Attended SFWA “Mill & Swill” at Society of Illustrators

Last night was the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) yearly event celebrating all those involved with the proliferation of science fiction and fantasy publishing (which usually falls on the heal of Philcon, which was just this past weekend). It is the party thanking all the authors, editors, and other industry professionals for their involvement in the field at the swanky Society of Illustrators locale on East 63rd street.

Earlier in the evening, I met my partner-in-crime for dinner and we discussed the publishing world and how we’re glad to be celebrating fiction and our lives in it even in these hard economic times. It felt good to be able to kick back with some friends and have a drink.

At the party, I ran into Tricia Narwani, editor at Del Rey Manga, handling all sorts of interesting books these days. It was good to see her. I also caught up quickly with Liz Gorinsky, Assoc. Editor extraordinaire at Tor books, she seems to be everywhere these days (it must be one of her innate abilities, like a drow’s levitation).

I also ran into one of my favorite bosses, the esteemed Ellen Asher, who introduced me to industry veteran Ellen Datlow and they kindly posed for a photo. I had worked for Ellen A. for years at the book clubs, and I had always heard good things about Ellen D. and witnessed her winning and accepting another World Fantasy Award at this year’s WFC in Calgary for her work at Tor.

Also, my friends from the Jabberwocky Literary Agency were on hand, Eddie Schneider and proprietor Joshua Bilmes along with friend and aforementioned partner-in-crime, one Peter Brett. I’ve done some consulting work with Jabberwocky this past year, and really enjoyed working with them.

Also, later on in the evening on the second floor terrace, I got to sit with some friends. In the following photo is: buddy Pete Brett, my old SFBC colleague Andy Wheeler, and I got a chance to meet John Ordover (former Pocket Books Star Trek Editor) and Glenn Hauman (of Comicmix). Not pictured is Alex Lencicki, Orbit Books marketing & publicity director, who chatted for a while but somehow evaded photo reconnaisance (he's pretty slick) as well as current SFBC Senior Editor, Rome Quezada.

It was a great time; I got a few minutes to chat with one of the first editors I worked for back when I was an intern at Marvel Comics, Steve Saffel. It’s always good to catch up with Steve, especially since we’ve done lots of business over the years and have always kept in touch. Aside from that, he’s been a great mentor.

I also got to talk to Orbit author, Jeff Somers, whom I met last year at WFC and someone I haven't seen since his reading a few months ago at the KGB Bar. It was good to quickly chat before he and his lovely wife headed back to Jersey. His second book, The Digital Plague is at the top of my 'to be read' list.

The surprise treat of the evening was running into Larry Hama, veteran comics scribe and editor of G.I. Joe comics and other war comics such as The ‘Nam. I’ve read tons of his books and have been a fan for a long while. It was great to talk with him about comics, and my work at Osprey where he did some writing for them as well. It was a real treat to talk to one of my inspirations.

Overall the night was really cool. I'd say that I successfully Milled & Swilled. I’ve been attending this event on-an-off since 2005, and am glad to be a small part of this wonderful publishing community. For anyone I forgot to mention, please forgive me, I did my best to recollect.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Packed house at MoCCA for European Comics Event

Last night’s event at the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) was terrific. It was a packed house, all in attendance to listen to the gifted European comics creators talk very personally about the books they’ve brought to life.

I was volunteering, working at the bar providing refreshments after the conclusion of all of the speeches, and even from my vantage point, you could see that all eyes and ears were tuned into the art of comics creation being spoken about. MoCCA also had large monitors spread out for those of us who weren’t in the main seating area, making it easy to see and listen to the slide shows the creators had prepared.

There were enlightening presentations from all of the creators. Check out Heidi MacDonald’s Publishers Weekly comics culture blog, The Beat, for the expert write up (and a much better photograph than mine of the signing afterwards). She also posts a link to one of the comic book trailers shown by German cartoonist, Isabel Kreitz, promoting her WW II Russian spy illustrated book, DIE SACHE MIT SORGE.

I had a brief chance to meet Isabel while doling out refreshments and told her how much I liked the look of her ambitious spy comic. She was humble, friendly and appreciative. That was the feeling overall at MoCCA last night. There was an air of appreciation of wonderful work from around the globe. The world felt a bit closer and maybe I’m just being sentimental but I really enjoyed it.

I also got a chance to reacquaint myself with some publishing industry professionals, as well as talk comics & film with the trusty other volunteers. Overall it was a great night and another reason why I think it’s important to donate time to a cause – and for me one of the passions of my life has been comics and that is why I was there.

Keep an eye on the MoCCA website as they have many upcoming events soon to be announced.


MoCCA event this evening: Graphic Novels from Europe

Hey everyone, I'll be volunteering at the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art this evening, as they're hosting an event celebrating Graphic Novels from Europe. This art is from the postcard they sent out last week, announcing events all week at various places throughout the city.

Tonight's event will be at the MoCCA museum right on Broadway, below Houston St. It should be a blast and I hope to see some of you there. I also plan to write a follow up about it here, so stay tuned.

Details are available on the MoCCA website here.


Comic Book Review of B.P.R.D. 1946 (Volume 9) tpb

This may be the darkest of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) books to date. And that is saying a lot.

But, man was it good. As I’ve mentioned before, the BPRD books have continued to impress and sustain, taking place in the Hellboy-spawned world many of us have come to love.When I saw the name of this newest storyline, 1946, I tried to be patient and wait for the trade. I’m not a total trade paperback convert (I still buy approximately 50% of my comics in floppy issues and 50% in trades. It’s part of my past struggling with the newer me who likes the trades crammed in my book shelves for easy access, loaning, and re-reading.

Since I own all of the other BPRD books in trade format, I needed to continue in this way, although I felt the urge to buy the floppies, as they called out to me each month from the comic shop racks.

Then there is the heavy-WW II angle in this book, which I like just fine. Remember, Hellboy was discovered in 1944 by the Allies, right before the end of the war. I really think Mignola & Dysart hit this one out of the park, picking up immediately after the war, in Berlin, with both the occupying American forces and Russian forces vieing for discovery and access to all the secret nazi occult experiments (one of which in ‘44 Hellboy was a result of, himself).

Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (who rescued Hellboy and founded the BPRD) and his assistant Dr. Howard Eaton are sent on special assignment into Berlin to uncover what remained of the Nazi regime’s special occult division. Their reputations preceded them, already infamous in U.S. military circles, due to their involvement in the rescue of one little red guy in '44.

The book gets really weird when Bruttenholm is forced to collaborate with the Soviet allies, headed up by the scariest creature in recent BPRD memory… al little girl with pictails. That’s right, the head of the Russian paranormal unit is an ancient demon in the guise of a little girl in a white dress with a dolly. Talk about creepy. And it bothers me how this doesn’t bother any of the other characters too much. It’s just freaky, scary and wrong. At one point, she tells the story of her origin and reveals herself to a lower level inquiring demon and we see what’s really behind the Russian-accented little darling. Scary.

What is uncovered in the main storyline was a Nazi secret plan to build an army of vampire super soldiers, but the experiments went horribly wrong, and the test subjects become the cause of poor Professor B. And the more he uncovers, the worse the situation gets.

This peculiar story is illustrated by Paul Azaceta with colors by Nick Filardi – and their work shines albeit, darkly. In every shadow lurks a haunted spirit, and every character’s expression has a murky, textured shading that gives the panels a nostalgic feel – perfect for a vampire story taking place in 1946. Even in the depiction of the unit of ragtag soldiers assigned to assist Prof. Bruttenholm, I can see great attention to detail was given to creating individuality amongst the men. This can also be seen in the sketchbook notes by Mignola and Azaceta in the back of the trade.

By the way, the back of the trade has a few neat extras such as a letter from writer Joshua Dysart about his pitch to Mignola, a short BPRD story from Free Comic Book Day, and the aforementioned sketchbook with notes. Not bad.

I am always entertained when reading this series and have been happy with each trade paperback purchase. Not knowing where each story is going to go, BPRD always leads to an excited bit of surprise, and often the trip leads down alleys to the past, buried in dark evil secrets. It's always an adventure. And B.P.R.D. 1946 ends with enough doors open to allow that evil to creep back in at some point in the future…


World Fantasy Convention 2008 wrap up (late).

Here's a quick World Fantasy Convention 2008 summary, before too much time gets away and I forget to post about it entirely. I really enjoyed my trip to Calgary last week, the cold winter hadn't set in there and the Halloween weekend was quite enjoyable. Well, here I go with an attempt to cover it entirely.

We arrived on Thursday, easy enough flight, and found the weather tolerable and the hotel easy to navigate. Pete and I found the registration area and were with badges and our bag of free books. I lugged home as many as I could, but did leave a few on the exchange table (a good idea I thought). One of the cool things is that Del Rey sent a few hundred copies of Pete's The Warded Man to be part of the gift bags, randomly put in. This was awesome, and it was exciting to see people walking around with, reading and discussing my friend's new book.

In true convention form, we quickly aquainted ourselves with the bar for a pint and a delicious lunch, and a quick cheers with Liz Scheier, Pete's editor at Del Rey. I attended a few panels over the weekend, took some notes, and the weekend was just getting started. I spent this first night in the bar talking about the industry, surrounded by some of the best people in in the business. Later on we ran into Sam Butler, an author and new friend we had met at Albacon last month. The night continued on with good conversation and a few more pints.

Friday was a big day. We had a lot lined up and I was happy to attend Pete's first public reading bright and early at 11 a.m. He had a descent crowd for an early reading, and did a great job with introducing the book and series. He read a snippet from early on in the book, a scene occuring in Cutter's Hollow and it was a good choice I think, ending with a strong demon attack. There was no table in the room, so Pete took up very comfortably in front of the room, and jumped into the story.

Later that afternoon I attended George R.R. Martin's reading. He read a segment from a 'Duncan and Egg' story, part of his Hedge Knight series. These stories take place years before the events in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and I enjoyed hearing of King's Landing again, even if it concerned events from an earlier time. George is such a great reader, his voice deep and strong, he pulls you in. He mentioned that he is aiming for end of year with, A Dance with Dragons. I snapped a quick photo as he put his watch on the table to keep an eye on the clock.

Friday night I was graciously invited to the JABberwocky Literary Agency dinner. I've done some consulting work with Joshua of JABberwocky and was glad to join Eddie, his trusty right hand, at this event along with several others. I was seated next to my good friend Pete, authors Bill Swears, Frederic Durbin, Tim Akers and U.K.'s newest literary agent, John Berlyne, also an associate editor at SFRevu. We had some great conversation about everything from books, comics, tattooes and even the lure of videogames. I also met Canadian bookseller, Chris Szego, we got a chance to chat about SF&F while walking to the dinner, she was really nice and knowledgable. Here is a shot of this dinner (for those whose names I have forgotten, please forgive me as I didn't get everyone's card).

I attended a few more great panels over the weekend, including the "What makes a good anthology" panel. John Joseph Adams, editor of Wastelands - a book I picked up for the trip - and several other panelists discussed the importance of establishing credibility with the reader base, providing a good variety of stories, and also the importance of offering readers material they may not already have. It was interesting to listen to the distinguished panellists (John Joseph Adams, Katheryn Cramer, Gary A. Braunbeck and Darrell Schweitzer) discuss the different ways they go about soliciting stories, selling their ideas to publishers, as well as bringing the projects together. This is something I think about often, as I'd like to work on an anthology project in the near future. I really enjoyed this panel.

On Saturday, I attended the Dark Fantasy Panel featuring David Morrell (one of the weekend's guests of honor, and creator of Rambo incidentally), Nancy Kilpatrick and U.K. writer Graham Joyce. This was another great panel, as 3 authors discussed very personal stories from their childhood, and how that shaped their storytelling techniques and outlook on the world. It was really interesting to listen to these three very different authors share very personal and difficult stories.

Then I was lucky enough to join both Peter Brett and Liz Scheier for dinner to discuss the con weekend at this lovely resturant right across the street called Saltlick. The wine was terrific, the food even better and the company superb. We kept an eye on the clock of course, as Pete had the last of his panels for the weekend, and we didn't want to be late.

This last panel, "Vampire Elves, and other lines that should not be crossed. Or should they?" This was the panel of the weekend, it was terrific. All the panellists: Louise Marley, Peter Brett, Jay Lake, Minister Faust, and Matt Hughes were great speakers. They hit on key topics, talked of successes and failures in trying to cross genres, and all contributed with witty banter that the large audience just ate up. I didn't get any pictures of this event but I was glad to attend, it really was a great panel - I wish they were always as interesting as this one.

Sunday was the banquet which I had to leave halfway through, as our flight was right at 5:15 pm. I got a chance to see most of the winners accept their awards, but missed most of the speeches afterwards. I was glad to at least make part of the event. I really enjoyed the weekend and was glad that I saved up to attend, as a freelance editor trying to survive these days, it was worth it to be there and part of the community.

Lastly, there are a few others I just want to mention that I had a quick chance to meet or talk to briefly, I hope we talk again soon: Bill Willingham (creator of the Vertigo series FABLES, I'm a big fan), Lou Anders, Marc Gasciogne, Christian Dunn, John Joseph Adams, Jim Minz, Patty Garcia, and Alaya Johnson.

It was a great trip. Now I'm spent.


"Hit Neutral in the Tail of a Comet..."

Lost in Space...

I am finally home from a really cool weekend in Calgary, my first trip to Canada. World Fantasy Con 2008 was all it was cracked up to be and although I’m very tired now, I am very glad to have attended [and I will be reporting on it in detail soon].

But if I may move in reverse, reflecting on the trip in a backward time travel-like sort of way, I have to tell you about this awesome exhibit at the San Francisco International Airport. And although we were not looking forward to a stop-over in San Fran after a long weekend away, there was something eerily right about walking through a science fiction-y exhibit after attending a fantasy books convention all weekend.

Taken from the official press release:
Out of this World! The Twentieth-Century Space Invasion of American Pop Culture features more than 300 space-themed objects from the 1930s through the 1980s, from children’s toys such as flying saucers, space guns, rocket ships and robots, to everyday household objects like air fresheners, sewing needles and packaged foods.

This idea of airport museums was established to add a human element to the often-dreary airport experience. And I’ll tell you this, take two guys delirious with days of strong brews, nerdy conversation and listening to experts on various minutiae, and send them through a warped-yet-fun exhibit like this and suddenly we didn’t feel all alone out there - as if we weren’t already in our own world.

Aside from gigantic metallic robots made by local artists in the area, see entire press release here, there was a treasure trove of collectibles from across the decades of the 1930s through the 1980s. Everything from books, plastic action-figure sets to rare robot toys and my personal favorite section of ray guns…it was incredible!Add to that, fantastic art and blown-up book covers from everything including pulp magazines and classic comics. If this type of exhibit were appearing locally I’d pay good money to go see it. Pay no attention to the ridiculous pictures we took at half-past delirium.

I plan to talk more about the convention next time, I just couldn’t get this cool unexpected experience out of my head and needed to share it. [Editorial note: Not officially included in this airport display were two thirty-five year old idiots. But it was a long day of travel, what can I say?]


Last known sighting of soon-to-be famous author

I snapped this photograph yesterday, of soon-to-be published in the US, one Peter V. Brett. He was about to have his first public reading of a little book we like to call The Warded Man.

Did he survive? Did he make it out alive? It was halloween afterall, with ghoulish fiends everywhere. Did his temporary warded tattoos save him? Was the reading a success?

You'll have to stay tuned loyal reader. As there are two more days of World Fantasy Con left, and, "...I have many miles to go before I sleep. Many miles to go."

Tune in next time, same Bat-time, same Bat-blog.

DEAR CYBORGS by Eugene Lim, a little review

I had read a great little article on LitHub.com about this new novel from Eugene Lim and went to seek it out. Soon after I had acquired...