, looking at every part of it from every possible angle. I do this in the word-processor, writing notes to myself. By the time I get to the end, I’ll have the entire story worked out, right down to certain exchanges of dialogue. The development document for Absolute Power, for example, is about 45,000 words. The book itself is only 65,000 words.
After the pre-production stage comes the first draft. That’s always, always a very intense time: I almost never leave the house and I’ll often put in a hundred hours a week or more. I don’t stop until the first draft is done. At the beginning, I’ll be writing maybe two or three thousand words a day, but by the time I get to the end I’ll be hitting five or six thousand. The last day is usually one very long session: my record is 18,000 words in one twenty-hour sitting!
When the first draft is done, I set the book aside for a week or two, then I come back to it with a fresh eye and start marking all the parts that need to be fixed. I can get pretty ruthless at this stage, cutting out huge chunks of text (there’s probably over 150,000 words of New Heroes stuff that’ll never see the light of day!). The second draft is where I fix all the broken parts. Then I go over it one more time and do some minor tweaking for the third draft.
After that, the book goes off to my editor (that’s the “official” first draft!). He’ll get back to me with a list of suggestions and observations about the plot: what’s working and what’s not, what could be improved, and so on. I should be honest her and tell you that when my editor suggests a change to a certain passage I almost never follow his ideas… Not because he’s wrong – he’s usually right that it needs to be changed – but because his suggestion and observation will force me to look at that passage from a different perspective, and that challenges me to come up with something even better.
Once that official second draft is done, the book is finished! Except, of course, that it’s not… There’s the copy-editing stage where typos are caught and minor errors in the flow are found, followed by the “this is your last possible chance to make changes” stage. And then the proof pages are type-set and they have to be checked too.

What else other than writing is important in your life?

My wife, my family, my friends, my cats… Plus there’s my far-too-big (but, paradoxically, still not big enough) collection of CDs, movies, comics and books. I don’t read as much as I probably should – when I’m reading I feel guilty for not writing, even though deep down I know that reading is just as important as writing for a job like mine.I’m a keen but not very talented computer graphic artist: for the Quantum Prophecy books I create graphics of all the major characters (you can find most of them on the website). I’ve had no training and rarely know what I’m doing, but it’s a lot of fun and a good distraction when I’m working on a plot (sometimes the only way to solve a tricky plot problem is to push it to the back of the brain and let your subconscious work it out).

I also still dabble a little with computer programming. I’ve been out of the business for eleven years now so I’m nowhere near as good as I used to be, but I’ve recently written a couple of programs that have proved very useful for writers, especially my Name Generator! When writing you can lose a huge amount of time trying to come up with a good name for a minor character – but Mike’s Name Generator has a database of thousands of first and last names, and can generate billions of combinations – it’s the most useful program I’ve ever written!
My Fake Word Generator has also been quite handy. It strings together random digrams and trigrams (common two- and three-letter combinations) to form words that aren’t real but often sound like they are. I used that a lot when writing Razorjack: Double-Crossing to create alien-sounding names.

Where can people find out more about you?

Visit my websites at www.michaelowencarroll.com and www.quantumprophecy.com – all you need to know about me and my books can be found there!

Thank you Michael!