Tag Archives: geek syndicate

My Nine Worlds Experience

Nine Worlds is a new and very different convention in the UK to many of its predecessors that have been around for a long time. Rather than focusing on a particular genre TV show, or medium such as comics, it covers everything. There were over 30 different tracks and I was co-running the podcast track with Barry Nugent from Geek Syndicate. A quick look at my inbox shows a couple of hundred emails sent by Barry or me, to the organisers, moderators and panellists. We had two panels each day and as this was the first year of doing a podcast track, we both wanted to be there to make sure the panels went well and we were on hand throughout to help with any issues. For example not being able to get into the room on Friday or the microphones not being switched on. A quick chat with the organisers and every issue was resolved quickly, so I have to take my hat off to them for all of their help and everything went according to plan.

Bu7OCoQIgAAUuu-The highlight of the podcast track for me was the two panels we had on Saturday. The first Democratisation of Podcasting and New Media was totally fascinating and Scott’s interesting presentation laid out the evolution of media. He showed how the world has changed from a place where we receive the news from a few limited outlets to what we have today, where individuals, other than journalists, are creating the news and reporting on it, sometimes live from the scene. After that was the First Annual Podcaster Games, where two teams of three podcasters went head to head to test their geeky knowledge. The quiz covered all areas from TV to comics to film and everything in between. We had buzzers, we had trophies, we had lots of angst and two brilliant Games Masters who ran the quiz (Gavin and Dan from the Sidekickcast) who took no cheek from the contestants. Some of whom were cocky to begin with but that soon faded when the questions fell outside their normal wheelhouse. The quiz was a lot of fun, we had a lot of laughs and everyone in the audience had a great time. The winning team went home proudly holding their trophies aloft.

So on all three mornings of the convention I was busy, but on Saturday afternoon I sat on a panel about Likeable Bad Guys from All the Books track. I think it went fairly well, everyone generally agreed with one another so there wasn’t any controversy. I was very nervous, didn’t ramble too much and managed not to offend anyone or puke, so overall it was great.

Saturday night I also did my first public reading as part of the New Voices segment on the All the Books track. I read part of chapter 1 from Battlemage, which is out next year from Orbit books. I was horrendously nervous, felt very sick beforehand, stumbled a couple of times during my reading, but I didn’t rush and got through it without too many mistakes. I think it went well and the crowd of fifty plus people seemed to like it. I had friends and supporters in the crowd which helped too. At this point several people have read my book, but this was the first time I’d essentially shown other people how I interpret it, how I see and hear the characters and the rhythm of the sentences and dialogue in my head.

I managed to find time to go to a few other panels, one on Writing LGBTQ+ Characters in SFF, and one about writing the inhuman, where four writers talked about what makes a character inhuman and how they get into that mind space.

There were a lot of friends at the convention that I wanted to spend time with but I didn’t have enough hours in the day to talk to many of them. They were busy and I was either busy organising panels, going to a panel, grabbing something to eat or running from one place to another. Thankfully at my next convention, Fantasycon in September, I’m not running anything and am not appearing on any panels so I will hopefully have more time to catch up with people I missed at Nine Worlds.

Overall Nine Worlds is the most inclusive convention I’ve ever been to. Everyone was made to feel welcome and the organisers went out of their way to accommodate everyone from every walk of life. There was a lot going on, dare I say perhaps too much, because while it was nice to have so much choice it meant I missed a great deal because so many things were happening at the same time. Other conventions suffer from having too narrow a focus, so I sometimes find I’m only interested in 25% of the available panels whereas with over 30 tracks it was the opposite. I guess it’s trial and error, finding which tracks prove popular and which don’t and then adjusting the tracks for the following year accordingly.

The date is already set for Nine Worlds 2015 and tickets are on sale. I’ve no idea if I’m going to be there yet, simply because 2015 is going to be very busy for me with book 1 coming out, editing book 2 and writing book 3. I suspect I will be at a few conventions but I’ll decide a little closer to the time.

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My Panels at Nine Worlds 2014

A short list of where I’ll be during Nine Worlds in a couple of weeks time.

Between 10am and 1pm on all three days I’ll be keeping an eye on the Podcasting Track which I’m co-running with an old friend, Barry Nugent, from Geek Syndicate. Barry and I go way back, almost to the dawn of UK podcasting. I think we’ve come up with some great panels and I’m particularly looking forward to Saturday for both the TED style talk from Dr Scott and the epic geek quiz. I think they’re both going to be brilliant fun.

On top of that I am also appearing on a couple of panels listed below.

Saturday – All The Books Track

Likeable Bad Guys
Loving you is easy; explaining you is so hard
1.30 – 2.45pm
County C&D
We love to hate them, we hate to love them: from great one-liners to a sympathetic backstory, from the evil laugh to villian-fabulous fashion: what makes bad guys soooooo good?
Panel: Ed Fortune, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Stephen Aryan, Anna Caltabiano, Den Patrick

Saturday – All the Books Track

New Voices: the Class of 2014 continued!
10.15pm – 11.30pm
Royal B
More fun and fast-paced readings from the very best new writers.

I will be doing my first public reading ever. I’ll be reading from Battlemage, which is due out next year from Orbit. Not nervous at all. Nope. No. Not me. Oh lordy.

Sunday – Podcasting Track

The Power of New Media
11.45am – 1.00pm
This interactive roundtable panel follows on from Saturday’s talk about new media. Four podcasters will discuss and explore with the audience the growing power of new media and the rise of the everyman journalist.
Speakers: Barry Nugent, Emma Newman, Stephen Aryan, Scott Grandison

Barry, Emma, and Dr Scott, my co-host from Comic Book Outsiders will sit down to talk about podcasting, new media and where it’s going. Hopefully we’ll get the audience involved and make this an interactive session where audience members come with their own questions and ideas.


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June General Update

This month seems to be about podcasting, more or less.

For a few months I’ve been busy working away in secret with Barry from Geek Syndicate to plan and coordinate a podcast mini track at the forthcoming Nine Worlds event in London this August. Our panels will run from 10am to 1pm on all three days and the panel descriptions and more information is available here.

One of the guest speakers on the podcast track is my podcasting partner in crime, Dr Scott, who will be sharing his wisdom. We’re still recording together, and we might even try to do something live and in the same room at Nine Worlds, although the last time we tried that it was weird being able to make eye contact with him.

This is the second year of the event, after a highly successful first year with an event that encompasses all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas. It really is unlike any other event as it combines so many different things. More information on all of the tracks is available here.

Last week Pete Rogers and I recorded another episode of our Bags of Action podcast where we discuss an action film. This time it was the 1989 classic, Next of Kin starring the late great Patrick Swayze. You can download a copy direct from the website here, or search for it on iTunes.

Apart from that, I’m busy doing the usual things, so there’s not much to say. I’m editing book 1, Battlemage, then I will jump back to working on the first draft of book 2. All of the book stuff still seems so far away in the future, which is great in some ways, as it means I have ages to write books 2 and 3. In reality once I parcel up the time required, it’s not that long and I’m sure the time will just fly by between now and next October. In which case, I’m off, I’ve got too much to do and too little time!


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December Update

Christmas is just around the corner and everything is starting to wind down at the end of the year. I’ve got a couple more weeks at work before I break up for a lovely break over the holidays, so I thought I would do a quick update.

I’m still editing the novel, it’s gone through another round and is currently with my agent for feedback. The comic book projects are inching along, but they all take a lot of time so I’m seeing sketches and pages in progress, but there’s nothing to post.

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a round table podcast about World Fantasy Con 2013, which I attended in Brighton this year. Scrolls is a SFF book podcast, part of the Geek Syndicate network, hosted by the lovely Dion, and he guided the discussion of four people about WFC. We talked about what we enjoyed and didn’t, the panels, the hotel, and basically gave as much information about this sort of convention as possible. I’m guilty of doing this myself, but I sometimes talk about events or comics or books, and just assume other people are aware and have the same level of knowledge as I do about that part of geekdom. So we break down the convention and give people a general idea of what to expect at this type of event. Karen Davies, Paul Holmes,  Phil Ambler and myself shared our impressions of WFC.

You can download and listen to the podcast here or look for it on iTunes under the Geek Syndicate podcast.

Might squeeze a couple of short posts in before the end of the year, but they’re likely to be brief and one or two might be real ale reviews as I have been sampling a few and just haven’t got around to writing down my thoughts about them just yet. I hope you all have a lovely and relaxing holiday.


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Changing Media and new technology

For the last four and a half years or so I’ve co-hosted a comics and geek culture podcast called Comic Book Outsiders. We recorded our 127th episode the other night and we spoke to an independent comic book creator, artist and writer, called Terry Moore. He’s written some incredible comics including Strangers in Paradise, Echo and his most recent series is Rachel Rising. You can listen to it here. We talk about his comics and also what he thinks about digital comics and how it will help or hinder him. Recording this episode, talking to Terry about digital comics, but also the end of a favourite podcast of mine, Geek Syndicate, made me think about the rate of change and how fast we adapt and embrace new technology.

When we first started the podcast not that many people were doing comic book podcasts and the number of podcasts in general was small by comparison to the present. At comic book conventions we even had a sign on the table which read ‘Ask us about Podcasting’. Several people came up to the table each day to ask what a podcast was and how it worked. Now most people don’t need to be told what they are and there are thousands of podcasts across pretty much every subject under the sun. MP3 players, smart phones and lots of other devices now allow people to listen to podcasts at any time. The tools to analyse where our listeners come from have grown more complex and they show a remarkable breadth of people from all over the world. In a previous job I was asked to pass on my knowledge of podcasting – editing audio and distributing it – to the business to help them with their social media strategy. I trained and taught other people, something I learned as a hobby, so that they could deploy it in a professional capacity. And all of this has happened in less than five years.

Podcasting is yet another form of entertainment which allows the user/listener to choose what to consume, where and when in their own time. TV has adapted to become similar service with various recording devices, but it didn’t start out life in that fashion. We were all locked in to schedules but not any more.

All of this made me think again about the future and the reality of where we might be in another five, ten, fifty or a hundred years with technology and specifically comics. There was a recent article in the Financial Times of all places about comics and digital comics. Someone was quoted as saying that in a year’s time we will be looking at paper comics in the same way as the music industry views vinyl. I believe this person is wrong for several reasons, a few of which I wanted to explore by looking at what might actually happen and what it would take to get to that place on the horizon.

Paper comics will be around for quite a long time in one shape or another and the collected editions – trade paperbacks, hardback, ultimate editions, absolute editions, omnibuses etc – are not going to disappear. Comparing paper comics to vinyl and music is apples and oranges, it’s just not the same.

Let’s pretend that monthly paper comics vanished and went completely digital, what would it take to get there? Reading comics on an electric reader, tablet or other, is only feasible when the screen is almost as big as the original page. You can read comics on your smart phone, but it’s awful. I’ve tried and I hated every second of it for several reasons. It’s a much more controlled experience for one as the software takes you around the page, guiding you from panel to panel or you have to zoom in and out, and it’s just hideous. There’s no flow, no movement, no time to think about what happens between the panels that you don’t see but is implied. A page isn’t a page anymore. It’s just a collection of cells like stills in a film. Turning it into a motion comic is just a horrible halfway house because it’s neither an animation or a comic book but a weird amalgam of the two that is always disappointing. Also the art was never designed to viewed on such a tiny screen and squashing it down like that doesn’t do the art or artist any justice. Don’t even get me started on single splash or double splash pages.

So ignoring smart phones, the current alternative is to view comics on a tablet. All of those that currently exist which are decent, and by that I mean those with a good sized screen, good resolution so it doesn’t look pixalated, are all fairly expensive. MP3 players are now dirt cheap and they come in a hundred colours, brands, shapes and sizes. I’m old enough to remember how expensive Walkman’s were and personal CD players back in the day, and eventually they too become cheap and cheerful. The best tablet I’ve seen for reading comics is still very expensive. The device is not specfically designed for comics and so it comes with a lot more toys out of the box which are pointless for me and I have access to all of the features in other places. So it’s a lot of something I’ll never use.

If there was a stripped down version (a Kindle or Nook equivalent for comics) with almost no other functionality apart from being able to read comics, and with a price point to match, I would buy one tomorrow and say goodbye to monthly paper comics. However, that isn’t a reality, not yet anyway, as not all comics are available digitally. We are inching towards that place, but even the big move by Marvel and DC to go day and date is just a stepping stone. No one will actually say what percentage digital sales makes up of their monthly figures but I would estimate it’s less than 20%. Also there is no Amazon equivalent for digital comic book distributors and although Comixology is perhaps the most popular, the scale compared to Amazon is very small.

So, until every publisher (indy, small press and mainstream) has day and date for all of their monthly comics, and until the balance between digital sales and paper is more even, or it leans more heavily towards digital, and until there is a device that is very easy to get your hands on that is cheap and specifically bent towards comics, or it has inbuild tech that was added with comics in mind, paper comics are not going anywhere

I estimate paper comics will be around for at least another 20 years and that is probably being conservative. As a point of interest the first Walkman was developed in 1979. The first portable CD player in 1984, but I would argue it took another six years or more before they were readily available and enough me-too versions existed that the price came down across the board. The first portable MP3 player was on sale in 1997 and it was 2001 when Apple release their first iPod. The two largest comic book publishers, Marvel and DC, have just gone day and date with all of their titles, so this is really just the start of the journey and it’s going to take years before all of those requirements are met. Then there’s the fans themselves, the retailers, the conventions and getting sketches and signatures and a whole host of other elements.

I really believe a physical comic will always exist in some form , even if, to go back to the beginning, it exists like vinyl today, which is a collectors item for older music, and certain bands release special limited editions of their new albums on vinyl, such as Radiohead.


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