By James Bacon: “Fight With Art” is an exhibition of Ukrainian Contemporary Art created under exceptional circumstances taking place now in Kraków at the Manggha Museum until April 30.
We reached out to curator Artur Wabik to learn more of this topical exhibition:
“The War in Ukraine affects the entirety of Europe and European people, including artists, curators, and other workers in the cultural sector. While providing shelter to refugees, and sending food and supplies to the fighters, we must not forget that our first language of expression is culture and art. With this strong foundation, we can fight today for truth and peace. Culture is the arbiter of civil society, it prevents us from sliding into the arms of brash propaganda and naked aggression.
“This is perfectly understood by the artists from Ukraine, who have been involved in building a civil society since 2014, creating works that comment on the current political and social situation. Many of them arise in opposition to Russian disinformation. Perhaps that is why they eagerly use popular, concise art forms, such as murals, stencils, posters, or comics.
“This War that now engulfs Ukraine meant that many of these artists had to put away their pencils and paintbrushes and reach for real weapons. One of them is street art artist, Dima Fatum, whose illustration, which is the leitmotif of the exhibition, was created a few days ago in the bombed Kharkiv. Others emigrated to Poland, where they started cooperation with the local artistic community and formed new friendships.
“It is our duty to give a voice to artists from Ukraine and to create a platform for the presentation of their works. Both those created at the front and those created in exile, Ukrainian contemporary art, and its creators need our support more than ever. We give selflessly, remembering that once Polish artists also received shelter and support from greater Europe. Today, we honor an old debt and we will pay and pay it forward, and persevere.
“Fight With Art is a living, experimental exhibition that will change. As life has now unexpectedly changed because of the war in Ukraine.”
The exhibition was opened on Monday, April 4, and there are some meetings planned with the Ukrainian artists and art critics who are already in Kraków. There is also a desire to launch an online auction of selected works.
The exhibition is presented as part of FestivALT in cooperation with the Muzeum Komiksu and the Muzeum Sztuki i Techniki Japo?skiej Manggha at the Manggha Museum – Marri Konopnickiej 26, Krakow, Poland.
Artur Wabik adds, “Some artists hid their works to protect their art from the war and they agreed to transport their works to Lviv and from there to Krakow in order to make them available to a wider audience, others sent us the materials in electronic form to be printed in Krakow. Others are Ukrainian artists currently living in Poland. We want help Ukrainian artists fight with their art!”
By James Bacon: The Invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the horror of a modern mechanized war in Europe, viewable instantaneously, the destruction and merciless death rained down on civilians, is utterly appalling.
From this though, art fights back. Art is a form of expression and many are horrified at what is occurring, and demonstrate this through their personal ability to portray a message, be it resistance, revulsion or rebellion.
The focus has also brought works to the attention of readers. I found some amazing war comic images online, and hunted them down and soon found that there was an exciting Ukrainian Comic enterprise, with established comics which was pivoting to share work by artists that reflects the war.
“WAR” is a comic book Patreon from The Will (https://www.patreon.com/TheWillProduction). The project supports Ukrainian artists and the Ukranian defense forces. The production team is creating a comic book compilation of short stories in various genres about the ‘War’, being created right now during this tumultuous time. Artists are waiving their fees and The Will are using these to buy supplies for the defense forces.
Kateryna Kosheleva’s story is in the style of a fantasy about the area of Ukraine known as KONOTOP, where many witches have lived since ancient times and the images speak for themselves.
Igor Kurilin is working on a story depicting the action at Snake Island.
And the cover is by Nazar Ponik.
War Comics have a long and varied history, but such direct support is new, yet laudable given the horrendous circumstances faced by these creatives.
“The Will” is a Ukrainian alternative history fantasy comic, with a strong steampunk theme, looking at events during 1917-1920, presenting a struggle for truth and freedom. There is also “The Prince’s Will”, a different series featuring anthropomorphic hamsters.
While these comics are in Ukrainian, the Will is also a publishing house, and as can be seen from their website, they are working to license and help their stories reach a further audience: The Will Production.
Fans will be personally challenged. War Comics are often anti-war, the arts, literature, culture lean towards civil resolutions, protest for sure. There is a known history of fans fighting in wars, and also abstaining. We are often able to dissociate ourselves from the tax we pay being used for god knows what, yet personal choices can and will be made. A country is fighting for its survival, a people have been brutally attacked, and while here on File 770 we know that there are Russians who hate Putin and this War equally, there is an actual existential fight that has been taking place in Ukraine now over a month since the invasion.
I cannot imagine how it is for a fan, comic artist or writer to wake to shelling, to curfews, to whatever is left of a city like Mariupol, to know an invading force of aggressors control parts of one’s country, to have seen millions have to leave their home, displaced, refugees, fleeing. How hard and devastating that must be.
Yet here we have some art, that captures the moment, that is really good to look at, that is accurate and well-drawn during adversity, and we see artists supporting their national defense forces, doing what they feel is best under dreadful circumstances, brave and admirable.
[We have permission from The Will to use these Facebook and Patreon Images.]
By James Bacon: Forty-five years ago or thereabouts, on February 26, 1977, the first ‘prog’ of 2000AD was released by IPC magazines. The second issue dated March 5 a week later saw the debut of Judge Dredd. Since then, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Sláine, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog, Roxy and Skizz, The ABC Warriors, Bad Company and Proteus Vex are just some of the characters and stories that have emanated from the comic that was started by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Some have gone on to be in computer games, especially as the comic was purchased by Rebellion developments in 2000, and Judge Dredd has been brought to the silver screen twice.
Addictive and enjoyable stories of the fantastic, written and drawn by some of the greatest comic creators of the latter part of the 20th century, they often related to the current, utilizing Science Fiction to obscure issues about violence or subversiveness, but reflecting metaphorically about the now of the time. Judge Dredd was an extrapolation of how bad authority could become. A number of stories came too close to the bone in the 1970’s including in Prog 71 and 72 which featured the Battle of the Burger Barons story with McDonald’s led by Ronald McDonald and Burger King going to war. If that wasn’t enough, Prog 77 and 78 featured many characters, such as the Jolly Green Giant, Col. Sanders, The Michelin Man and although most companies didn’t engage, Jolly Green Giant did sue, and this story has not been reprinted.
An example of unfortunate agelessness may be the ‘Invasion’ story of Bill Savage that featured in 2000AD in the 1970’s and 2000’s. ‘Invasion’ themed stories were common throughout British comics, from Will O the Whistle in Victor to Holocaust Squadron in Warlord. These stories with a hard hint of Jingoism and usually with an Eastern European or Asian aggressor invading Britain, extrapolated on a Third World War scenario. The Pat Mills and Gerry Finley-Day story ‘Invasion’ and subsequent anti-authoritarian ‘Savage’ with art by Charlie Adlard had a more thoughtful approach. Although one felt that the Invasion theme was now confined to history, to be considered and analyzed, it appears that it is suddenly and dreadfully now a current situation.
In the 1980’s the comic Crisis, a considered and thoughtful ongoing anthology from the 2000AD stable featured stories with a hard political view, reflecting on subjects from the Northern Ireland Troubles, Tiananmen Square to near future Third World War with multinationals exploiting poorer countries. Recently readers have been offered further stories which drive political thoughtfulness, and this has been most prominent with Dreadnoughts, which took an insightful near future look from now at the creation of the Judges, who become the police, detective, judge, jury and executioner all in one in the Judge Dredd historical timeline. Prog 2270 celebrated the anniversary with a Brian Bolland cover.
A confluence of occurrences is now about to occur, which through design or synchronicity will offer various opportunities to fans to see, engage and share appreciation for ‘The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’.
A celebration of 45 years of 2000 AD will occur online and free on this weekend on March 26 and 27 on 2000 AD’s social media channels and YouTube, and Rebellion’s dedicated Twitch stream. This two-day event has a considerable amount of talent engaging with fans, while all panels available to watch on YouTube afterwards. The full schedule is available here: https://2000ad.com/news/the-galaxys-greatest-full-schedule-announced
Comic creatives who have been announced include John Wagner, Pat Mills, Mick McMahon, Brian Bolland, Garth Ennis, Rob Williams , Alex de Campi (Archie vs Predator), Sean Phillips, Vincent Deighan (Frank Quitely), Jock, Anna Morozova, Micheal Carroll and John McCrea amongst others. A full list of creatives is available in the Rebellion website https://2000ad.com/2000ad-45th-anniversary/
The 2000AD team have also invited a wide and varied selection of 2000AD readers from other professions, and this will see Ian Rankin, Lauren Beukes, Louie Stowell discussing their view as authors, Kelly Kanayama looking beyond borders in 2000AD with British writer currently in Seattle Arthur Wyatt, Irish writer Michael Carroll and American artist Chris Burnham and fascinatingly Ministers for Parliament Stella Creasy and Alex Sobel on a panel with political journalist Ian Dunt on a panel discussing politics in 2000AD with MIke Molcher. How often have elected politicians been on panels?
Pat Mills and John Wagner will also be interviewed and with a total of 21 programme items, it’s a comprehensive weekend of online activity.
Also on March 26, the Commando and British Comic swap meet is being held at the 29th Glasgow Scout Group, Cameron Halls in Glasgow. The one-day event features a number of guests, Commando and 2000AD artist Graeme Neil Reid, 2000AD artist Colin MacNeil, Commando editor Calum Laird and Commando writer Colin Maxwell. The event will be occurring in person, and there are Covid precautions in place. The previous iteration of the Glasgow event took place on March 13, 2020 and based on the success of the Watford Swap meet and return of comic conventions and marts, a number of fans are travelling to it. The late Ian Kennedy who passed away on February 5 this year was due to be a guest, and he will be well remembered by those present, and missed.
Starting at 10:00 a.m., entry to the event is a pound for adults and kids go free. All proceeds from the door, raffle and other fund raising activities go to 29th Glasgow Scout Group. The venue is a 15-min train ride from Glasgow Central. These swap meets are great fun, low key relaxed events where there is considerable chat, and where one can find fans helping one another out.
Although there is a clash with the 2000AD online event, this writer will be joining those heading north.
Currently at the Cartoon Museum in central London to tie in with the celebration of 45 years of 2000AD with a Dredd @45 focused exhibition of eight pieces, and they span a considerable amount of time, and give a quick look at the character. There is a lot more to see at the Cartoon Museum.
Later in May on the 28th & 29th, Lawless will take place at the Doubletree in Bristol. This convention, a celebration of all things 2000AD with talks, panels, and a large number of artists and writers, will be occurring in Bristol. There’s a community feel to the event, but this is fed by the professionals. At the last one in 2019, comic artist and historian David Roach kindly brought some of his art collection, to share with fans all by the late Carlos Ezquerra who was being celebrated. Lawless attracts large numbers of professionals but welcomes hundreds of fans. Cosplay is a strong component, Judges from many territories appear, and every year more ingenious characters from the world of Judge Dredd make an appearance. With 29 comic professionals announced as guests, including Brian Bolland, John Higgins, Mike Dorey, Karen Holloway, Abigail Bulmer and Sally Jane Hurst, it presents excellent coverage of the whole history of the comic, as well as the unique opportunity to meet, engage, share a pint with and chat to professionals.
Our Irish Fan in London will hopefully report on some of these ongoings.
By James Bacon: Despite some very harsh comments from Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos, threatening that “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” spacefarers seem to have a different perspective and understanding of the importance of international cooperation, respect and solidarity. This appears to have been demonstrated today when three cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveyev arrived at the ISS after blasting off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz MS-21. A quick 3-hour journey, they joined fellow cosmonauts and astronauts at 4:48 p.m.
Although video footage and photos shows them in their usual white space suits, as they embarked, and official preflight photos in blue suits they changed into Yellow suits with Blue flashes by the time hatches opened.
When asked Oleg said “It became our turn to pick a colour. But, in fact, we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it, so that’s why we had to wear yellow.
They join Expedition 66 Cosmonaut Commander Anton Shkaplerov and cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, as well as NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA (European Space Agency) German astronaut Matthias Maurer.
An incredibly brave and brazen demonstration of solidarity and unity.
Returning to Rogozin’s utterances, NASA’s Bill Nelson said “That’s just Dmitry Rogozin. He spouts off every now and then. But at the end of the day, he’s worked with us. The other people that work in the Russian civilian space program, they’re professional. They don’t miss a beat with us, American astronauts and American mission control. Despite all of that, up in space, we can have a cooperation with our Russian friends, our colleagues.”
Ukraine has had a number of Cosmonauts and Astronauts in Space during soviet and independent times.
We celebrate some of the wonderful things people have been up to which include:
fitting out a camper van
building a Lego steam train
making galifraen tiles
crochet octopus helmet cover
pens and inks
a TARDIS door
We also have a wonderful look at the art of Meg Frank, Sara Felix and Iain Clark who share their work, Tiaras, Block Printing and painting.
With contributions from Vanessa Applegate, Constanze Hoffman, Emma King, Alissa McKersie, Edie Stern, Christy Kearny, Liz Loikkanen, and James Shields, we also touch upon what and how fandom has managed, with a consideration of the Virtual year of cons from Marcin Klack and how inertia will be overcome as fandom strives to regather in our enditorial.
A feast for the eyes, the “Crafting in Covid” issue is co-edited by Sara Felix, Christopher J. Garcia and James Bacon. We hope you enjoy it.
Future issues being worked on range from SF, Comics and the American War in Vietnam, Warrior Comic a 40th celebration, and V for Vendetta amongst a number of subjects.
Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!
… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.
… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?” He said “No. But my characters do.” As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”
… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …
… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests.
… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.
His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….
Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.
… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios. Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each. To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations.
There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.
… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble. Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while. It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house. And then it was gone from sight. I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…
On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)
This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….
Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.
There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”
And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show. Working on Dublin was like that for me as well. I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”
But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…
… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”
… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….
Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.
The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….
The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….
… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….
…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…
Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.
If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….
… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few….
The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?
Then down the long hall there arose so much chat, that I sprang from my chair to see what was that? Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng as the loud murmuration came strolling along.
… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.
I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….
Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….
… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….
The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.
A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.
“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”
“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”
“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…
… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….
To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III — December 17-18, 2021
By Chris M. Barkley:
After yesterday’s events, I decided to sleep in a bit, until about 9 a.m. Because, you know, Worldcon.
The first bit of news came from Newsletter Number 3, which was published late Thursday evening. The middle column had the BIG news: that the proposal to create a Best Audiobook category had passed muster at the Preliminary Meeting and would be debated at the Main Session on Friday. After my blistering attack on the Business Meeting I feel slightly encouraged. But let’s see what happens next. Watch This Space, as Rachel Maddow intones on a regular basis…
At 10 a.m., I was on the move; today was the day I was going to race around like a whirling dervish and get books signed, come hell or high water!
I dashed down to the Dealers Room eagerly to seek out Mary Robinette Kowal, only to find out her signing session had been rescheduled due to a conflicting panel. So, you may wonder, who else would be crazy enough to get up that early in the morning to sign autographs? Yeah, THIS GUY, fellow Ohioian John Scalzi…
On my way back to my room, I made a stop at the Press Office. Peter Thomas was there and he informed me that a dozen media reporters had registered and that he did not have a firm number on how many warm bodies were on site, but had heard unofficially form the folks in Registration that the figure may or may not be around 2,500 people. He promised to text me directly if he got any solid information. (As of Friday evening, he did not have any additional information.)
After tempering my disappointment, it was time for breakfast. The weather remained unusually warm with moderate winds and an overcast sky. Our destination was Open City again because our companion Anna, Juli and I were wondering if their breakfast menu was as good as their dinner menu. Readers, we were not disappointed!
Juli had the Chorizo Scramble with an arugula salad, Anna had the California Scramble with a side of fruit. I decided to go big and have the Biscuit (singular!) and Gravy with a Breakfast Burrito. And yes, they serve animal crackers with their tea and coffee!
[Chris Barkley’s report continues after the jump.]
Science Fiction Outreach took a booth at C2E2 in Chicago to promote reading and SF conventions.The event ran from December 10-12. James Bacon was there to help.
By James Bacon: I had a terrific weekend and thousands of books were given away. Helen Montgomery was leading the operation with a host of fans helping out. The books, so many kindly donated by fans, were moved from storage to McCormick Place on Wednesday by Helen and Dave McCarty. On Thursday set up was in full flow and the shelving was built with Leanne’s help, and books put out.
Weeks of preparation had gone into sorting the books, especially separating kids’ books, as these are at a premium for kids present at con, but even they are separated into age groups.
Friday was busy enough but with some superb examples of cosplay. Readers, once convinced that ‘Free’ meant free descended upon the booth with eagerness. Dune and Frank Herbert were perhaps the most asked for, although we had plenty of prequels, sequels, so that was good. Horror as ever proved to be strongly popular, and media tie-ins from Star Wars to Star Trek were very popular. There was considerable interest in magazines, while related books flew out.
Leanne, Johnathon, Dave, Noelle, Michelle, Alan, Sue, Pam all helped to call out free books, replenish, chat, engage and recommend. Pam had donated a given box so as it got opened was able to give first-hand recommendations. It was also nice to meet fans for the first time and they were a lovely crew.
Here the call of free attracts all fans. One needs to be ready to meet erudite well-read fans, of all ages and backgrounds, and I loved talking to readers.
“Any authors you are looking for? And who’s your favourite?” work well, while “Would you like a recommendation?” was also popular. If one found a good book and lightly said “This is awesome space opera” it was soon taken away. Fans like recommendations. A Penguin book of Irish Myths lasted seconds.
It’s great fun, although a hard part is convincing people that the books are free, that yes, you can take more than one and you know, there were fans who were so grateful, so pleased to be going home with something, unexpected and nice and certainly in some cases, clear they hadn’t expected to be taking anything home and that is amazing.
Librarians and teachers flock in, inquisitive and eager to spread the word, collectors wonder and share their passion but are reluctant to take books they hope fans younger than them will pick up. Chicon regulars fist bump and show their pride and pleasure with the efforts and cosplayers cone in to browse.
Octavia Butler, Yoon Ha Lee and Aliette de Bodard proved easy to recommend, readers were actively enquiring about writers from as diverse backgrounds as the fans at C2E2. It’s easy to talk about great works while catering to such requests. Anthologies also offered great opportunity to allow a low investment spec try of a specified genre or area, and with themed subjects covering so many aspects, even with the most challenging of requests “I like war stuff” was easily sorted with some Joe Haldeman edited anthologies to choose from.
Likewise James White, Justina Robson and Robyn Hobb were snapped up by readers looking for pointers. Pratchett, Rice, Banks, Harris, Gaiman, LeGuin were snaffled quickly too, but with less prompting.
Real excitement and pleasure was palpable, and it was fun.
We had T-shirts available for a @$25 donation and these proved popular, and people were just so nice and lovely, and donations kindly flowed. There’s real respect and appreciation.
Every book has a bookmark promoting Outreach, Worldcons, local cons. But also flyers were given out for local cons and worldwide ones too.
With a good crew in hand, breaks were encouraged and I was gratefully given time to enjoy C2E2.
Had a cracking weekend. In between giving away free books, with Helen Montgomery and the gang, meeting fabulous cosplayers, and enthusing about dozens of authors, I also got to roam about C2E2.
It was amazing to meet Larry Hama, who was so friendly and we spoke about the Vietnam issue of Journey Planet, while he knows the west of Ireland well. He also was happy to use a Sharpie on a fan that would get tattooed!
It was fabulous to catch up with Dublin 2019 featured artist Afua Richardson who continues to do amazing work, and I was chuffed to get her to sign Marvels Indigenous Voices for which she did a variant cover.
Gene Ha was super lovely and kind, and we enjoyed overcoming some pronunciation challenges, our mutual friend Pádraig Ó Méalóid, being easy to read one way and not sounding like the person I mean when I say Pádraig. Gene is a guest at Capricon and Chicon 8 and I’m very excited.
I asked Chris Claremont, “So about the Leprechauns in the X-Men?” and got a wonderfully thoughtful response. Indeed we spoke for longer than I expected, and it was a good discussion.
Stephanie Hans was impressed that comics signed to other fans make lovely postal surprises, while I got to meet some amazing people thanks to Christopher Hwang. I failed to meet David Mack, and I wanted to thank him again for an awesome time at Thought Bubble.
It was all go. It was huge. There were a lot of people but not overly crowded.
The Covid policy was good, everyone wore a mask, polite and cheerful wardens reminded people, in a respectful way, assuming forgetfulness in the first instance and having masks for anyone who dropped them. This approach is good, it works.
The con had hundreds of large 10- or 12-foot tables, next to a long run of different food trailers or stands and a bar, where beers and food could be eaten. At these tables there was no issue if you had no mask on while enjoying your break. People were respectful asking to join tables with others, but still given space some distance away at the same table, while anyone who I observed saying “I’d prefer you not” was respected or thumbed up and folks moved on. It was good, thoughtful. There was no anti-establishment bull, but likewise no heavy-handed unnecessary enforcement. Regular announcements informed us all that masks were mandatory. It was good.
The cosplay was excellent and I offered praise and took photos of favourites.
Timothy Zahn was as ever delightful, and it was good to speak to him, asking what’s next for this author and his character Grand Admiral Thrawn.
A wonderful personal moment was some kind praise from Garth Ennis for the Battle issue of Journey Planet, noting a particular poignant element, a photo of myself and Dad and an article I wrote, while I discussed research I’ve done on V for Vengeance, published in 1942.
Garth is so good to his fans, he signs and signs and signs and is generous with his time, he contributed to JP with an interview and kindly donated to charitable activities arranged by Paul Trimble, but you know, praise from professionals for your zine, is nice. I can’t wait for his next work with PJ Holden and Keith Burns, The Lion and the Eagle.
Detroit Pizza is Amazing. One pizza was equal to all the cheese I ate in three months. Got a go on a US school bus, met Josephine the French bulldog who got off her pedestal of guarding Battlecat to say hello. Along with thousands of fans taking away books.
By James Bacon: With over 50 people on site and 100 online, Smofcon is occurring during challenging times with new rules having taken effect in Wednesday in Portugal and developing worldwide.
The con began with well-subscribed workshops and there was a welcome reception that local fans and professionals were invited to that was sponsored by a number of bids and conventions.
James and Vincent Docherty gave the opening speech — keeping it brief — and in accordance with Smofcon Europe traditions, recognized great effort and bestowed honourary Chair status to local fan Rogério Riberio who played a vital part in ensuring local cohesion, engagement, and managing facilities negotiation, and Tammy Coxen, who delivered a fabulous programme (see the item descriptions and schedule here) and has taken charge of the overall online proposition.
Drinking, networking and socializing continued to 3:00 a.m.
…We ordered tempura with the starter, and the starter of scallop, cucumber salad and gyoza was lovely. The tempura was tasty. The cheese tekpura was new to us, but lovely. Then arrived the ‘Combinado’ a wonderful platter of sushi with dry ice rolling off, it was stunningly incredible. And so tasty! We loved the wide and flavoursome selection. So much so we ordered the platter again… And devoured the delicious delicacies a second time! We were delighted with Sushi that was not known to us, incredible chefs here, for sure….
…A stunning eating experience, the food is so delicious and I loved it. We had a wide selection of food. Staring with the mushrooms and aubergine and Shrimps, I was so pleased with the shrimp, and they had a chilli oil sauce and one could spice up as you liked. Then the Chicken and Peanut sauce was incredible while the Spaghetti and clams were brilliant. We were with vegans and they found the spinach dish very tasty while the greens in peanut sauce and mushroom were all enjoyed….
And the Fado experience at Duque da Rua was well enjoyed, the traditional Portuguese music genre proving quite the experience.
Service in this delightful bar is excellent but it’s for the Fado that all seats are filled. 7 singers, 3 musicians, duets, some acting as chorus, it was Incredible and a wonderful introduction to this uniquely Portuguese genre of music. The Fado Guitarist was unbelievable, his effort and commitment to the music and attentiveness to the singer, paying off to our benefit.
This morning programme items have been going well, one online stream is broadcast directly into the hotel for people in person to watch and this work very well.
By James Bacon: Britain’s first dedicated comic book gallery has opened and it’s brilliant.
Panel Gallery is in Northampton, and makes this market town a definite destination for comic book fans, displaying original art of the highest quality and offering a thoroughly enjoyable experience, taking in absolute treasures.
The Gallery is very close to the town centre, and you are confronted by an absolutely stunning collection of artwork as you enter. The space is beautifully bright, the shop front is totally clear glass allowing natural light to flood the space, giving the art its best look.
This first exhibition of many is the personal collection of the gallery owner Jeff Chahal, stunning in its breadth, and a superbly thoughtful selection.
It’s an overwhelming sight as you walk in, so very impressive straight away as you’re presented with a wide selection, 40 pieces in all, and a real variety of genre, countries, and styles.
Jeff Chahal is first and foremost a comic book fan, running the very popular NICE (https://nicecon.co.uk/) comic convention in Bedford, as well as Northampton-based Close Encounters comic book shop. His appreciation and love of comics is palpable as he shows fellow fans his Fantastic Four #1 and is happy to let you have a photo with it. He has certainly developed a personal collection sufficient to kick off the first of many exhibitions, but engages and loves comics, and is wonderful to chat with.
The Gallery’s aim is to reach out to new people, and Jeff is asking collectors and fans to bring in people who have not seen art like this before, hoping to share his appreciation of art with the local community – not only the comic book community but also people who may not realize how gorgeous this art is.
I took my time. With over 40 pieces it was important to relax into a nice viewing. While many pieces were immediately recognizable, Jeff was happy to introduce me to pages that I’d not known or was aware of, contributing to a delightfully exploratory experience, learning as I went, taking it in. The pieces are strategically grouped, the space is utilized just right, to ensure it is not crammed.
A page of Sláine by Glenn Fabry, a really strong classic page from 2000AD, starts us off and soon I am drawn to three pages of Justice League Classified featuring an incredible sequence of The Flash by John Byrne and Mark Farmer. It’s really lovely to see the first page and then a double page spread, allowing the observer to see a sequence and how it’s so interconnected. This is juxtaposed with a Newspaper strip piece by Frank Bellamy, Garth demonstrating a contrast in scope and style.
Jeff’s personal tastes shine through in this collection and I was pleased to see a number of pieces by British artist Doug Braithwaite, who is a master with the pencil. Indeed, I spent time considering a Galactus commission which was to just such a high standard. Esad Ribic is likewise well represented and rightly so, this dynamic Croatian is so deft with a pencil and it was terrific to see a page of Thor God Of Thunder, to look at the detail, the blue pencil under the incredible pencil work.
Two covers side-by-side, showed the real variety of approach, the Doctor Who comic character Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer by Steve Dillon, such neat clean ink line work next to a cover of Scalped, the Vertigo series by Jock.
On the rear wall, fully painted work was on display, creating a colourful display.
A Hulk by Bill Sienkiewicz, such energetic frenzied but brilliant work, was striking near to a fully painted Sláine by Glenn Fabry. Both pictures are incredible to see and take in, both stunning and so different in style.
In the centre of the grouping a full colour mixed media piece by Barry Windsor Smith, initially I was at a loss, but Jeff explained this is the unpublished Marvelman/Miracleman 25 cover, a stunning and utterly unexpected piece to see.
As I worked around, I had to pause, to really take in how beautifully simple and clean the work of Jack Kirby is. Yes, a page from Thor165 in all its glory hangs near work by George Perez and Bob McLeod, Gill Kane and Geoff Isherwood. It is unreal to see, so close and in person. The art by Kirby so well done, and so polished and exacting. This was unexpected. It was good just to look and enjoy it.
I continued to feel an experience of knowledge gathering, learning about the art, understanding it, that spine tingling feeling of ‘ah-ha’ and of course in some cases, discerning for the first time, particular and distinct styles, that Jeff and others may be able to immediately spot, but which we can all learn about, no matter how much of a fan we are.
The stunning art continued, Absolute Carnage Vs Deadpool by Marcelo Ferreira, Punisher War Zone by John Romita Jnr, Grimwood’s Daughter by Kevin Nowlan and Ultimate Thor by Carlos Pacheco. It is so delightful, to see, and again I was impressed at how art nearby complemented and of course contrasted, a Silver Surfer image by Herb Trimpe stunning in its black and white simplicity, and then a Spawn Dark Ages Liam Sharp so wonderfully rendered.
Jeff loves the medium and feels that comic artists need more recognition, I pondered whether this was the personification of the solution to that, as he not only appreciates the art, as I do, but has spent time and money to share it, share the love and appreciation of the art. I have to admit, I totally understood this, we want to share the love with fans and collectors, but we all want people to come to it, to find it.
Panel Gallery is a perfect welcome window. In the short time I was there people were looking in: the store stands out. Jeff plans to change the exhibit every 3 or 4 months. He will be changing it up, themes, individual artists, exclusive but affordable prints but importantly offering an outlet both for artists and the fans. As Jeff discussed the plan, which is to have art for sale, which is badly needed I feel, not only an outlet for fans to enjoy art, but a venue for artists to sell their art and fans to buy it, I made mention of how I’d enjoyed and had much success at art comic exhibitions where, while the key pieces were on the walls, excellent but more affordable pages were in folders or to hand, so a range of budgets could be catered for, and those pages that artists often find hard to sell meet their market.
Opening hours are planned to be Tuesday to Saturday 11-4. It was such a relaxed and lovely visit. I recognized as I left, the accompanying jazz music, unintrusive, but atmospheric, and noted as I looked back that it is an incredible achievement.
This gallery opened on the 4th of December and File 770 had early access to ensure a full report could be given in what are busy times, for which we are grateful.
Photos of the Gallery are by James Bacon and photo of Jeff courtesy of himself.