Treasure!

A walk through Hyde Park will show you a city already suffocating under the weight of the Olympics. Marquees, souvenir stands, tiers of steel seating, tents and fast food vendors, pairs of police every way you turn. The thwack of helicoptors overhead – could actually see them today as it wasn’t fucking raining…

In the middle of all this insanity, though, a treasure.

For the last dozen years, the Serpentine Gallery has had a pavilion built before it – flawlessly designed and showcased to be art as well as function. Isaac and I have gone to see them – and this year, the designers, Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, have surpassed themselves.

A flat pond, still, with a pair of serene looking ducks. Under it, a cork-built maze of tiers and seating, descending in tesselated platforms to a flat base where summer staff were letting the kids plot and draw and make mazes of their own.

One of them told me that this year’s pavilion started life as an archaological dig – they’d tracked all of the soil marks from the previous dozen pavilions, and built/dug this one to show where all of theose marks had been.

It was a very, very cool thing.

And it just goes to show that, although the rising tide of consumer tat threatens to drown us all (if the rain doesn’t), that there are still magical moments to be found :)

Unexpected Treasure

London is a tessellation of ages – layers and twists of time that wind around and through each other, rising to sheer glass heights and falling again to uncover sudden surprises.

You find them when you least expect to.

St Dunstan-in-the-East dates from 1100, once a CofE parish church on St Dunstan’s Hill, halfway between London Bridge and the Tower. I found it purely by accident and stood there, transfixed, watching the suits eat their lunch on the benches and the sun reflect rom the glittering sides of the Gherkin, which rises above the walls.

And then, while roaming Hyde Park in search of eggs, I found fairies – the stump of the Elfin Oak itself is every bit as old as St. Dunstan’s, though its inhabitants weren’t added until ’77.

And if that’s not enough fascinating but useless information, the inside cover of Pink Floyd’s 1969 album Ummagumma features a picture of David Gilmour stood in front of it…

You never realise how astounding the city is until you walk. The centre of London is not as big, or as confusing, as you expect. And there are wonders waiting.

Seriously, use your feet. And your eyes.

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…

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?

The Golden Hinde

I’ve walked past her hundreds of times, thought how pretty she is, and walked on.

I’ve taken my son up to see her, but we’ve never actually gone on board.

Yes, she’s a reconstruction – she’s berthed in Bankside on the Millennium Mile – but she’s a flawless, full-sized replica of the 16th Century warship upon which Sir Francis Drake first went round the world.

And she’s amazing.

To Isaac, she was The Dawn Treader; his head was full of Narnian adventure. I couldn’t help the pirate echoes – my image of her suffered from too many movies.

It’s wonderful to see things that you’ve only seen in imagination – cannon, boarding pikes, belaying pins, the capstan, the bell and the compass, the brig and the galley. There’s more rigging than you can imagine – there are ropes and pulleys everywhere – and what must it have felt like to stand in the fighting top while it swung back and forth and the deck pitched and yawed beneath you?

It makes you shudder. Romance aside, this tiny little ship was home to sixty – sixty! – crew. Elizabethans may have been 5’4″, but surely there’s not enough room, heightwise (below decks, you go everywhere at a crouch) or roomwise (hammocks over the bilge, anybody?) to cram in that many people?

Drake’s cabin itself was nice and roomy – on a calm day, in a dock – but if you’re on the gun deck? Fighting? In a storm?

The Hinde is astonishing. She’s absolutely beautiful – lovingly reconstructed down to the last wondrous detail – but under all that warm wood is just a hint of horror. Pirates of the Caribbean, my arse.

She’s lovely to visit in London. But you wouldn’t get me to sea in that thing!

Announcing: FP/Gollancz Multi-Author Event!

YES! We’re hosting one of our trademark multi-author signings – you know, the one where we all go down the pub afterwards.

At 6:00pm on Thursday June 23rd, Forbidden Planet 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London will be playing host to: –

• Ben Aaronovitch
• James Barclay
• Elspeth Cooper
• Stephen Deas
• Jaine Fenn
• M D Lachlan
• Tom Lloyd
• John Meaney
• Chris Wooding

To promote the release of Elspeth’s new book SONGS OF THE EARTH, Forbidden Planet has gathered a host of science fiction and fantasy talent into one event – an event to bring writers and fans together and to promote interest in new and different kinds of fiction.

This is one of our trademark multi-author events, bringing our guests out from behind their tables and giving their readers a chance to meet them and talk to them about their work. An array of fantastic books will be on hand to be picked up and signed – including works by every one of the writers present…

…oh, you know how this works. Turn up, get books, hang out with your favourite authors, go to the pub.

Got to love it!

Warm Up for KAPOW! at Forbidden Planet

In a special pre-KAPOW! event, ANDY DIGGLE, JOCK and JAMIE DELANO will be signing at FP London at 6:00pm on Friday 8th April… and may well be in the pub afterwards!

Grab yourself a copy of the Titan Books publications of Rat Catcher and Hellblazer: Pandemonuim – and get a head-start on the hottest, newest Con!

According to underworld legend, the Rat Catcher is a peerless assassin who specialises in silencing mob snitches. There’s just one problem – he doesn’t exist. Now there’s a pile of dead bodies in a burning safe house outside El Paso. The Rat Catcher has finally slipped up, and a washed-up FBI agent has one last chance to hunt him down. Follow Andy Diggle’s tale of two master man-hunters in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, each of them hiding a secret from the other.

In Hellblazer: Pandemonuim, an alluring Muslim woman catches John Constantine’s eye and brings troubles to his doorstep: a bombing in a London museum, mysterious ancient Sumerian artifacts and a terrifying creature running rampant with renegade intentions. To save his life and freedom, Constantine embarks on a desperate trail, blazing from the back streets of London to the detainment centres and battlegrounds of contemporary Iraq. Hellblazer: Pandemonium brings original Hellblazer writer Jamie Delano together with fan-favorite artist Jock to tell a tale about war and terror in a horror story tailor-made for the 21st century.

The best comics events – at Forbidden Planet!

Hands-On at the Science Museum

If I ask my son where he wants to go for a day out, he always answers the same – the Science Museum. He never tires of it, there are so many things to look at and play with. And for as long as he wants to go, I’ll always take him. I’m proud of my mini-geek and encourage him to learn as much as I’m able.

But it got me thinking today – why is it such a win?

When I was a kid, the Science Museum was kind of static. There were cool things to look at, sure – but those dear old Massey model tractors in the agricultural display have now been ploughing that little dirty circle for forty years. Even the model trains on the balcony of the ground floor – yes, you can press a button and watch the steam-pistons, but they’ve long since dropped off the timetable.

As attention spans become shorter, so the Museum’s displays have adapted, they’ve become brighter and more interactive.

Isaac loves the space-age stuff – it’s shiny and out-of-this-world and larger-than-life. He particularly likes the movie of the thousands of satellites that orbit the Earth, and the new spherical-holo of the global climate. These things have vivid, compelling colour and movement; it makes them real. It’s much easier to explain global warming to a child when the globe is right there in front of him.

Downstairs in the basement lurks hell-on-earth – the ‘garden’ where the very little ones go to learn about basic sensory input. I fear the noise (particularly at half-term) but I’m very happy that the Cubs are hands-on from the ground up – literally.

As we explore the ‘Secret Life of the Home’, it occurs to me that learning, just like media, has become all about ‘interactive’; it’s about making things real and accessible. And that starts with shrieking noise of the smallest kids – and it goes all the way up.

Around us, as communication becomes faster, easier and worldwide, so learning becomes about sharing and experiencing – not about ‘being taught’. Chalk-dust has become just that. Now, Isaac gazes fascinated at the workings of cockpits and CDs and VCRs; we play classic ‘Pong’ from 1978. These things are history to him, but they’re a part of my life experience and we can share them and learn together.

It brings us closer. And it’s fun.

As the years of new layers have been added to the displays, yes, it has become a little chaotic. The old tractors are next to the modern plastics; classic 1970s Dan Dare looks out over a floor of games about modern energy and resource (though I daresay he’d approve).

Communication, both media and education, is changing – and it’s very good to see that our kids can be really involved in this from the youngest age.

Today, I’ve been asking Isaac to take pictures – hopefully, encouraging him to look at what’s around him and to enjoy the learning experience. Some of his pictures are on this post. You’ll find the rest on his very own Flickr page, here. 

Needless to say, he has help me download them and choose them and label them. I think it’s all part of the same experience.

http://www.youtube.com/get_player

#MADMONTH! BristolCon and Other Stories


Every so often, life at Forbidden Planet goes balls-to-the-wall crazy.

We’ve done Star Wars Days and Hallowe’en Celebrations, we’ve had signings with some of the most exciting names in the industry and we’ve taken our butts and our books to the Bristol Ramada and drunk far too much beer at BristolCon… and had a great time doing all of it. No matter how busy the business may be, there’s a sense of involvement that keep the energy levels high.


As Doctor Tim, manager of the Bristol Megastore said: we do it because we love it.

Honest, guv’nor.!

Seriously, though, sometimes, this stuff is just a privilege. From the wondrous (and hair-raising) tales of Michael Moorcock’s youthful antics, to stealing William Gibson’s ebook signing pen (erm… sorry about that), to remembering the basement days of Denmark Street with Iain Banks, to rediscovering the warm and open friendliness of Simon Pegg… there’s never a dull moment. The tales of Denmark Street remind me that all of these people started in exactly the same place as the rest of us – and each one still values the opinion and input of every single one of his fans. Props to the lot of them!


The #madmonth has ended with a day at BristolCon – a new venture for the local SF/F collective and a perfectly slotted-together event. In the Dealers’ Room as ever, it was still good to see a full and engaging programme of events (we at least got to Nick’s pub quiz – Walters, you’ve missed your calling as a stage comedian!) and (inevitably) to the bar… plus we got to chat to a guest list, all local, that all pitched in to make the event a success.

And the ‘local’ is absolutely the event’s hand-on win. There’s a strong genre family in Bristol, a gathering of authors and bloggers and podcasters and fans who’ve helped build a city hub that’s become big enough to host a Con of its own – and to make it a success. The atmosphere was very chilled – and there was a togetherness to it that can be missing from larger gatherings.


As with the signings at the Megastore – it’s gone to underline that we’re all the same at the root, and we all have the same things dear to our hearts. At the risk of sounding a scrape too cheesy… do we all do it because we love it?

So – props to Jo and her team for a fantastic event that will grow into something even better next year. It was absolutely bigger on the inside!


And yes, we will be back!

The Black Library Invade!


They may have left their bolters at home and checked the Dreadnought at the door… but you can’t underestimate the efficiency and passion of the boys – and girl – from the Black Library.

Writing warriors all, every one of them has an incredible enthusiasm for the stories and characters, which comes across with everything they do. I’m guessing this is why the Forbidden Planet ‘open plan’ event malarkey absolutely suited Dan Abnett, James Swallow, Graham McNeill, Nick Kyme, Nik Vincent and Sandy Mitchell – all of whom were good enough to work their socks off last night.


And it suited the fans too. The chance to actually ‘mingle’ with the authors and creators of the mythology was a new thing to them – they’re not standing in front of a table, they’re actually on ground level and can talk about the characters and the books that they love… as an equal. To me, that’s completely the point.

I’ve ranted about this before.

We had a great night. In the office before the event began, Sandy was talking about kids’ love for gaming, in particular his seven-year-old daughter and her Barbie-pink Tyranid army… and in the pub afterwards, Dan was telling wondrous tales from the ‘set’ (you know what I mean) of the Ultramarines movie. From school kids to international movie releases – nothing illustrates more effectively just how wide a range of appeal the mythology really has.


And between these points, you have two New York Times bestselling authors both still gobsmacked by their own success… and, more importantly, delighted for the profile and credibility it’s brought to all of them, and to the tales they, too, loved as kids.

With every person they spoke to, every interview they undertook, you could see that all six of these writers would be nowhere else. Their own Forbidden Planets are alive, bristling with new potential – and it was all there to be seen our books department last night. Perhaps that’s how the WarHammer worlds get an appeal that goes from children to filmset.


A final thank you to the crew for showing military efficiency in signing so many books for us (I was half-expecting to hear Dan bark, ‘ONE, two, three ONE!’ and have everybody sign in sync). Watching last night work so well was fantastic – as Invasions go, you lot can come again!