Show Me The MonQee

He’s met some top talent, been through twenty-two episodes of adventures and has had every part of his anatomy scribbled on… hey, hey he’s the MonQee, and he’s finally come to rest in the art toy cabinet at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore.

In addition to the host of names from the previous MonQee post, a thank you to the kings of UK space opera, Neal Asher and Alastair Reynolds. And a huge thank you, too, to Terry Pratchett himself for his approval for and support of the project: the fact that his email arrived on my birthday had to be a coincidence!

The MonQee Project is now live here. This completely unique piece of urban vinyl will be auctioned through MissionFish on eBay as part of the Forbidden Planet’s thirtieth anniversary celebrations. To find out more: watch this space!

All proceeds, of course, go to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. The MonQee, we hope, will go to a very good home – he deserves nothing less.

Ook!

The Curious Incident of the Fan in the Night-Time

Last weekend, I was flying company colours at Orbital, the UK’s annual science fiction and fantasy convention – the first time in 14 years I’ve re-entered fandom.
Attending an sf con was like putting on old shoes. I know this world as intimately as FP’s demographic – I understand it, have lived in it and it holds no shocks for me. (Oh all right, it was great!)
Nothing had changed since 1994.
Four days’ heavy trading and four nights’ heavy drinking, though, showed me something curious: –
There were almost no younger fans. When I say nothing had changed, I mean it – the same people, now in their thirties and forties; dressed in the same costumes, only with a little more curve to fill them.
The biggest EasterCon in 20+ years – and I could see no Next Generation.
My Boss, Jon, noticed it; loudmouthman, decabbit, rnalxander and I drew many conclusions and my friend Liam Proven, long-time sf fan, has watched it happen round him.
The initial explanation is obvious – oh, they’re ‘on the web’. Fans don’t need to meet Bill Gibson, they can read his blog; they don’t need books for escapism, they can play Second Life. If they want conversation, it’s on a forum; signatures, they’re on eBay.
If traditional journalism is threatened by the common blog, then the fanzine is in serious trouble. Perhaps the novel itself is nearing its closing chapters.
Following that thought, since joining FP I’ve watched sf and fantasy explode through the covers of the paperback and become multi-format, street-smart and cool. Buffy, Battlestar, comic-book blockbusters, Doctor Who – Heroes! – these aren’t just for geeks any more. In television and cinema, nostalgia is the new cutting edge. FP rides this wave – the Megastores shine bright on the high street. But what does it mean for fandom?
My friend John Rivers has been a Who fan many years; he knows the young fans are still out there. New mass credibility means they don’t need to attend the generic sf con; creations like Who and Star Wars are so TARDIS-vast that they offer a whole agenda of their own events.
Like all communities, it’s become big enough to fragment – and it takes a powerful traction beam to pull the pieces together.
Orbital, as well as a central location, offered a guest list that should’ve been that traction. Neil Gaiman alone has enough presence – and the Dream Master was accompanied by the vision and humour of Charlie Stross, the radical brilliance of China Miéville and the sweeping imagination of Tanith Lee. Between them, they cover every angle and appeal to every corner of the Multiverse.
But they were not – quite – enough.
Why? Certainly they’re not accountable – their talks and panels were thought-provoking – even controversial – and their social presence always an amusing fan-magnet – if you didn’t find China in the disco, you’d find Charlie in the bar. To me, Orbital’s guest list shows that genre writing is changing, that fantasy and sf boundaries are being blown back. Evolution prevents stagnation and the genre adapts.
And, as writing adapts, so does format – the genre moves from paper to small screen and big, and more work is issued on the web. Ant Miller, my brother-in-law, commented that Cory Doctrow now publishes nothing on the printed page.
And, as format adapts, so fandom must move with it. If the classic EasterCon is to embrace a younger generation, it needs to stop reading books in a quiet corner. Its eyes and arms need to open wide and embrace more formats and different kinds of creativity. From anime and manga to film and television, from virtual publication and freedom of information to the wonders of live video-streaming (thanks, Nik!), it needs to become forward-thinking.
After all, hasn’t that always been the point of ‘science fiction’?

Whither Bartemkin: What Happens When It Goes Wrong?

The saying goes: you learn nothing from success.
In the UK, the wooden ship of my reckless marketeering has a rocket-powered propulsion system. Take away the Forbidden Planet brand; row the same ship into a much larger, faster marina… and Bart, apparently, loses his head.
It seems the dynamic fusion of art toys with social media will wait for another day.
The idea’s sound – see Phil Campbell’s wonderful shots of his signed Thor helm – but its execution? Needs the right arena.
This weekend, this rocket-propelled ship powers into waters where it’s very well known – along with a rabble of my colleagues, I’ll be at Orbital, the 2008 EasterCon, selling three years’ worth of signed books and goodies to the voracious fanboy public.
Guests of honour include Neil Gaiman, Charles Stross and China Mieville; there will be many other authors and artists there who’ve wielded sharpies for FP in the past – and know a thing or two about wacky art.
I’ve secured a new urban vinyl toy, larger than his Bart predecessor as I have a lot more time, and a far better unity of concept with market. Everything else remains the same – the idea of auctioning a one-off, totally unique art toy, a piece of urban vinyl history, will go ahead as planned – it’ll just take a little longer.
And that’s a good thing – time to learn, think and strategise and time to build a proper story.
As to Bart? Sadly returning home in an in a(u)ctionable condition, he’s enjoying a happy retirement. He’s sitting on my desk in my bedroom as my personal folly; I’ll make a donation to the Frozen Pea Fund myself for my mad-eyed souvenir.
Thank you to adelemcalear and colleencoplick, and to philcampbell and documentally for their performance as Norse Gods – and to all the people who put pen to plastic.
And keep an eye open – more art toy wackiness will ensue!