Bryan Talbot Exhibit at Orbital Comics in London

By James Bacon: I took the opportunity to visit the Grandville Art Exhibition at Orbital Comics, near to Leicester Square Tube Station, with fans Ian Stockdale and Andrea Carney. As Andrea commented a ‘very cool place’ and indeed, the shop is worthy of its Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer accolade, which it won last year.

The shop itself holds considerable stock, new comics adorn the walls as one enters, collected editions are stacked, and as ever what sets a comic shop apart from its peers is the unusual Orbital Comics has an annex full of international and local works, small press from near and afar, while the back issues are substantial, and to ensure that every quarter of comics is represented, they have a delightful selection of second-hand stock. This combined with in house comic art and framed posters of previous events, gives one the feeling that this is a genuine place where comics are loved.

Another annex is where the exhibits are shown with regularity, and we were lucky to visit at the opening of the current show, Grandville Force Majeure, by Bryan Talbot.

Without doubt, one of the finest comics of the year is about to be released. The fifth story in the series by Bryan Talbot, is incredible. I first saw images shown by Bryan for Grandville at Eastercon in 2008, and I was immediately intrigued. Comic artist and writer Bryan Talbot had just come down from the huge wave of appreciation for his previous work, Alice in Sunderland, and yet here he was showing eager fans his next project.

An anthropomorphic steampunk story. I saw a badger in detective’s clothing toting huge revolvers and in an obvious altered metropolitan setting of Paris and was excited. The official word was ‘Two hundred years ago, Britain lost the Napoleonic War and fell under the thumb of French domination. Gaining independence after decades of civil disobedience and anarchist bombings, the Socialist Republic of Britain is now a small, unimportant backwater connected by a railway bridge, steam-powered dirigible, and mutual suspicion to France. When a British diplomat’s murder is made to look like suicide, ferocious Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard stalks a ruthless murder squad through the heart of a Belle Epoque Paris, the center of the greatest empire in a world of steam-driven hansom cabs, automatons, and flying machines. LeBrock’s relentless quest can lead only to death, truth . . . or war.’. When I saw that it was stated that on the cover that the story is ‘Scientific Romance Thriller’ I was impressed. It spoke to me.

Nine years later the fifth story in the Grandville Series by Bryan Talbot is about to be released and it is one of the finest comics of the year and is incredible. We are at a point where Bryan Talbot has clearly signalled that for us fans the series is now coming to an end. Each book is a beautiful edition and Grandville Force Majeure is a lovely finishing point for this fantastical intelligent alternative history series with anthropomorphic characters.

Bryan Talbot himself, as previously mentioned, is a regular at many science fiction events, a Guest of Honour at Loncon 3, he was an early member of the Tolkien Society who he provided illustrations to and did the very first cover for Dark Horizons, the fanzine of the British Weird Fantasy Society, which was a breakaway from the BSFA, and came to be The British Fantasy Society. I consider him to be a real supporter of many events, and a fine elegant speaker with vast knowledge of comics.

Grandville Force Majeure is longer than its predecessors and this adds depth and delightfully it has a spoiler-proof sealed section, to prevent eager readers unwittingly flicking through and destroying what is a wonderful story. One can assume there must be twists and turns, but to say more about the details, is to defy what Bryan Talbot has worked to do, and spoil what is a story that is captivating and compelling. It is a fabulous ending, drawing in a whole new aspect to LeBrock, our anthropomorphic Badger Detective of the Yard. I was very pleased with how this comic gives a lovely amount of back story to our protagonist and how that links to what is occurring and also presented us with a lot more detail and for me a wonderful pastiche nod in the form of LeBrock’s mentor, Hawksmoor.

Grandville has won the Prix SNCF award for best crime graphic novel and the books have been nominated twice as finalists for the Hugo Awards, and given how good this one is, I would not at all be surprised of it also receives a finalist Hugo nomination next year. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging read, so I was particularly looking forward to seeing the original art on display. I had hoped that there’d be a decent amount of artwork of the latest Force Majeure on display, what I didn’t anticipate was a whole retrospective of all five graphic novels, which surpassed my expectations.

The four walls of the exhibition space in Orbital Comics were filled with some twenty-five pages of artwork, with some from all five comics in the series. This was good.

Straightaway, one is looking at the action page from page four of Grandville. The whole four-panel sequence captures so much movement and conveys the story so brilliantly.

It’s really really clean. The black and white artwork is spotless, and indeed I have to say I did not find the lack of colour in any way impacting my appreciation of the art. Movement and action are also portrayed on page ninety, where a fight is taking place, and then with page forty-nine, one sees how detailed and accurate the architecture of a back street can look, while the rain falling adds an energizing dimension to the art, the droplets and water are depicted perfectly.

Again architecture and Bryan’s amazing penmanship was on display, with page seven of Grandville Mon Amour. We see Roderick near Big Ben, and the street scene busy, with the city scene expertly and accurately drawn. A juxtaposition with page twenty, where the twelve-panel layout and close-up work is a joy. Seeing the work up close from the hairs on the cat to the detail of Paris in the distance or the ornate door and its crumbling surround next to a character, demonstrates how much effort and work Bryan puts in here, and how dynamic an artist he is.

There are three pages from Grandvile Noel and page one captures such a serious scene. The uniforms, the setting the farmland architecture in the distance, all so important to setting the scene. While obvious elements, clothing, flags and so on give an immediate sense of location, it is the grain silo and the windmill in the distance that real give it a sense of place, solidly and accurately portraying an element that could jar and extract the reader from the immersion of the story. This is very important, and something that is occasionally forgotten, although not by the reader, I always will recall an issue of Hellblazer with yellow cabs, US Postal Service post boxes and other American street furniture, when the setting was London, an unfortunate misunderstanding perhaps some twenty-five years ago. While current alternative history comics which portray military uniforms and equipment inaccurately, or even in a distorted fashion undermines and in some cases rends the story apart or useless, such is the importance of cohesiveness between the sequential art and the script.

Bryan Talbot being a master of everything with these comics provides an impeccable standard that one gets to enjoy, and is without doubt able to capture items of pure imagination and conjecture with a sense of realness that is perfect, and believable in this fantastical world. His attention to detail continually shows through, and this works very well in invented elements that are pure science fiction, although I hope some ideas have had an interesting conceptual influence.

There are two pages from Grandville Bete Noir and page ninety-three is such an amazingly lovely view, and a fantastic one to see up close.

The final wall has seven pieces from Grandville Force Majeure. There’s a refinement to the art that I normally don’t expect in its raw form. Minimal pencil work is in view, does Bryan just get it the first time, every time. There is some light blue and light pencil in view, but this is to do with the positioning, lining up and framing of the panels. With that, one can see the thought and accuracy of vision that is being given to the readers.

This is something with Bryan Talbot’s work that appeals so much, intrigues and excites. There is often much more to it all than at first one realises. In fairness to Force Majuere, once I realised that there would be other anthropomorphic characters, as in those from other works in the story, just as cameos, I had a great time working out which references, names and of course likenesses were which, and then pondering if I had speculated incorrectly. I smiled widely when I saw Blacksad. This is just one example of his attention to detail, his appreciation for the art, and of course, something I spotted, I am certain there are many secrets in these pages, notions and ideas that exist but that are not immediately clear, or indeed, need and welcome explanation or enlightenment and I love that.

The exhibit space with benches, and a huge banner of the cover of Force Majeure is just right, and I spent considerable time looking, and re-looking at the art, while next door the gentle bustle of comic browsing took place, but separate momentarily as one considered the beauty of this art.

So as I was in Orbital Comics, I got chatting to Karl who manages the shop and took some quick notes. Karl  seemed to share many of my own feelings on Grandville, and I was interested and asked what he liked and he responded, ‘the clear lines, a definite development in Bryan’s style, the fun of the anthropomorphic characters and the humorous and emotional beats thus offered to the tales.’.

I wondered how it was for him working with Bryan and how it made him feel.  Karl had a good experience and said ‘Bryan is a consummate professional, and always a pleasure to work with! Plus I have been a fan since back in the day, probably his Luther Arkwright and Nemesis works first, although subsequently discovering the  Brainstorm Comix, and the adventures of Chester P. Hackenbush was an eye opener! To see that storytelling develop, through to Alice in Sunderland, and of course the beautiful books created with Mary up to now, the Grandville finale, is a pleasure, and to host this exhibition and launch, an honour.’

An honour, I thought, as a fan it is a pleasure to see this artwork here on display, I feel lucky that I can see this, and grateful that the art is here. There is an appreciation amongst comic people I think, of things that are good. Is that simplified, that the aesthetics of a shop, the experience we have at conventions, or the pleasure we gain from art displayed and comics read is incredibly subjective and personal, yet I find amongst fans and professionals, one can – generally- engage positively and share that appreciation. Karl is one of those people, but I am still impressed with this approach ‘ I do love comic art, we are very lucky to have the space to be able to share an incredible variety of styles, genres, workshops, group shows, and to simply proclaim ” comics are art ” without fuss. ‘

That is quite wonderful I thought, as I considered the artwork that I have viewed there, in Orbital Comics, and how much effort goes into such an endeavour, and wasn’t it not that long ago that they started here with Watchmen Artwork ‘We have been exhibiting for 8 years now, one of the first shows featured the original artwork for page 1 of Watchmen, the smiley face falling in the rain, which sold shortly afterwards for a pitiful $30K.’ said Karl. Crikey, I thought, eight years, that is some amount of work.

Some of the exhibits have been especially good, although I pressed Karl about what he had enjoyed, and he said ‘the Image Duplicator show in May 2012, comic artists responding to the then current Lichtenstein show at Tate Modern. That felt a little bit like ” sticking it to the art establishment “! and the ” In Orbit ” show this time last year, which was artwork by the Orbital staff, past and current – a formidable and wildly eclectic group!’

This exhibit runs now until December 5, and then coming up, immediately following Bryan’s Grandville show, Orbital Comics have a ‘”Kirby Consciousness” exhibit, a turn of phrase coined by Shaky Kane, which features a huge number of artists paying tribute to Jack Kirby in this, his centennial.’ said Karl who mentioned that they will be teasing it on their site although Karl was very keen to praise the variety of people who participate in the exhibits. The Kirby Consciousness exhibition runs from December 9 to January 14, with a special private view event after hours on Friday December 8.

As I walked away with Andrea and Ian, and on our path to meet Russell Smith, there was mutual agreement that this was a destination worth visiting and that seeing artwork in its original state in a fine yet unassuming gallery amongst comics was brilliant.

Journey Planet’s “Disney on Rails” Issue

“Yes, in one way or another I have always loved trains.” Walter E. Disney.

By James Bacon: Here at Journey Planet we are pleased to announce that we have released a whole issue entitled and about “Mapping Disney’s Railways”. In fairness, we have not gotten our cartographers kit out, but rather focused on Walt Disney’s love of trains.

Download it directly here [PDF file].

Starting with Walt Disney as a youth in Marceline, where his Uncle would drive trains and he himself was a “Train Butcher” through to his live steam model railway, The Carolwood Pacific Railroad, surrounding his home in Los Angeles, we have tried to capture in the fanzine many the many railway elements that intersected with Walt Disney.

From there, the fanzine looks at the trains that were built and bought for Disneyland, from the Steam Trains, to Monorails, to Viewliner Train of tomorrow. Looking at the engines that exist in a variety of Parks, and discussing historical questions, the zine has drawn on many sources, including Michael Broggies’ Walt Disney’s Railroad Story which captivated me.

This is the seminal work, indeed it is more than that, it was inspirational to me, and I started to try and figure out parts that the book touched on, or that I had read elsewhere, and match up the stories, and it was just so much fun.

This book is fabulous. Although I have read many, and went down many routes of fun research, and picked up articles and magazines, it was perfect to read as it was like marrying all the pieces of Disney together. It is a definitive history, not just because of the details, but because Broggie was there, he was on the footplate of the train with Walt, he was working the Carolwood Pacific Railway empty stock movements, he was shown the workings and allowed to drive Lilly Belle, he is a Disney Historian and offers brilliant insight. His ability then to translate all this information into a four-hundred page book is sublime. I bought the 2nd edition and the 4th is awaiting me in Boston, which I will visit for Smofcon.

The book, is available at The Carolwood Society Website.

Some sources proved very elusive, The Railroad Magazine from  October 1965, has an amazing article called “I Have Always Loved Trains” by Walt Disney and is a vital piece of testimony, which I wanted to find.

The Irish Railway Record Society Library had many Railroad Magazines from 1965 but not October, while The Boston Public Library’s issue was also missing from the shelves. Finding a copy via my local library was impossible and COPAC mostly failed me, and that is a system that searches the catalogues of some 90 major libraries across Ireland and the UK. Although it did have The Railroad Man’s Magazine listed. Fortunately a photocopy of the article emanated from the USA.

As well as the Railways at the Parks, which have fascinating technologies, there is the Carolwood Society’s “Walt’s Barn” at the LA Live Steamers in Griffith Park there is the Lilly Belle parlour car, which is exceptionally exclusive at Disneyland, and a Carolwood Pacific Room at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World.

Many fans and professionals contributed on the subject as part of the ‘instant fanzine’ section, from Michael Marshall Smith to Kerry Kyle.

Octocon 2017

James, Dublin 2019 GOH Diane Duane, Peter Morwood and Dublin 2019 treasurer JC.

By James Bacon: After the ceol and the craic of Friday night at Irish DiscWorldcon, I slept well and made an early breakfast with Vanessa, before heading to Kent Station, Cork for the 10.40 departure, but as we go we are wished warm and pleasant farewells from Siobhan the Irish DiscWorldcon Chair.

Octocon beckoned and once we arrived in Dublin, the trip from Heuston Station to the Camden Court Hotel, in the City centre, on the south side of the Liffey was quick in a taxi. The warm welcome at Octocon was amazing and as we walked in we are greeted, and soon joined other committee members at the Dublin 2019 table. We were also met by Janet O’Sullivan the chair of a Octocon and Sakura Perez the programme director as we receive our memberships and I hear that membership has hit 350 people, which is a fine figure for Octocon.

Pair of chairs. Janet O’Sullivan and James Bacon

I thought that I’d get into some programme but suddenly I’m catching up with so many folk that over two hours passes by, our table is strategically placed near the bar and I encounter many friends and new fans, and also pleased to listen and hear the excitement for the Dublin 2019. I look to hand out some ribbons, which are popular here, but new, and so any are well accepted, I have a variety of old ones, and they are eagerly received.

Mike Carroll busy signing comics.

I take a moment to catch up on a presentation, one by Michael Carroll. Mike is a writer and long-time fan here in Dublin, who has written prose, script and comic. He has written over 100 episodes of Judge Dredd for 2000AD, amongst a wide variety of work. After talking a little bit about one of his recent stories in that comic, he begins an incredible motivational and pragmatic presentation about writing. I am fascinated, his sound bites and ideas, make so much sense. Simple things like “Finish the work” and  “No one cares what you’re ‘going to write’ only what you have written” — the point being that the thing you’ve not yet written doesn’t actually exist, so people can’t evaluate it. “Start,” it all makes such wonderful sense.  His positive encouragement and forthright honesty is quite fantastic. His sensible and achievable down to earth advice is amazing and he has the whole room enrapt, and indeed it is compelling, I am wondering myself about the idea of a story, and how, well, I haven’t actually followed his rules and sure isn’t it a wonder that I am nowhere near writing it. He offers five rules of writing which somehow seem very basic, but with consideration filled with crucial points.

It is a wonderful programme item, and I really enjoyed it. Overall feedback at Octocon is that the programme is exciting and interesting and indeed, I note that I am challenged for choices. The programme booklet is visible here.

I get to meet Paul Trimble who runs Enniskillen Comic Fest [Facebook link].  I am looking forward to this event next year, and really enjoyed it this year and it is vital for the Dublin 2019 team that we connect across the country here, and Vanessa from promotions is chatting with Paul, as well as the team from WexWorlds.

The chat and laughter never stops, and it is just brilliant to be home. This is home you know, my science fiction fannish home, my first convention, my first piece of purchased artwork, my first book signed, so many firsts happened at Octocon for me, and it is a vital part of my makeup and I love it. It has had many venues, shapes, committees and guests, and now in its twenty-seventh year, it is an amazingly well spirited and friendly convention. The attendance includes a lot of new fans. Indeed, I smiled when Janet pleasantly informed me that they ran out of ‘first time attendee’ ribbons when they gave out their 42nd, such a science fictional significance.

The feeling of celebration continues as the Dublin 2019, An Irish Worldcon promotions team of Vanessa May, Marguerite Smith and Sara Felix have worked closely with Janet O’Sullivan chair of Octocon and the team and so have sponsored the nights entertainment here. The promotions team have a new Iain Clarke poster, which I really like, and magic green wands that are multi-functional, and so the evening’s  entertainment has a theme.

Vanessa, James, Marguerite, Esther and Ruth

As the dancing continues, the Octocon arrange Guerilla DJ Phil Dyson to extend the disco into the early hours, alleging that a ‘post party, party’ is occurring during clean up and so dancing continues, and indeed the music by Phil is excellent.

Dance floor shenanigans. (Fia doing the peace sign)

I attended a Fan Fund discussion and was well pleased to engage with Fia Karlsson the current NOFF delegate from Sweden. The Nordic Fan Fund happily sending Fia here to Dublin. Previous fan fund winners Tobes Valois and James Shields engaged with loser Douglas Spencer under the keen moderation of Fiona O’Sullivan. I made good mention of bursaries and other elements that are out there to help fans.

Listing off future cons is a thing at Octocon, and David Ferguson of Irish Comic News and Carol Connolly listed all the events that would be taking place in the next twelve months and beyond. Much mention was made of many cons including the Dublin Comic Con which got a lot of positive comment and was nice, I had to miss this years one, Dublin 2019 had a strong presence with other cons, handing out thousands of free books and comics as part of an outreach initiative.( There is quite a lot going on in Ireland right now.

Future vista of conventions and events in Ireland is positive but it was a special moment as Carol skipped forward a little bit to August 2019.

I was courteously allowed some time to speak at the closing ceremony, and thanked the Octocon Committee and previous committees, as well as the members. They, a huge amount of people have been collectively hugely supportive. It was five years ago that I stood up, and the chair asked for recording devices to be turned off, and shared the secret that a Irish bid for a Worldcon was in the offing. Now to thank everyone as we are a seated Worldcon was an amazing thing. I made mention of our ‘First Worldcon’ rate of €100 and also of the Fantastic Dublin Fund, which is there to help people who need some help. I said that it would pain me greatly to work on something like this for many years, to find that some regular fan, just could not get to it. My sentiments were noted, and as I finished off by thanking everyone, my brief moment at the top of the room ended with ripping applause and cheering. A good bunch here, the noise from the closing ceremony was rapturous at the right times, that is for sure.

I’ll be heading to the con next year of course, although a venue change is on the cards, and dates will need to be confirmed, but at the end of the closing ceremony, after Janet had announced this news, the queue to join up for next year, was as long as ever, if not longer.

The evening continued, and later I found myself introducing many foreign fans to a ‘Spice Bag’ later at my Mom’s up the road on Black Horse Ave, ending the evening with a unique Dublin dish, and more talk, everyone having loved the con. Seven Spice bags please!

I admit it, I missed so much, The Blasters, the Vault of Horror, the amazing Guests of Honour, Dan Abnett and Nik Abnett, the variety of guests, the wondrousness of home-made foods in the dealer’s room, next to great books and comics. There was so much, and all the while the spirit was fantastic.

Dublin street furniture.

Trip to Cork, Irish Discworld Con 2017

Fergal, Vanessa, Gwen, Brian, John, John, James and Kevin

By James Bacon: Heuston station is one of Dublin’s finest stations, and is the main connection to the west and south of Ireland, the Cork train is a sleek modern machine, propelled by a powerful GM locomotive with a streamlined consist of ‘mark iv’ modern 21st century carriages, it awaits us calmly, patiently.

The journey starts with an adventurous element, I am meeting Vanessa May at the train but Vanessa is delayed by a bout of Dublin traffic, and so is now under the kosh for the 11.00am departure. There is a chance that we will miss this train, as time ticks by, I speak to the dispatcher, there are now many Irish Rail staff aware of Vanessa’s predicament – we can get the next one for sure – but everyone appreciates that people like to go on time and in their reserved places.

I am standing next to the dispatcher, the whistle is blown, the 2-minute announcements is long gone and as a timely train operator myself, I know doors close 30 seconds before departure, that time point came quickly and is now past tense with the sharp shrill of the whistle

Flying through the crash barriers Vanessa comes at speed, accompanied by Irish Rail staff assisting, and the dispatcher seeing this makes a reassuring and positive acknowledgement to me and is promptly deploying a ramp, soon Vanessa is on board, doors shoosh close, and the train is moving as soon as we are at our table and designated seats, a bit late but no bother.

We smile in the knowledge that the level of customer care and service here is solidly good and we are on our journey.

As we pass Portlaoise, we interrupt our Dublin 2019 meeting and I briefly chat to Vanessa about the first gunshot of the 1916 Easter Rising, which involved rebels and the railway, just south of Portlaoise station on a railway line that no longer exists, fortunately the countryside is a lush and beautiful sight to see and captures the imagination as well as the heart.

We are on our way to Cork, where we will be meeting other committee members and starting a celebratory weekend, marking the winning of the bid for Dublin 2019, an Irish Worldcon.

James Bacon and Siobhan Greaney. two chairs.

Irish Discworld Con is taking place in Cork, and chair Siobhan Greaney has welcomed us to the Cork International Hotel, and there is a Trad Session scheduled for tonight, sponsored by Dublin 2019. The theme here is based around an open weekend at the Unseen University, so there is a lovely selection of swag handed to all members, from a stylish notebook to simple wizards’ hat button badge, it is all nice.


The bar and restaurant are well populated, and Colin Smythe chats with Vanessa and Brian as I type away, relaxing and enjoying a drink, that is a vital part no doubt, and so we are catching up and greeting a variety of Dublin 2019 team members, some of whom are also on staff here. Colin is one of the many guests here, Terry Pratchett’s original publisher and subsequently his agent, Colin has a strong connection to Ireland, his company having specialised in publishing 19th and 20th century Irish literature and criticism and Irish myths and folklore. Indeed, for services to Irish literature Colin received an honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) from the University of Dublin in 1998.

The convention sold out at 300 members and the excitement and enthusiasm is palpable at the opening ceremony which is well-filled. A wide variety of cosplay is on display and all members are armed with ‘credits’ that can be awarded for excellent costume, best fake beards, audacious puns and being very helpful.

The opening is rumbatiously great fun and sets a lovely tone, audience engagement, an unruly potential student body here for the open day, and laughter at the jokes of the ‘acting faculty’ along with Siobhan the chair welcoming everyone amongst friends they may not have met yet.

Opening ceremony; Alan, Siobhan and Roy.

Alcohol, goodwill, energy and volunteers are the key ingredients here, we are informed and I smile. Although the love for Terry, his work and he himself is strong here, and indeed charities have been selected that represent his support and with the mention of the esteemed departed author the room is momentarily solemn. Soon though, channelling the authors propensity for humour and good fun theatrics return on stage to entertain the filled room. With the announcements a lovely mention is made of the Dublin 2019 win, and it is met with a strong cheer, as I sit amongst these fans it’s a phenomenal response to hear.

After the opening ceremony, the Trad session gets started.

Arundo Trad: John, John and Kevin.

The 3 set band are Kevin, John and John, the Arundò  trad, and soon they burst into song and music filling the room with traditional Irish sounds. The room is brimful and a variety of instruments are being played, flute, bodhran, uilleann pipes, whistles, guitar and mandolin are used.  The bodhran and uilleann pipes are the only indigenous musical instruments, we are told as the lads educate while entertaining.

Jigs, slides and polkas interspace songs, while lyric sheets are available so those that are not au fait can sing along. It goes brilliantly (in my mind anyhow) when “Whiskey in the Jar” comes on and sure I’m at the Dublin table singing me lungs out while I’m enjoying my pint but fortunately I’ve not contaminated the sound too despite my best efforts to slaughter the song.

In desperate need to make good for my dreadfully out-of-tune efforts at accompaniment we fire Brian up into the limelight for a much more polished rendition of “Molly Malone.” Slides and songs, “Wild Rover,” “The Parting Glass,” “Star of County Down,” the audience are loving it and the large semi-circular room is packed and thankfully there’s no bother as more come in to the sounds and find standing space in corners and such, pints or colas in hand and enjoying the music.

John is fierce on the uilleann pipes and talks us through three tunes he will be playing with distinctively different feelings, talking about happy, sad and lullaby music. The first tune has the room in silent in concentration and contemplation, leaning forward in their seats, compelled to listen, this is “Port na púca.” In English this is ‘spirit music’ with two stories about how it came about, the “Ghosts of the Harbour” was the sound the last fiddler who left the Blasket islands heard on his last night there, but it’s also been told that it’s the sound fishermen in traditional curraghs would hear from the humpback whales. John gently ponders aloud to the audience about whether there be truth in either after this and the subsequent songs the eruption of cheers and applause.

More songs and the flute and bodhran are on gently, soon joined by guitar after a while, the pace increasing the room swaying and jigging, followed then by more songs including an incredible rendition of “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, beautifully done.

John, John and Kevin.

This is what I love about cons in Ireland, enjoying the social scene, the good times and having some music and great discussions. Of course, there are the debates and passion and love of fantastic fiction and here the Worldcon is pushing an open door, again applause is in the air as much for the music as for the forthcoming Dublin 2019 which makes one feel warm, optimistic and even excited, although that could be the cider.

A grand day overall. Tomorrow we belt back up to Dublin and will get to Octocon where the celebrations and good times will continue.

James Bacon Nominated for Train Driver of the Year

On the heels of winning the Worldcon bid, Dublin 2019 chair James Bacon has been recognized in his day job as a finalist for the RailStaff Awards Train Driver of the Year.

One of 15 finalists, James was nominated by his manager at Heathrow Express, Kirsty Sando. Those who have worked with him on conventions will recognize the same qualities she sees:

James is dedicated, hardworking, fun to be around and supportive of his colleagues. He has his own unique way of making passengers on board his services smile, his announcements are always fun and light hearted and he always puts true customer service at the heart of his job every day. He takes true delight in telling passengers “we are now cruising at 100mph”.and will let passengers know if there is something exciting to see like a passing steam train.

James has worked tirelessly as a driver at HEx for over 10 years, he is a valued member of the team. He will always stop for a chat and puts other people’s problems, questions and queries before any of his own needs. James went through a difficult time in his personal life a few years ago but his positive nature helped to see him through and he now openly uses what he learnt through this time to help other drivers and trainees and is a real advocate of non-technical skills.

His recent promotion to Lead Driver has seen James grow immensely. His passion for the role and desire to see the trainees develop is evident every day. He has often gone out of his way to support the trainees, regularly re-arranging his working days and shifts to help the trainees gain driving hours, most recently he emailed from Helsinki to arrange a shift on behalf of one of his trainees. Not a week goes by where I don’t get an email from James with fantastic suggestions for helping the trainees; he will always offer to give up his own time to work with them. James really cares about his colleagues, seeking out coats for them in rainy weather and buying them coffee if they are tired. A real example of going above and beyond, always.

James commented, “National award so it’s nice to be put forward. Incredible people to be amongst.”

The winner will be announced at the RailStaff Awards ceremony on October 7.

Interestingly, the 2016 Train Driver of the Year was also a fellow with a dash of science fictional flair.

Last year’s Train Driver of the year was Steve Copley from Southern Trains.

“A ‘commuter’s hero’, Steve lifts the spirits of grey-faced Londoners by hosting a guess the year quiz over the intercom to distract passengers from their dull morning commute. He has his own hashtag on Twitter, #timetunneltrain, and has driven changes in customer information within the business.”

It’s Official: 77th Worldcon Will Be in Dublin

For the first time in history of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) the convention will take place in Dublin, Ireland.

Today, Dublin was confirmed as the 2019 location by site selection voters at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. Worldcon 75 reports 1,227 votes were received.

Dublin 2019 will take place at the Convention Centre Dublin from August 15-19, 2019. The Guests of Honour range from writers to scientists and beyond – Bill and Mary Burns, Diane Duane, Ginjer Buchanan, Ian McDonald, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and Steve Jackson.

Dublin 2019 chair James Bacon said:

The whole team are delighted to be bringing the Worldcon to Ireland for the first time. It’s a huge achievement and we are very proud to be able to welcome thousands of fans to this beautiful country that is steeped in storytelling. We have fantastic guests and we will building an exciting programme covering all aspects of science fiction, fantasy and horror in all media, including prose, comics, art, film, cosplay, science, TV to name a few in what will be a fabulous celebration here in Dublin.

The Worldcon is held in a different city every year and usually has around 5,000 attendees from around the globe.  Some of the highlights of the five day event include the Hugo Awards, the Masquerade and programming that runs all five days with over a thousand items including panels, talks, workshops, films, autograph sessions and more.

About the guests:

  • Bill and Mary Burns (New York):  Avid readers who have attended Worldcon since 1967.  Bill was the recipient of the Doc Weir Award in 2003 and both were Fan Guests of Honour at Eastercon LX.
  • Diane Duane (Wicklow): Diane’s first novel was published in 1979 and have sold more than fifty other novels during her career.  She has won numerous awards and has also written extensively for tv and film.
  • Ginjer Buchanan (New York): Ginjer has over fifty years in fandom and over 30 years as professional editor.  She has been nominated for the Best Editor- Long Form Hugo six times and won in 2014.
  • Ian McDonald (Belfast): Is a writer who has over written over 20 novels and numerous short stories.  In addition he has also worked in programme development in Ireland. He has won awards for his short fiction as well as novels.
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Lurgan Co Armagh): Jocelyn is a Northern Irish astrophysicist who as a postgraduate student discovered the first radio pulsars.
  • Steve Jackson (Texas): Steve is a game designer by trade who owns Steve Jackson Games.  He has received 12 Origin Awards as well as various other honours for game design.

“World Science Fiction Society,” “WSFS,” “World Science Fiction Convention,” “Worldcon,” “NASFiC,” “Hugo Award,” and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.

[Based on a press release.]

Croatian Party

Busy Australian and Croatian Party

By James Bacon: Brilliant Balkans!

I’m yearning for milk as I wonder what degree of burn I’ve just encountered. I’m at a Croatian party and am loving the hospitality.

Helsinki has kicked off with an incredible energy. By lunchtime Eemeli Aro was clearly pleased that they had quickly processed some 3,700 people, I am impressed, the queue system and reg worked well here. It’s been a great day, meeting friends and making new ones as I helped near the Dublin 2019 table. I am on the customer side engaging and chatting and attending meetings.

The table was mobbed as soon as the hall opened and it’s a state of hand-over-fist as the upgrades and friends inundate the table. Sanna Kellokoski the deputy treasurer of the con helps us out with additional tech support. It’s amazing to watch, the team are smooth and the atmosphere is electric. People really want an Irish Worldcon. Is it wrong that I am a bit astounded by the eagerness of fans to join?

The day flies by and a Lebanese dinner fills the gap and recharges.

I am at the Croatian and Australian bring-your-own-booze party. I have some Irish Whiskey, which isn’t available in Ireland and is possibly only for the US market, courtesy of Ian Stockdale who picked it up in Paolo Alto, I forced/begged him to get a Bevmo club card in order to save three dollars.

I’d doled it out in my room to a broad bunch of rapscallions but afterwards a division head with responsibilities heads to bed. As we bid adieu to the conscientious Ms. Secor, myself and some UK fans head down to the parties, loaded up with this sweet and mildly caramel-flavoured Irish Whiskey of dubious heritage, it’s a busy Winter Garden that greats us.

The bar downstairs in the Winter Garden is hectic, tokens have been distributed offsetting the cost of the beers and so fans are enjoying the New Zealand Party. The team are doing a sterling job but I miss me pal Norm. He’s not here and I miss him. Furniture smasher that he is.

After a while I head from there to the Croatian and Australian party with a bunch of heavy drinking beer aficianados and as we wander the route to a yellow wooden building with a sauna where a party is happening, it’s quite a beautiful night.

I bump into Kristina and Meghan from Colorado and we chat and it’s good, I’d met them earlier and they are enjoying this Worldcon.

As soon as I enter the party venue I get offered a hip flask, it contains vodka, originally a litre bottle stuffed with Carolina Reapers, a chilli pepper, I’m told it’s two million something’s, scobies, I think, surprised that a Dublin term of endearment is in use here.  Nope it’s Scovilles, apparently — this makes it hot and me gob is burnt off me.

Wag who concocted this hellfire is a great sort, I met him some 23 years ago, he ran a cocktail workshop at Incon 2 the second Inconsequential entitled Inconcievable.  With Tobes Valois, Jim De Liscard, Liam Proven and Anders Holstrom it feels like the gougers of British fandom have congregated here and having a great time.

While I shovel ice into me mouth following a hearty mouthful of Wag’s crazy drink, I get handed a lovely honey liquor by Olexandr Vasylkivsky from Ukraine. It’s a Croatian speciality, I cannot but wonder is warm hospitality a Croatian speciality as I drink this nice brandy honey liquor called Medica.

I then encounter Petra Bulic and soon hilarity ensues as a host of Croatian fans start volunteering one another for Dublin. I utterly fail to explain we have an online process and how our member and staff services have a superb system as they all egg each other on to commit to the hopeful Dublin 2019.

Vanja Kranjcevic is working the green room here and all look to her, but Monika Tresk, Zvonimira Ivaniševic, Petra and Marina are all in fantastic spirits laughing and yet being wonderful hosts.

They hand me a copy of a special Worldcon 2017 Parsek. (Mike I blagged one for you!) It’s of supreme quality and so impressive. I am introduced to Irena Rašeta and am handed a Pernod-type liqueur.

Shortly I find myself outside with Petra and Zvonimira, taking about Worldcons. Petra produces Maraschino, a cherry based liqueur. Wild ideas abound and as some Croatian fans lament a lack of facilities for a Worldcon others join us and contemplate a con on a cruise ship. I can’t see any down side here, and would love such an event.

The craic is ninety and it’s just great fun. Laughter and amusement abound and soon at 1 a.m. all the Croatian fans regain a sense of responsibility and clean up the venue and see us out.

It’s been a beautiful night with fabulous fans.


Jelena Saban, Monika and Zvonimira proudly display their T-shirts promoting SFERAKON, which is SFERA society – sphere – and the oldest convention in the Balkans — next year is the 40th anniversary. Petra was chair of Kontakt, the 2012 Eurocon in Zagreb and they produced a book of Croatian stories in English.

Croatian fandom is highly active and listed here the main events.

Rapscallions having a good time!

Wag and his vodka

Volunteer online!


2019 Site Selection: Validating Postal Votes

[Facing]: Johan Anglemark, Mark Linneman, Eemeli Aro, Emma England. [Opposite] Paul Taylor, Ben Yalow, Kate Secor.

By James Bacon: (Chair of the Dublin in 2019 bid). I’m observing the postal vote process. The administrator and the team are assisted by members of the Dublin in 2019 team and committee, people from six countries are taking part. Walter Jon Williams has joined us for a few moments, as I look on. Neutral separators are handling and ensuring it’s all correctly managed.  Worldcon 75 staff check against, their data and the level attention to detail and slow and steady methodical progress is taken seriously. The integrity of the procedure is impressive and I’m stunned at the knowledge of those here who deal with inevitable errors that may have occurred.

Here with me from the Dublin Team are Emma England, Ben Yalow and Paul Taylor. The bids are welcome and indeed expected to help and participate in the whole process, everything is run by volunteers, although this is something I have not done before and it feels like we are momentarily connected to people from far-flung places who want to participate in the decision-making process of who will get to host the Worldcon in 2019.

From Worldcon 75 there is Kate Secor, Michael Lee, Eemeli Aro, Mark Linneman and Johan Anglemark.

The large stack of envelopes is impressive and I’m allowed to photograph some of the stamps which I like. I love post and in many ways this is fabulous post.

Post has arrived at the US address from New Zealand, Germany, Canada and of course United States. The votes arriving at the Helsinki are even more varied with votes from Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Austria, New Zealand, and Germany.

The process takes over two hours but the atmosphere is lovely and it’s an amazing thing to see the mechanics of this process which has existed in this form since 1983.

Science Fiction has permeated so much of our culture that some of the stamps used have particular relevance and make me smile.

More votes will be hand-carried and passed to the voting table from tomorrow and then of course everyone present here is entitled to vote.


Dublin in 2019 Presupport Deadlines

Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid chair James Bacon has announced on their website that midnight BST on August 6 is the deadline to presupport or upgrade support levels using their online facility.

Dublin is running unopposed, and site selection voting will be finalized this month at Worldcon 75.

Friends and superfriends  of the 2019 bid will become attending members if they vote in site selection, and presupporters and backers will get small discounts on their memberships if they vote in site selection.

Details are here:

James Bacon welcomes all those who want to get in before the window closes —

Likewise, if you have friends who were interested and wanted to join, becoming a friend and then converting once we win, would be welcomed. The more members we have from the start, the better we can plan.

As ever, my thanks to those of you who pre-supported at any level. We are in a great position, and if we win the bid, you should know you were an integral part of that, and that is why many of you did pre-support us, and for that, along with the committee, we are very thankful.

[Thanks to Bruce Albrecht for the story]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/17 And Remember To Scroll Your Answers In The Form Of A Pixel

(1) AN AMAZING BOOK. So says James Bacon, who gives a rave review to Anthony Hewitt’s Joshua N’Gon – Last Prince of Alkebulahn on Forbidden Planet blog.

We journey forwards and back as we come to know what has occurred to Joshua and the man who wants to get him, Kanu, genius criminal who has found a way to recreate his memories. Kanu has been ostracised to London from Alkebulahn with his mind wiped, but has the help of ‘arachnobots’ and now he controls a huge armaments corporation which is a front for a sinister organisation The Black Axis. He comes across with some considerable strength and charisma, indeed in one moment where he speaks of making people uncomfortable because of ‘My ethnicity, my bearing and my outspokenness’ and although is an absolute villain, his story is nicely interwoven, as it is important to the back story that is Joshua’s heritage.

Its a cracking good read, this one.

It rockets on, the chapters are nice and short, and all the time there are adventures. Joshua is set tasks by his learned school teacher, at a very impressive school, and these end up involving explorations and inventing, taking part in extreme sports, or combative and challenging excitements, and soon we see that our team gets into some tights spots culminating in a wonderfully tense set of scenes.

This book has it all: a sinister, cloaked Black Airship, mechanised Mayhem, ancient elements with science fictional connections, alien technologies and black history, white pulsed energy blasts, portals, a robotic and somewhat intelligent drone called Ballz, super soakers turned into weapons that make water solid like a ball bearing until they strike an adversary, a visit to the British Museum, Notting Hill Carnival and to imaginative places that are portrayed with an element of brilliance. Music, food and language give strong cultural indicators, offering elements that I was not aware of before….

(2) CHOSEN WORDS. Nicholas Eskey of ComicsBeat “SDCC ’17: Interview: Author Karin Tidbeck Uncovers the Dreamlike Storyline of’ ‘Amatka’”.

Have you always planned on writing for an English-speaking market?

When I was nineteen, I worked in a science-fiction bookshop in Stockholm. There was, and still is, this magazine called “Locus,” which is the SFF industry’s main magazine, and I would read that during lunch break. And I had this revelation that “I wanted to be in here. I want to have my book reviewed in here. I want to have an interview here. And I want to be on the shelves in the book shop… in English.” The thing is, Sweden has a very small readership. It’s very difficult to get books published, it’s very difficult to sell books, it’s extremely difficult to sell speculative fiction. So, I realized that the market was so small that I had to switch languages, but I didn’t switch until I was in my early thirties.

Tell us a little about your book, “Amatka.”

Amatka is about humans colonizing a world where matter, physical matter, responds to language. It’s about what happens to society that tries to survive in such a world. What happens to the people who quite can’t find a place in it. So, it’s about reality, it’s about language, it’s about revolution, and it’s about love.

(3) SPACE SHOWER. Sci-Tech Universe says “Get Ready! The Brightest Meteor Shower in the Recorded Human History Is Happening” – and you’ll be able to see it.

There is going to be a meteor shower on 12th of August, 2017. According to astronomers this will be the brightest shower in the recorded human history. It will light up the night sky and some of these might even be visible during the day. This meteor shower is being considered as once in a lifetime opportunity as the next meteor shower of such kind will be after 96 years.

The Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year, occurs every year between July 17 and August 24. The shower tends to peak around August 9-13.

(4) GO FEST, YOUNG FAN. The Verge reports “Niantic is delaying some of its European events after Chicago’s disastrous Pokémon Go Fest”.

Niantic Labs threw a big event in Chicago last weekend to celebrate the first year of Pokémon Go, only to run into cellular data congestion and server issues that made the game unplayable for many attendees. Now, the company has announced that it’s delaying several planned European events to ensure that trainers will be able to play the game.

In a blog post, Niantic said that its delaying two sets of events planned for Copenhagen and Prague (August 5) and Stockholm and Amsterdam (August 12), until later this fall. Several other planned events for Japan (August 14th), and France, Spain, and Germany (September 16th) are moving forward as scheduled.

The delay comes after Chicago’s Pokémon Go Fest got off to a disastrous start last week. Cellular service was spotty, and server issues prevented players from logging into the game. When Niantic CEO John Hanke took to the stage for his opening remarks, players booed him, and the company ultimately ended up offering refunds and $100 worth of Pokécoins to players. Last week, nearly two dozen attendees launched a class-action lawsuit against Niantic, aiming to recoup travel expenses.

(5) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. The Hugo Award Book Club declares there are “Too Many Sequels” up for the award. They make a colorable argument anyway.

It’s worth noting that the majority of this year’s Best Novel Hugo Award shortlist is comprised of books that are either the first part in a series, or the sequel to another work.

In fact, only one of the six novels on this year’s shortlist (All The Birds In The Sky) is a standalone work.

This is not the first time in recent memory that the shortlist has been dominated by sequels, prequels, or works in a shared universe. But it is part of a larger trend, and it’s one that worries us.

In the 1960s, 88 per cent of the Hugo shortlist was comprised of standalone novels. From 2001 to 2010, 56 per cent of Hugo shortlisted novels were standalone works. In the first seven years of this decade, the statistic has fallen to 27 per cent (ten of the 36 novels shortlisted).

(6) HARRYHAUSEN FILM ANNIVERSARY. Episode 15 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast is the “20 Million Miles to Earth: 60th Anniversary Special”.

Join us for a celebration of Ray Harryhausen’s 1957 classic, ’20 Million Miles to Earth’. Our 15th episode sees Foundation trustee John Walsh and Collections Manager Connor Heaney discuss the adventures of the Ymir- one of Ray’s most beloved and sympathetic creations.

We then discuss the first exhibition of Ray Harryhausen material in the USA for several years, opening at the Science Museum Oklahoma from July through to December. We describe this incredible display with museum director Scott Henderson, alongside his own lifelong enthusiasm for Harryhausen films.

An exclusive interview follows, recorded on location at the Barbican Centre’s ‘Into the Unknown’ exhibition with Terry Marison. Terry was one of the suited Selenites in the 1964 classic ‘First Men in the Moon’, and discusses his experiences of being one of Ray Harryhausen’s living creatures!


  • Paperback Book Day

How To Celebrate Paperback Book Day

The best way to celebrate Paperback Book Day is to curl up with your favorite paperback book. If it’s been a while since you’ve bought a proper book, this is your opportunity to do so. Get out there and find a copy of your favorite text, or even pass one on to another friend. Then, when you’ve hit all the used book stores and perused the shelves of the nearest book stores, it’s time to come on home and look over your collection. Paperback Book Day recalls all those rainy quiet days spent reading a book while the drips ran down the windowpane.


  • July 30, 1971 — Apollo 15 landed on the Moon.
  • July 30, 1986 — Walt Disney’s Flight of the Navigator premiered on this day.
  • July 30, 1999 The Blair Witch Project, is released in U.S. theaters.


  • Born July 30, 1947 — Arnold Schwarzenegger


  • Born July 30, 1948 – Actor Carel Struycken is born in The Hague, Netherlands. He is best known for playing the Giant in Twin Peaks, Mr. Homn in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Lurch in three Addams Family films.

(11) WELLS AUTOGRAPHED. You can get a mighty good price on a beat-up old book…if H. G. Wells drew an original sketch in it — “First edition of HG Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’ doubles estimate at £11,000”.

A first bookform edition sold for £11,000 at Cheffins of Cambridge earlier this month was slightly foxed and stained, but on the front free endpaper Wells had signed and inscribed the book for Edmond Joseph Sullivan and added a tiny drawing of a moustachioed angel.

(12) ON THE ROCKS. The Guardian’s feature on shipwrecks ends with a Dracula reference — “Walking the Yorkshire coast: the shipwrecks and sea caves of Flamborough and beyond”.

The last stop in any shipwreck walk ought to be the evocative St Mary’s church in Whitby, where there is a memorial to the lifeboat tragedy of 1861… After visiting the church, head down the steps – known by all as the Dracula Steps – across the swing bridge and over to the pier itself, a fabulous piece of marine engineering.

From there, continue up the hill towards East Terrace. On a grassy bank you will find a park bench dedicated to Bram Stoker, who sat here and used a real shipwreck – that of a Russian vessel on the shore opposite – to create an imaginary one, that of the Demeter, and, of course, the most memorable shipwreck survivor of all time: Count Dracula himself.

(13) I STREAM, YOU STREAM. Another splintering of the dying network monolith… all 28 seasons of The Simpsons are now available on Vudu.

(14) NOVELLA TO TV. From we learn: “Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom in Development at AMC”.

AMC announced that Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom is in development for television as part of their “scripts-to-series development model that puts the emphasis on the most important part of our strategy – outstanding writing, a commitment to worlds you’ve never seen on TV before, and rich character development.”

(15) NOBODY LIVES FOREVER. While conducting an interview for The Guardian, Alison Flood learned from “Robin Hobb: ‘Fantasy has become something you don’t have to be embarrassed about’”.

Good fantasy, Hobb believes, is about “lowering the threshold of disbelief so the reader can step right into the book and not feel blocked out by something that’s impossible or at first glance silly. And I think silly is more dangerous than impossible.”

It is also, as Martin knows so well, about not being afraid to draw the final curtain for your characters when the time comes. “Nobody gets to go on for ever. If you put a little magical umbrella over your characters and say ‘yes, we’re going to scare you a little bit but ultimately you know that at the end of the book everything is going to be much the same way it was when we started the story’, well then, why write the story, what’s the point?”

(16) ALIEN ADVENTURE. The Recall official trailer.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]