SF & F: Axel America and the News Election Race

Everyone’s keen to talk to me about Axel America and Donald Trump. Huddled together neighbours at a car crash, gleefully hiding terror. Never mind the politics, glance at the news media: photo-fit and run. The novel is about communication sciences: propaganda and cyber-stalking, everyday rather than futurist. It has many of the elements of science-fiction: Manchurian Candidates, super-intelligent defence systems and Tesla technology in the first five chapters and more throughout. Then there’s the psychology/SF cross-over: a presently advanced world subjected to Axel’s delusionary perception of global pandemics and martial law, holographic waves, time travel, light and sound weapons. It’s a book on the border of the news and conspiracy theory, fused by recent advances in social media. Threaded through it are themes of order versus chaos, war and peace, authoritarianism versus free will. One question I get a lot is ‘how do you satirise the satirical?’, and I say it’s a challenge, and we chuckle. Rupert Murdoch, Kay Burley, Piers Morgan, Donald Trump, Alex Jones: how do you look at the dark human cartoon and study their projections? One answer is to go right past the fiction of SF and into Fantasy. The novel pulls on the strings of bible prophecy, distant Pangaea, mercenary assassins, secret caves and valuable artefacts and more fitting elements to frame these dark cartoons. They’re comfortably enjoying their lives which disrupt. The incoherent, or unacceptable, nature of these news media antagonists and their rules requires hacking: not from the choices they give us, but from every choice.

I’ve been invited as a last minute guest to Titancon in Belfast this weekend at the Wellington Park Hotel. There you can pick up a copy of Axel America and the U.S. Election Race from myself at the AGPublishings stall.

You can support bookstores in Belfast by purchasing it from No Alibis, The Thinking Cup, Comic Book Guys and Forbidden Planet International. Or in Dublin, from Sub City Comics or The Winding Stair. The book is also available on Kindle and Smashwords.

belfast-89fm

Lisa Flavelle’s Morning Talk-In, Belfast 89FM.

We’ve had some good reviews in The Irish News, Authors Talk About It and Belfast 89FM, which you can find on the Axel America page, along with a round-table vid-cast I’m on, produced by Nimlas Studios, talking about mental health in fiction.

Cover artist Sean Duffield models Axel America.

Cover artist Sean Duffield models Axel America: oh, the pride!

Axel Live: Writing & Editing Diary

This week I’ve been working with Andrew Gallagher on his 2nd draft/my 7th draft of Axel America. Yes, novels are usually worked through with proofers and publishers and done six months or more prior to publishing. In this case, I didn’t begin talking with AG Publishings until two months ago. It’s not as if it can be put off either – the story of Axel America takes place between April and October of this year, and a release any later kind of robs it of some of it’s power. You’ll see. We’re in the very unusual position of altering the story up to one month before publication. I think the novel is more functional because of this error of mine and it’s a guilty pleasure too, where I’m able to include in references to current events. It’s also a double-edged sword. Mick Falk is a character obsessed with the European conspiracy, and with the Referendum gone the way it has, I’m currently re-writing Falk’s character in the second half. The second draft is gruelling. Positively stress-inducing aargh, because I’m letting go, delivering the bloody baby. The third draft will be a final check for typos, punctuations etc., should be a dawdle.

So that’s why I’m still writing about editing, when other writers had all this done moons ago.

The advance information sheets are just waiting for clearance, but the promotionals have begun.  I’ve been writing tweets for @TheAxelAmerica and @TruthLive_TV to coincide with the annual Bohemian Grove festivities which start today.

If you’ve been by @andrewluke on Twitter, you’ll see I ran a ’60 Great Small Press’ list of comics that have touched me. These are being collected on John Freeman’s Down The Tubes, and the first part went up a few days ago. 

Universal Journey: Magic and Multiverse

My first commissioned work as an author went live today at http://universaljourney.org

The site explores the three Abrahamic faiths from an agnostic perspective: symbolism; history; stories; and legacies. I’ve authored sections on Saints David and George, but my star turn is an expanded piece on magic and the multiverse. It was an exciting opportunity to write about my own religious beliefs and I’m grateful I had the opportunity. (I’m not sure I did so since entering a design and content competition hosted a YA bible magazine competition in the 80s; I was listed as a runner-up) Universal Journey introduces me as, ‘ a polytheist christian.’ It’s a long time since I thought of myself as the latter, but part of being the former is that it’s all-inclusive, so why the heck not? Away you have a browse; oh but first…

Thanks everyone who’s voted Flesh Mob for Best Story over at http://orb-store.com/tense.htm and bought copies of Tense Situations into the bargain. Superb bees.

Part 3: To The Point and Black Panel Tour

Comics are distributed in and out of Ireland by small pressers visiting different festival cities on tour. In Part 1 of this column I’ve recounted our experiences at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast and in Part 2, at the 2D Comics festival in Derry.

At the 2D Festival I’d picked up Phil Barrett’s BlackshapesGer Hankey’s Short Sharp Socks and three new Tommie Kelly titles for sell at our stall.

Also, probable liver damage.

tommie kelly is talented but also an arsehole

(Above: Tommie Kelly’s new book From Rags To Rockstars and a piece from the new Something Wonderful series. If you’re funds are low on the ground, Tommie has made Something Wonderful available as a legal torrent: see the second link above for details)

6th Juneben1
It’s a two hour scenic beauty ride to Belfast by Translink’s Bus service. I’d taken the insomnia ticket the night before. It had come in at a few seconds. The Black Box is a fifteen minute walk from the Europa Bus Station. Paddy’s mum had the car out, and dropped me off to set up our monthly stall. Paddy wisely went home to Doctor Who. While I performed the gargantuan feat-breaker two comics festivals in a row without a stop?

Nay. It was “dead”.

Not a single sale. Barely a look.

The market looked finer than it ever had. Stalls were front loaded with a variety of miscellany, a harem of printed papers, silks, badges, poi staffs and knitted wear. Ben Allen afforded me a few words of comfort. Ben is great like that. He’s a regular fixture at the market who plays around with pop art and printmaking. He takes his inspiration from artists who are fans of music, Peter Blake, Robert Crumb…
If you’re on Facebook, take a look at his profile or read an interview about his work on Northern Irish iconography.

Cara Cowan by Ben - drypoint etching

Above: Ben Allen’s drypoint etching of Cara Cowan, from his workings out of The Creative Exchange.

As it turned out, everyone in Belfast may have been recovering from festivals. The Hay Festival and Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival. Would it be too much to ask of my home city to get over flogging a dead ship?

June 9th

Alice Quigley, Black Market organiser mentions new creative academic and bursary opportunities in Belfast. She seems keen I give it a go, but it’s worth a mention for other interested parties.

The weekend has left me feeling spiritually drained so perhaps it’s time I started thinking seriously about this.

June 12th
Bloody Hell O’ Clock, Paddy might have said. Having slept for most of the last day, I’m a bit chirpier. I jump around sunlit fields looking for a laptop socket and the conductor informs me we have none. The sea outside Dublin looks the finest. I’d gotten a day return for £10 online, well worth it, and the tram to the dockside was 3 euros return. It was a smooth but unusual ride, as if Gene Roddenberry himself had returned to drive me by limo to the end of a street. We wander around for a while, looking into buildings still being completed. Sat outside on benches with cigarette and gourmet hotdog. More building fronts visited, with concrete and dust and hardhats coming and going. The front is laid out with tents offering ghee and cakes and paintings and prints and trinkets. Paddy spots a group of tents off to the side, four of them. And we set up stalls.

Point Village Comics Fest by Rob Curley

Point Village Comics Fest by Rob Curley

Point Village Comics Fest by Rob Curley

Point Village Comics Fest by Rob Curley

Above right: Barry Keegan, Gareth Gowarn, Robert Curley, Maura McHugh and Stephen Daly. Both photos made available via Rob Curley.

I was a bit nervous about selling comics outside but the sun never stopped and the wind was weak. English-based creators had come over for the day: Leonie O’Moore (There Goes Tokyo) and Jenika Ioffreda (Vampire Free Style) I’d my sales patter working fine and teamed up with Paddy to offer a special on our 24 hour comics which worked well.

Opposite, an attractive woman named Anna sat on the bench engaging the comic I’d written about my late grandmother, Eileen Lucas. Beside her, laid on the bench was her boyfriend taking in the sun. I watched them for a while and it was very pretty. The boyfriend exercised his legs and came over to the stall.
“My girlfriend says if I wish to know what your comic is about I should get to know you.”
Shyly, he retreated. I watched them for a few more minutes before joining them on the bench where we talked for ten about family, nationality, weather, comics and all sorts. Connecting with complete strangers are either side of the space between panels in a good comics festival.

(IMAGE MISSING)

Parts of the day went by like tumbleweed too. There were workshops for kids on creating comics and a pop-up book workshop by Maeve Clancy which I would have loved to see.
I suspect festival organisers part-agenda in workshops for kids is to prevent established creators from abandoning their stall-hosting responsibilities.
(Check out Maeve’s pop-up book created for Lisa Hannigan’s video to “Lillie”)

I did manage to abscond for a few hours though, checking out the spit-roast pig, sharing coffee with a lovely environmentalist and visiting other stallholders such as Damien O’Reilly, whose Pinback Magazine is a glossy follow-on from his 2000-era artzine, Paper Cuts. (And well it looks too) The evening ended with a few beers at Maeve Clancy’s home before the Roddenberry tram treated my weakened bladder most delicately.

(IMAGES MISSING)

The Point Village gig was organised by Hilary Lawler. This is the link to her weblog where there are a number of lovely drawings.

The Black Panel will be selling the works of Irish mini-comics creators at The Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast on Sunday 4th and 18th July. We’ll also be picking up new comics at Summer Edition 2010, Filmbase, Temple Bar, Dublin on 24th July for selling in Belfast on August 1st.

Part 2D: Derry Comics Festival

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for (now extinct) Alltern8; Comicking.

Photos by Ciaran Flanagan
Following on from last week’s report, the indie comix tour picked up at Sandino’s Bar in Derry for the fourth annual 2D Festival in Derry, NI.

Or rather outside the bar. The pavement has some seating (and twenty kegs), and as 2D “raises the bar”, each year the street fills further.

2d by Ciaran Flanagan

Inside, I was missing the ‘Social Commentary in Comics’ panel where Pat Mills spoke about Crisis, and ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, (photo above) which didn’t seem to have much focus in the twenty minutes I sat in it. (Though Ron from the Sunnyside Podcast was throwing out some great comedy moments.) On top of the drink and the food I came down with a dose of professional jealousy. I’ve slogged away at comics criticism for a decade. Oh well, I groaned. I’d wanted to put more time into making comics anyhow. (Skeptical readers can look out for my appearance at the Breaking into Comics panel in 2017 folks.)

This was pretty much the end of my getting any more professional revenue from the 2D Festival 2010. The rest of the evening was spent having mystomach operated on watching Mark Stafford dance like a Baachanalite pro.Lew Stringer
Conversing with Phil Barrett, Paddy Brown, Ger Hankey and Aiden, the editor of Irish language comic, Ri-Ra.

I’d managed to drive all but Phil away, spreading my arms over the back of the dumpster, beckoning for a fight.

2000 AD ain’t shit! Come on, why should I should read 2000 AD? It’s not so feckin great. Who’s man enough? Give me five good reasons. Bring it!”

After Phil had calmed me down on the mob’s behalf, Ger and Aiden returned. The conversation led to the importance of the Transformers comic in our growing up. (Ger Hankey is the quintessential Transformers professional: his portfolio captures the height of it’s powers: sign up someone!) Every week, we were delivered a cultural injection of action adventure morality in original narrative and cosmic art.

Lew Stringer“, said Aiden.
Lew Stringer is the artist behind Brickman, The Suburban Satanists, Robo-Capers and Combat Colin. The latter two ran in Transformers, and Stringer’s pieces apppeared in most of the 332 issues of the series. So Aiden theorised that the comic’s success was due to him. Redeeming myself, I agreed that Lew’s work formed a central part of this generation’s cultural consciousness.

clint1I’ve long been convinced Mark Millar gets way more column inches than he deserves. In soliciting big name creatives Johnathan Ross and Frankie Boyle in his forthcoming CLint

comic through UK newsstands, he’d earn his current attention. But where was Lew Stringer in all of this?

How could we, one mankind, united brother to brother and sister by Lew’s good works, have a regular British comic without content from Lew Stringer? So, I staggered to the hostel, and created a petition, and fell asleep. I figured this was the kind of thing to do while drunk.

5th June
Saturday of 2D is sales and signings day. I had the misfortune to have my white and black comics in the corner beside the good chaps at Comics and Collectables, the Derry comics store.

My booklets seem to take on a blank space and serve as Coca-Cola bottle coasters for the under-14s. Sales were slow, though this was going around. New stock for the Belfast market was acquired including Tommie Kelly’s From Rags to Rockstars, and two new Something Wonderful mini-comics, which gave the chuckles.

In the evening, food at a fancy meat joint with Barrett, Brown, Maeve Clancy and a few others. We returned again to Sandino’s, as full as my stomach. I had a pleasant chat with Glenn Fabry about mutual acquaintances and locality. However, the rest of the evening was a blur and I left early for the comfort of the hostel.

2d again by flanagan verbal arts

(Above: A quiet moment in the dealers hall, tiny stormtrooper and a talented young artist trying to raise some money to fund his university education. Photos taken by Ciaran Flanagan, 2D assistant and reviewer of graphic novels for the (venue), Verbal Arts Centre magazine. Below: the pub again)

2d sandinos flanagan 2010

My 2D experience this year was a downer. Feelings of depression, inadequacy, missed opportunities and hangovers. By the end of it, I was shattered and giving serious thought to my future with comics. As it has been turning out, this was fundamentally a good thing. Everyone I spoke with about the event volunteered they had a fantastic time. The organisers, David, Ciaran and other creatives handled with a professional respect that should be the envy of many. (I’m told Chief runner David Campbell had become a father only weeks beforehand, which makes this ADDED WINS.) Our sincerest thanks to the team for a great weekend.

 

If you would like to read some more about the event, check out Aaron ‘Ron’ Abernathy’s report for Culture NI on “the most relaxed’ comic con festival around”. There’s also some great video footage from the event.

 

6th June
Ah, but I’ve over-run my word count. Look out for Part 3 over the next few days as the tour moves from Derry to Belfast to Dublin and back.

 

Part 1: Black Panel Tour

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for (now extinct) Alltern8; Comicking.

Black Market CQAF

May 2:

Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival brings to Belfast a wealth of creative acts each year. Traders turn up to the fat gazebo at 10am, rather than 11:35, for the midday start. Big black tent. In retrospect, quarantine zone and reflection of the darkskies. The only lit area is a huge spotlight which spends the day trained on my retinal damage. Paddy says I’m being grumpy today, I think (later), that’s his expression of the same. A room-sized sound system scalps my ears, steals my notions away from the quality of talking with customers. I’m worried the cognitive connect will place us at the marquee, rather than the usual venue. Paddy and I make the same money as a usual day, but not so the artists we’re stocking. I have two days migraines.

Black Market Marquee

The event lasted for only four hours. I wish I’d noticed that before setting my alarm.

Good stuff: I liked the painting wall and peanut butter cupcakes. Ok, the music was okay.

Black Market Marquee 2

Lesson to event organisers: Think about what works. Don’t hit small markets with formed standards of big markets. It’s wanky and regressive.


May 5: We’re invited at short notice to be part of the Black Market for kids special but decline. Ri-Ra, two issues to date, is a great Irish language comic with great artists. Less than half our indy comics are suitable for kids, Ri-Ra and Hilary Lawler’s SuperHillbo are the only ones with an aim close to them. Paddy issued a call for more kids comics last year on his blog. The event was held in a marquee somewhere.

May 6: Belfast Comics Pub Meet is turned into a Drink n Draw. At the request of Stephen Downey I script a quick Batman comedy. Animator Ann Harrison of Celtic Dragon Studios is lashing down pencils and erasers of female characters. (The Pratchett visual opposite is from Ann’s blogspot) Paddy Brown speed-draws Iron Man and Stephen Downey is photographing everything in sight like a contortionist with part tricks.

Email comes through. Upcoming Black Books is our final one. By and large our comics stall has been successful, but we’re the exception. The event is cancelled as a regular bit, asides from a Trans July 18th event. (Trans aim to offer an alternative to Ulster July-festivals, away from the drumming and burning of stuff. They facilitate both the Black Books and Black Market events).

May 8: Interview with Phil Barrett, our best-selling cartoonist. You can read that here.

May 16: The final Black Books and again we draw in the crowds and the cash. I’ve begun to gather a fanbase and get a few sales of ‘Absence’, including off the back of my previous 24 hour comic. I don’t have any photos of this, so here’s one from a previous gig. (missing again)

Left to Right: Andrew Croskery (Kronos City), One satisfied punter with my comic. She also picked up a copy of Cancertown by Stephen Downey, and on the end next to him, beside the comics and handbags, my stall-mate, Patrick Brown.

June 2: Back from the pub meet where PJ Holden is seducing us with his “Ippad”. The printer on loan from a writer friend has been buzzing all week, replenishing stocks of the sold-out ‘Absence’. Map and bus ticket? Check.2D

June 3: The Derry Verbal Arts Centre for the 2D Comics Festival. Gary Erskine is looking over my thumbnails and generally being quite helpful and enthusiastic. Garry Leach comes over for a look too. The twenty other students making up are busy at their thumbnails.

Walking along the walls with organiser David Campbell I’m treated to a view of Phil Barrett‘s new collection which has been run through his printing and publishing service. Also joining us on this downhill trip are Pat Mills and the unexpectedly stable and attuned Glenn Fabry. I’d expected him to be drunk and cursing about women. A total pleasant gentleman.

Before I know it I’m in a sort of green room: softly lit comics celebrities across the skyline. I don’t know any faces to names and spying Barrett in the corner, make my way across before security turfs me out. At dinner, we’re joined by Colin MacNeil who is also pleasant. I don’t know where all these tortured artistic psychos are that I’ve heard so much about.

Then, it’s off to Sandino’s Bar. Glenn has heard it’s a socialist conspiracy venue full of rant and rage. I miss the first panel as I stop for a Guinness outside in the evening sun. It is to be a harbringer of things to come.

Look for Part 2 of The Black Panel Tour in a few days on Alltern8 as Andy tries to sell his work at three comics markets in a week. If you’re in Dublin on Saturday, you should join in. Details here.

Dublin’s New Cultural Venue Launches With Grassroots Comics Festival

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for (now extinct) Alltern8; Comicking.

Point Village Comic Festival 2010 will be introduced in the Point Village Market on the 12th June. It has been created by Hilary Lawler (creator of Superhilbo!) & Kate Farnon (Events Manager) from VSC Events to help promote comic book creators in Ireland. The stalls at this event are free for comic creators, artists and illustrators and the promotion and organization has been widely supported by the small press community. Hilary hopes this event will highlight further to the Irish public, what talents and wonderful publications are available to them. Often at events relating to comics, the cost of a table or stall hire can have a negative impact on the independent publishers pocket, so she hopes this event gives people a chance to network, promote and sell their comics and art.point village official poster

I asked Hilary for a few more details on the event.

Andy Luke: How many creators have you lined up?

Hilary Lawler: At present there are 35 people who are confirmed for the Point Village Comic Festival event. These range from comic creators to illustrators, animators and artists. All are involved in publishing a range of artistic endeavours from stand alone pieces, webcomics to regular volumes of work.

AL: Who’s attending? I notice a few names not local…

HL: From the list (off the top of my head and in no particular order) there are familiar names in comics such as Longstone Comics, Sancho, Road Crew and Atomic Diner, but there are also some names that may be new for most people such as Neptune Factory and Pinback. Either way it is proving to be a healthy mix of the great range of talents in Ireland.

AL: What can you tell us about the venue at this point?

HL: As the Point Village Market will be opening on the 29th May, it is difficult to give an exact description of the venue. As such the venue can be described, based on the images used for its promotion so far, to be a modern, open plan market with the intention of developing the market into the same vibe as Covent Garden. The Point Village Comic Festival will be an event that runs alongside the market for Saturday 12th June.

AL: Will comics creators be accompanied by other arts stallholders, eg. Camden, Belfast Black Market or Dublin Co-Op Independent’s Day?

HL: To the best of my knowledge the stalls in the market for each weekend will range from food to arts & crafts. The Point Village Comic Festival event is specifically aimed at those in the small press that can’t avail of a regular stall. This opportunity to sell your creations without having the cost of stall hire, is directly aimed at supporting the Irish small press. A creative expression in the form of a comic can be a costly affair, so at least anything sold remains a profit in this instance. It is aimed as a comic event but it is open to artists and illustrators in all areas.

AL: When is the event open from and to?

HL: It runs on the Saturday, 12th June – opening times are to be confirmed and stall holders will be notified closer to the time. The market opening times are advertised as 8.30am -5.30pm. However, the Point Village Comic Festival event time will open a little later in the morning to allow for setting up.

Hilary: It is a free event and some details are still being confirmed regarding workshops and panels. There is an exhibition on for the day so anyone is welcome to avail of the chance to exhibit their work. We welcome anyone who wants to take a free stall still, just email me at:
longstonecomics (at) gmail.com to register your details (blogspot, contact/mobile, website).
It is something I really hope will positively impact comic creators as it is an artistic path that I’m passionate about and love to promote. Seeing how many fantastic Irish creators there are out there, just persevering through the highs and lows of creating, really makes me want to ensure events like this help elevate them further. I know from my own experience that it takes a lot of dedication, commitment and perseverance to keep going in this industry. What does help is having the chance to see the public respond positively to your work, and that can only happen if we encourage and support events like this one.

Ger Hankey Point Village

The Venue: Point Village Centre, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1, Ireland
The Where: Saturday 12th June 2010, 11am-5pm (Stallholders from 10am)
How to get there: Luas Red Line (straight to venue), The Dart, Buses are Regular (esp. the 15)

Last bus: appears to be around 11pm. More info at Dublinbus.ie (also the name of a good comic by Paddy Lynch)
Driving: Look for the 02 Arena out by Dublin port.
If you’re lost: Phone for directions at 086 827 4839
Parking available at various spots nearby.
Entrance Cost: There is not such a thing.

Website: www.pointvillagecomicfestival.com

The accompanying flyer designed by Ger Hankey is shareware and is available from Ger, Hilary, myself or any stallholders involved with the event. Why not put a screen grab on your website? These are available at the Facebook Events page too.

Ger is premiering the print edition of the second issue of “Short Sharp Socks“. As revealed on Alltern8 last monthPhil Barrett may also be premiering a new comic. I’ll have a second edition of “Absence” ready. There’s also the welcome visit of guests such as the creator of Vampire Free Style, Jenika Ioffreda. Well, with a blow away roster like that, even by MS Paint challenged skills couldn’t resist tinkering with a poster design. My attempts are below, complete with graphics from creator’s websites and the venue brochure.

poster muckabout

poster muckabout 2

 

Related news: Readers may also be interested to learn of Edition Book Arts Summer Edition 2010: Artists’ Book, Comic and Zine Fair on Saturday 24th July from 11am – 5pm at Filmbase, Temple Bar, Dublin. Details on that at http://www.editionbookarts.com/