Creativity – Seeing and Believing

1111065__fire-in-her-eyes_pA week or so back, the question of Aphantasia, the blindness of the mind’s eye, came up on Facebook. The posted article, by Blake Ross, discusses how it’s possible to actually hallucinate things pictures, real images of people, places, backgrounds… Mr. Ross can’t do it, but he points to a very touching article about a man who could, and who then lost his ability after surgery.

It got me thinking. When I was younger, right up to my early thirties I suppose, I could see things in my head. If I read a book, it came to life. I could see what was happening – clearly and vividly. During gaming, I could see the characters and the world and the action; while writing, I could see the settings and faces as much I could feel the emotions of the characters involved…


Metal gaming dice. Love them.

But I lost the ability when I come to London, I didn’t read, or write, anything for years. When I picked up a book, the words were dead – I couldn’t see the pictures any more. I wrote all three Ecko books in the corner of the bedroom surrounded by images – maps, fractals, character sketches, print-outs, photographs, concepts – just so that I could keep them in my head.

There were times the images came back. Ecko’s fall from the heights of Mortimer, Hiner and Thompson came from standing outside Titan House and having a smoke, looking up at the buildings over the road; there’s a section at the end of ‘Burning’ that was written after I discovered St. Dunstan-in-the-East.

St. Dunstan in the EastSimply, if I can see something in my head, I can write it in one sitting, and the language just flows, it attends to itself. And if I can’t, I’m fucked – I can write the same thing forty times, and it’ll still be shit.

(A shout-out, at this point, to the glorious time-waster that is Pinterest

I know many of my author buddies have boards for their characters and worlds, and use them rather like a visual note-taking method. Quite aside from the ‘it’s research honest’ line, it really is good way to remember things!)

So – is visualisation essential to your creativity? When you write, can you ‘see’ things in your head? When you read? When you draw? Those who still role-play – can you see the Beholder as it zaps your arse into the middle of next week? And what if you can’t – if you don’t see things in your mind’s eye, can you still create?

I’m genuinely curious. Let me know!

Sure as Eggs

There are eggs all over London.

I’m not actually doing the hunt (what the fuck would I do with a Faberge Egg anyway?), but I do walk a lot and I stop to admire them when I see them. They’re absolutely beautiful, and, like the elephants last summer, they’re an amazing way to showcase artists and to help a charitable cause.

It got me thinking about the really sharp graffiti marketing that Orbit did for Simon Morden’s Metrozone series – there must be a way that authors can do this too. Sentence fragments on billboards, on tube trains, treasure hunts to piece them together – I don’t know.

But sure as eggs are – well – eggs, there has got to be a way to make this work for us too…

Holy Shit!

Telling someone else to draw the shit in your head is a pretty tall order.

And when that telling goes through Marketing and Editorial before it even gets to the Artist – well, you almost dread the result.

The anticipation is weird – there’s a huge elation that it’s all really happening, and a fusion of massive excitement and white-cold terror. What if it’s wrong – what happens if the artist can’t actually see what’s in your head?

It’s a huge moment – a crystallised fraction of time where you’ve trusted someone else to draw your dreams. It’s like the surrender of control that comes with your edit – all packed down into a sharp, visual punch that makes you stagger.

I can’t show the concepts here, I wish I could. Not only has artist Martin Stiff done an absolutely phenomenal job of understanding what’s in my head, but the fact that Chris and his team, and Cath, have all been there too means one thing…

They get it.

For the first time, this shit is real…

…and I have no shame in admitting that it made me burst into tears.

Does Yours Do This?

The Science Museum has a new pop culture art exhibit, called ‘Electroboutique’- Russian artists Shulgin and Chernyshev have given a fantastically tongue-in-cheek look at the symbols of modern marketing, plus a series of exhibits which respond to you in real time.

If you get the chance, do go and see it – it’s on the mezzanine to the left hand side of the front hall (right above the gift shop, suitably enough). I mean, where else would you get one of these?

Doctor Who in Comics

For something so huge, it really isn’t very big; you can walk round it in under 15 minutes. But the artwork is beautiful, and it’ll take you through time – from 1964 right up to the present day.

You can see how a Doctor Who comics story evolves from script to finished page, follow the roles played by writer, editor, penciller, inker and colour artist. For those who’ve never read the magazine, this display introduces worlds and adventures that you never knew existed – holes in space-time that show something amazing…

The Doctor is comics form may be ever better than he is on screen.

This is a whole new Universe, a side of the Doctor that I’ve been aware of but never really explored and that was completely new to my Who-mad son. And we both loved it.

I couldn’t take too many pictures and was wary of infringing anyone’s copyright; the stuff I’ve shown here is only the smallest taste of the wonders on display. It’s suitably TARDIS-like – very much bigger on the inside.

But don’t take my world for it – go down and find out where the boundaries of space-time really are.

Doctor Who in Comics 1964 – 2011, exhibit at the Cartoon Museum.


Sometimes, you discover something so absolutely beautiful that you wonder how the hell you’ve never seen it before. By Daniel Arnold-Mist, this just took my breath away. I don’t know whether to call her steampunk, cyberpunk, wirepunk or to leave the punk alone completely and hold back from giving her any kind of limiting label. She’s too delicate, too expressive, for my clumsy words.

Her beauty is astonishing. If I look at her long enough, I expect her to move.

Find more of Dan’s artwork here.

Danie’s Toys

I’m hoping to write a weekly Toys post – though it won’t be weekly, and is unlikely to be (all) about toys…

As I sit here, the guys are unpacking our haul of goodies from San Diego – there’s a tidal wave of samples flooding through the office.

I love toy culture.  Gadgets.  Gags.  Collectables.  I have an ever-growing menagerie of art toys above my writing desk and constantly lust after, though never buy, the beautiful works crafted by such companies as Kotobukiya and Gentle Giant.  Everything from Tokidoki to Steampunk makes me wish that I could fill my house full of wonders…

But that would be getting creepy.

In this little space, then, I’d like to share the goodies I find.  I can’t promise it’ll be weekly, nor that it will be all utterly toy-focussed.  As the culture expands to include Hello Kitty branded chainsaws, (just for example), some opportunities simply write themselves.  I can’t even promise that it’ll always be entirely SFW – though I will warn you if it’s not!

This is not a blog, and it’s not a showcase for my employer.

It’s a little corner for me to shout about the stuff I love!

Flash Fiction: The Sixty

A shout of thanks to artist Andy Bigwood, who asked me to contribute a piece of flash fiction for his forthcoming title The Sixty.  Launching at EasterCon, containing no less then forty authors who each add a thought to one of Andy’s superb illustrations, The Sixty is a collection of science fiction and fantasy art illuminating brave new worlds, dark realities and fantastic realms.

Andy was recently shortlisted for the BSFA Award for best artwork for his cover for Conflicts. You can see some of his artwork on his deviantART page – and you can check out The Sixty, here.

And in case you have any doubts:

Gorgeous juxtapositions of the nearly familiar and the oddly alien – of textured other-world terrains and the strange beings that belong there, even if they’re us. City architecture merged with airships or deep space, forming poignant gestalts that always work. Inspired stories in a book of images. Everything combines to produce art that is new, lustrous and haunting.
– John Meaney, Author of the ‘Ragnarok’ Trilogy

Andy’s beautiful, unique artwork, blended with gems of fiction by exciting contemporary writers, creates a most original dream world. It’s a treasure trove, a box of gorgeous delights that you’ll want to dip into constantly. Just curl up by the fire and lose yourself!
– Freda Warrington, Author of ‘Elfland’ and ‘Midsummer Night’

Andy Bigwood has created a wide and varied range of images and has brought them together with an impressive collection of fiction. His passion for his work shines throughout and the whole book is a treasure-trove of creative minds.
– Anne Sudworth, Fine Artist

Privileged to be a part of the project – thanks, Andy!