Tuesday, 29 December 2009

About The Books: 2009 Review of the Year

With a sharp change in emphasis from the Soc Med focus of 2008, this year has been all about the books – not only finishing my own (and throwing it out to the ether to see where it landed), but helping sell other people’s.

In his post on signings, Jim C Hines argues the case for such events being a waste of time – low turn-out, poor sales, bored staff – and yes, we’ve had our tumbleweed moments. I’d be lying through my teeth if I denied knowledge of how that feels.


As Borders glubs finally below the surface, it’s the industry’s responsibility to keep book sales afloat – and that means (for my part) taking the ‘bored-bloke-with-Sharpie’ signing and kicking some life into it.

Cue Dave Devereux’s ‘Eagle Rising’ signing last January – publishers, authors, marketeers, bloggers and retailer all joining forces to rip up the rulebook and defy the ‘why bother’ trend – the event was massive and the subsequent publicity for all was off the scale. Suddenly they were – quite literally – all the rage. As we said at the time, ‘everybody wins’.

In April, another first – asking China Miéville to read, live, from The City & The City; Joe Abercrombie came in a month later for a similar event.

Forbidden Planet is a hub – it’s a brand that Makes Shit Happen. I can’t claim that every signing has been a screaming-teen success – but if you make the effort, this stuff snowballs.

And that’s where the Soc Med gubbins learned last year comes back into its own.

During 2009, membership of Twitter has increased by well over 1000%; business identities now form 40% of FaceBook pages. In a struggling climate, success is all about communication, about visibility and Customer Service - and these are the tools we now take up.

Whether your signing is a success or not, that’s only the investiture of petrol money and a sandwich. The point is that those signed books, that Soc Med coverage, that interview, that blog post – they’re all about public visibility. I’m better Mister Hines had more people read that post than turned up at the signing in question.

In order to turn Soc Med’s now well-oiled wheels, you need the event – the trigger, the spark, the gimmick, the kick-start for the momentum to roll. Hubspot have a lovely piece on Dominos – one Brand that’s made it happen.

This year has been all about re-invention – about the personal re-invention of my own random scribblings… and about completely re-visualising the traditional concept of ‘signing’.

And with the economic climate as it is and the industry under so much pressure, that re-invention has a name.

2009 is less ‘So.Me’ – and more ‘So.Everyone’.

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Sunday, 20 December 2009


Every so often, a film comes to the cinema that dazzles your senses, that forces you against the back of your seat though you want to be sitting on its edge, that takes your skull and blow your mind and leaves your smoking boots on the auditorium floor.

AVATAR is not that film.

The 3D’s pretty, don’t get me wrong (delighted that he avoided any monster-coming-out-of-the-screen shit) – but if you take the story from The Abyss and the marines from Aliens, chuck in two scoops of Titanic tragedy and an eight-foot blue elf with tits that don’t quite show, then you end up with a flick that epitomises the phrase ‘style over substance’.

A grating script – cringeworthy in places, a predictable narrative, acting that was better done by cgi beastie than paid professional, and a environmental message that should have been a subtle suggestion and was more like something out of South Park (pause and breathe). I get spectacular, I really do, but the irony of the film having three dimensions while the characters barely managed two was not lost on me.

Oh, and WHY does every director ever born think you can use a longbow as a quarterstaff? Bugs me EVERY time!

Back to the point – it was spectacular. The cry that it has revolutionised the format is absolutely true – if any film is going to put a shot of shiny-elf-light into the fading arm of British Cinema, then this is the one, and as such I will forgive it all.

Though it does strike me: the reason you have to see it on the big screen?

Is because if you see it on a small one, it’ll be stripped – right down to the Emperor’s New Clothes.

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Friday, 18 December 2009


Yes, it's finally happened.

The flaming horse, the huge firearm, the gigantic sword, the almighty demon - not to mention comics legend Joe Madureira - are all coming to Forbidden Planet in the new year.

On Thursday evening, 7th January, for the very first time in the UK, you can get your mitts on THQ's epic 'DARKSIDERS' (for PS3 and XBox) at FP London. Joe will be there to sign the game and talk about his work, plus we'll have pods right there so you can get up-close-and-personal with the Four Horseman.

This is a first for us - kicking off a whole new decade with a whole new kind of event.

Go on...

...go Mad!

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Thursday, 17 December 2009

Blood Drinker?

There are times when a piece of promo-merch really hits the spot. In this case, the bloodspot. Yes, just in time for your Yuletide tipple, the TRU BLOOD drink is available in a handy four-pack carry-out or as a single bottle.

If you need to freak your Christmas rellies, it’s pretty convincing, – the 14oz glass bottle is an exact replica of the one seen on the show, featuring a rich red stain and the Tru Blood lettering in both English and Japanese Kanji. Even the carry-out box is authentic... almost.

The difference? This one's blood type is blood orange.

It's slightly carbonated, slightly tart, slightly sweet, slightly naughty... and just begging for a double vodka depth-charge. Go on - leave one out for Santa!

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Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Ultimate Geek Gift

Somehow, Christmas is always associated with films by Tim Burton - maybe it's the 'snow' theme, or the annual resurgence of Jack Skellington - he's become as seasonal as looking forward to your stocking on Christmas morning.

And this year sees the release of 'The Art of Tim Burton', the ultimate insight, an astounding, definitive compilation of forty years of the master's artistry. Containing over 1,000 illustrations from his personal archives, it follows his passion for humanity’s oddities and misunderstood monsters through 434 pages of fascinating, beautifully showcased artwork - furnished with the thoughts, anecdotes and insights of his many friends and condifidantes.

Also available is a Deluxe Edition that comes with a hand-signed and numbered lithograph (1,000 in total). Each of these rare and collectible books come in a fabric-wrapped slipcase through which the dramatic, spiral cover will still be visible.

Ideal to ensuring you have no nightmares before Christmas!

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Thursday, 26 November 2009


He came, he saw, he kicked arse - so much so we kinda invited him back...

Andy Remic will be signing Hardcore at Forbidden Planet, 92 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY, on Saturday 12th December 2009 from 1:00 – 2:00pm

Hailed as ‘the new David Gemmell’ and recently nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award for his fantasy novel Kell’s Legend, Andy Remic is a British writer and teacher with an unhealthy love of martial arts, kick-arse bikes, mountain climbing and computer hacking. The new master of violent, high-octane science fiction, Hardcore is his seventh novel and follows the characters from the massively successful Combat K series.

Now, the tense dynamic of the Combat-K squad is back as Keenan, Franco and Pippa face their hardest brief yet - Sick World, a planet once dedicated to the ill, the deformed and the dying. A thousand years ago, it was a state-of-the-art research facility dedicated to the new ailments contracted by humanity after mixing with alien races; today, it lies deserted. On a reconnaissance mission, the Combat-K squad are about the find out that the staff of Sick World have only been in hibernation – a millennium-long gestation of new, hardcore healthcare technology. And now, they can smell fresh meat.

Check out the trailer!

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Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Yes, he's back! The one-and-only Rob Rankin will be signing Retromancer at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Saturday 12th December 1:00pm – 2:00pm. And I swear we're all out of rayguns...

Evil magic is abroad. The Germans have won WWII; America is a nuclear wasteland. And worst of all, the breakfast menu at The Wife's Legs Cafe in Brentford is serving Bratwurst. It’s time call Hugo Rune - a man who offers the world his genius, and asks only that it cover his expenses. Together, the Retromancer and Rizla return to war-torn London, match their wits against beautiful spies, alien technology, killer robots and death rays – and come face to face with Hugo Rune's arch-enemy, the sinister Count Otto Black.

London-born Robert Rankin started writing in the 1970s and his books regularly storm the bestseller lists including The Witches of Chiswick and The Toyminator. He’s one of the country’s most renowned humorous fantasy writers and is well known for having recurring characters and running gags that pop up throughout his books. Robert is also an unrepentant Luddite who writes novels by hand in exercise books.

And I swear I'm not just posting this because he hosts a class party!

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Monday, 23 November 2009

Now With Added Swearing

There's no better arse-kicking heroine than Tank Girl - the icon of my twenties, the rebel streak of my thirties and now a professional contact of my forties (ain't life surreal!). Yes, Alan Martin and Rufus Dayglo, unaccompanied by kangaroos, will be signing Skidmarks #1 at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Saturday 5th December 1 - 2pm.

Alongside artist Jamie Hewlett, Alan created Tank Girl in 1988 for Deadline magazine - and now, this gorgeous and anarchic heroine is a cult icon that has starred in strips, monthly comics, graphic novels, prose novels and a Hollywood movie. For Skidmarks, Alan has been joined by hot British artist Rufus Dayglo - and they've brought us, complete with added swearing, a riotous, brand new Tank Girl mini-series.

Skidmarks shows us Australia in the near future: a post-apocalyptic, but still rather picturesque wasteland. The former bounty hunter turned outlaw known as Tank Girl spends her days drinking, fighting and getting up to all manner of mischief - until she's forced to give up her life of semi-retirement and climb back into the saddle to save the life of her best friend, Barney. This is everything you ever wanted to know about Tank Girl’s schooldays – and everything you didn’t!

It's a book that makes me wonder if I missed out on a load of (tank)-girly schooltime fun...

(The poster for done for FP by Rufus last year - don't let the date confuse you!)

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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Starhyke Blast Off!

Yes, we boldly go... where everyone wants to be! STARHYKE blasts off at Forbidden Planet London with the launch of the DVD BOX SET featuring guests Danny John-Jules, Jeremy Bulloch and Suanne Braun, on Thursday 26th November 5:30 – 6:30pm.

Starring Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), Jeremy Bulloch (Star Wars), Danny John-Jules (Red Dwarf) and Suanne Braun (Stargate SG-1), Starhyke is a off-the-wall, tongue-in-cheek science fiction series in the glorious tradition of the best in UK SF. Released on November 30th, this is a chance to get your hands on a signed edition of Starhyke before its shelf-date!

In the far off and distant future, mankind has evolved past petty emotions. They care about survival and space warfare – and the remorseless onslaught of the human race soon becomes too much for other species. Now another species, the Reptids, has developed a secret weapon – a bomb that will force mankind’s emotions to reawaken, thus swamping them with guilt and rendering them unable to fight. Their plan goes well until a single human ship, the Nemesis, begins to chase them. To conceal the plan, the Reptids self destruct – and the force sends the Nemesis to the twenty-first century, complete with emotions. Can they get home and stop the Reptids from re-creating their bomb?

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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Joining David Gemmell

Since I’ve (rather belatedly – sorry Stan!) today joined up over at the DGLA website, I’ve just had a proper old nose through the nominations, not only for the DGLA itself, but for the two new categories introduced for 2009.

The David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Newcomer

‘The Morningstar Award will give recognition to emerging talent in the field of fantasy fiction. As David Gemmell always took a keen interest in new writers, and helped many onto the path to publication, we regard this as an appropriate category to add, and one we feel sure David would have approved.’

The David Gemmell Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art.

‘The Ravenheart Award will honour the best fantasy book cover art. The importance of fantasy cover art deserves admiration, as do the artists who produce it, yet there is no major UK award acknowledging this. The Ravenheart Award will fulfill that role.’

There a list of current nominations on the site here.

I was a huge fan of David's work (I think I was 19 when I read ‘Legend’ and it’s left a mark to this day) and therefore very privileged to be at last year’s awards (rumours about my axe-wielding may have been exaggerated).

I’m also looking forward to casting my votes in this one - a celebration of the best in the genre is always a good thing.

The 2010 David Gemmell Awards ceremony will again be held at The Magic Circle headquarters in London, on Friday 18th June.

And I can't help but wonder... just what Raven Armoury have in store for us this time...

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Five Authors; One Event (You Know How This Works!)

FORBIDDEN PLANET and Gollancz Publishing are delighted to be hosting an open-format, multi-author signing. Five authors, one event – at 6pm on Thursday November 26th, Forbidden Planet 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London will be playing host to: -

David Devereux
Paul McAuley
Justina Robson
Adam Roberts
Chris Wooding

To promote the release of Justina’s new book CHASING THE DRAGON, Forbidden Planet and Gollancz Publishing have gathered a host of science fiction and fantasy talent into one event – an event to bring writers and fans together and to promote interest in new and different kinds of fiction.

This is a free-form and open signing, bringing the authors out from behind their tables and giving their readers a chance to meet them and talk to them about their work. An array of fantastic books will be on hand to be picked up and signed – including works by every one of the writers present.

And, as usual with these events, there are likely to be more than a few surprise guests...

...and a subsequent visit to the pub!

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Monday, 9 November 2009

Wallace & Gromit - Cracking Comics on the iPhone!

This is ten kinds of cheeky (cheesy?) nepotism - but I'm chuffed as fuck to see our own in-house publishers getting ahead of the game. Make yourself a cuppa... and have a read...

Titan Publishing brings Wallace and Gromit to the iPhone - after the BunVac 6000 and the Techno Trousers, it's only fitting they should be pioneers of a whole new Titan technology.

The first batch offers scripts by Dan Abnett (Legion, Nova, The Authority) and Simon Furman (Transformers, Terminator 2 Comic), plus there will more released in the forthcoming weeks.

You can download four Wallace and Gromit stories right now - ‘The W-Files’, ‘Parts & Labour’, ‘Big in Japan’ and ‘Where there’s Muck there’s Brass’ - each one £0.59 ($0.99) and packed with bonus goodies.

And bless Ned Hartley, editor, for this: -
“It’s really exciting to see Wallace and Gromit at the forefront of such a cracking new technology. Although I secretly suspect that Wallace would be more comfortable with the type of apple that comes with cheese.”

It's also quite exciting to see stuff happening right under (all right above) my nose... at Titan Towers itself!

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Sunday, 1 November 2009

Adventures in Scotland

When you’ve been called mad by Iain Banks, you know you’re in for an interesting holiday.

And after a week of – well, weather – on the Isle of Mull, I’m beginning to think Banksy had the right of it.

Mull is beautiful – glacier-carved rocky severity shrugging its way out of blankets of rich autumnal colour. Cloud lifts in wisps from the mountaintops – they look as through they are on fire – and they layer back into the mist as far as you care to see. You want to call it ‘rugged’, ‘desolate’, ‘bleak’, craggy’ – but no world suits the Isle more than this one: -

It’s WET.

We’ve walked in it and we’ve cycled in it. We’ve got drenched so many times that my abiding holiday memories are not the Martian Red Weed that decorated the grey loch shore, the golden beach at Calgary or the blissed-out religious types on their pilgrimage to Iona… no, it’s playing constant Tetris with endlessly sopping clothes and realising just WHY the Scots love their whisky as much as they do.

It goes with the climate.

One day of blue skies had us leaving the cabin with the sunrise, testing our endurance to the limit with 45 miles around the north of the Island. The beauty was overwhelming; maybe it was sheer physical effort in getting bikes up those hills, but eventually we became completely blasé.

“Heron.” “Yep.” “Waterfall.” “Yep.” “Standing stone.” “Yep.” “Ruined castle.” “Yep.” “Oh look, it’s another fucking great hill.”

We found ourselves in Tobermory at conveniently lunchtime – and went looking for Archie the Inventor… a quest foiled by my smashing both knees as I fell off the pavement (Archie, it seems knew we were coming). A long ride home brought us to our friendly field of radioactive (yes) sheep at sunset, worn down after a long day.

Devin tackled all 3100ft of Ben More – a pleasure I wussed out of due to the hail, gale and bog that awaited me. I tackled the laptop, instead, and watched the lunatic antics of the local chaffinches, auditioning for parts in a certain Hitchcock movie.

A couple of pitch (and I mean) pitch dark treks through the pass to beer and the nearest civilisation didn’t turn up the Headless Horseman… but we did rather feel like we were going for a pint in the Slaughtered Lamb and spent much of the walk discussing how we could off the Wereworf with a couple of mag-lites and a leatherman.

Our local guru Steve, owner of the cabin we stayed in, commented that people had ‘seen us round the island’ – but he also told us that the weather would be good and there was ‘one hill’ coming out of Tobermory… so much for that.

We’ve ended our holiday – and celebrated our new engagement (yes, the diamond ring variety, scary huh?) – with a proto-honeymoon Samhein night in the scariest hotel in Scotland. Bonus points for the king size four-poster and colossal orgy bath… but bleak dark stone and an isolated location are further spooked out by ghastly floral décor, stags heads on the walls and a memory palace of nik-naks creepy enough for a Roald Dahl story.

And why is there a large abandoned building in the hotel’s gardens that’s just full of discarded junk?

It’s all gone a bit Rosemary’s Baby… thank the Gods we’ll be in Glasgow tomorrow…

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Raising Hell? Clive Barker!

At gleefully short notice, CLIVE BARKER will be signing his DVD, The Midnight Meat Train at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Thursday 15th October from 6 – 7pm.

The Hellraiser Himself, Clive’s career began as founder, writer and director of a small theatre group staging such plays as The History of the Devil. Short horror stories written in his spare time came to the public eye as The Books of Blood, the popularity of which enabled him to begin writing and directing horror films. In 1987, of course, came Hellraiser, featuring a character that has become an icon of the genre. Referred to by Barker as ‘the Noel Coward of the lower depths’, we remember him as the master of pleasure and pain: Pinhead. More recently, Clive has moved into writing fantasy fiction, revealing that his flamboyant imagination can encompass light as well it can darkness.

In The Midnight Meat Train, a photographer gets far more than he imagines when he tries to capture the grit and grime of the city. While taking pictures of the subway, he encounters Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), a vicious killer who preys on subway riders. And then the nightmare really begins.

Clive is a long-time friend of Forbidden Planet - it's good to see him back!

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Sunday, 11 October 2009

You, Robot

We all know Asimov’s three laws of Robotics: -

1. A robot may not injure….

2. A robot must obey…

3. A robot must protect…

It’s probably down to Asimov, then, that so many Angry Robots at Forbidden Planet didn’t result in lawless chaos. Instead, it resulted in big piles of books and posters, a buzz of energy and a lot of giggling - not to mention too many flapjacks sneaked in between interviews.

Fun was had by Mssrs. Harvey and Remic, refusing to obey any orders whatsoever, by new author Mike Shevdon (who gives a mean tour of London’s West End) and by the ever-irrepressible Dan Abnett, signing a steady stream of copies of Triumff for happy fans.

Protecting their Robot interests, Marco and Lee were on hand to discuss the imprint, the arrival of the eReader and the future of publishing in general – while steering well clear of the Wasabi Pringles.

Thanks to Nik Butler aka loudmouthman, we can prove that all Robot laws were upheld. Asimov would be proud.

Angry Robot Books @ Forbidden Planet from nik butler on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

An Evening With Kevin Smith (or: The Irony of 'Silent Bob')

Silent Bob likes to chat.

Signing behind the big merch desk at FP London, he’s made slightly uncomfortable by the elevation and the barrier – something he jokes about to the incoming fans. He’s a strong presence, as you might expect – a tireless enthusiasm of energy, humour, sincerity and spectacularly foul language. He’s happy to see every single person that comes through that door.

And they’re happy to see him.

In spite of the three-hour queue, the evening has a very chilled atmosphere. A relaxed, good-humoured crowd warm to him instantly; he greets every one of them with ‘hey, man, how’re you?’ and he means it every time. Everyone gets a joke and a grin – and they know he’s a mate.

The thing about Kevin Smith: he’s still a fanboy. As comics buyer Del commented, it’s only been ten years since Clerks first aired. Kevin Smith may be a culture hero, massively successful – but, rather like an American Simon Pegg, he’s still one of the guys, a fan himself. Signing one lady’s black leather bra (she wasn’t in it) and another guy’s elbow for a later tattoo needle doesn’t phase him – this is his world, and he totally get it.

You’ve got to love a guy who burns the ‘no photos’ rule within five minutes of the event starting – and who seems actually disappointed that the queue’s moving too fast for his people to really stop and chat.

Perhaps most telling was the half-hour he took to tour FP once the event had closed. While his wife bought gifts, he surveyed the store with the professional eye of a comic book retailer – and later told Nick Grimshaw on Radio 1 that he’d loved what he’d seen.

There’s surely no better example of the New Age of Geek than Kevin Smith – still fanboy and retailer, he’s an all-round streetgeek champion, all about the people, and all about the fans.

And isn’t that kind of the point?

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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Man Himself: Ray Harryhausen

It's hard to describe what standing in the presence of Ray Harryhausen feels like - he's gentle, funny, sharp and insightful and yet he can still make me feel like I'm twelve years old and in need of a Werther's Original.

In six years at Forbidden Planet, there have been few guests who have reduced me to tongue-tied fangirl - and I'm not ashamed to admit that Ray is one of them.

In 2003, he was the Guest of Honour at the launch of the FP Megastore; a few months later, his was the very first signing I ran. Afterwards, I had the enormous privilege of escorting him home in his cab and listening to him talk - not about the skeleton sequence in Jason, but about how it felt to be in LA during the war, his family, and his horror at the arrival of CGI.

The cabby, also, was unable to find a word.

I've been to his home, been entranced by the pictures, by every little knick-knack that sits beside his kitchen table - a wealth of history and experience that just leaves me overwhelmed.

He's a rock star - mischievous still - and he shows almost no signs of slowing down.

For this reason, welcoming him back to Forbidden Planet is very special. He'll be in the London store on Saturday 24th October at 1pm, signing the softcover of 'An Animated Life'.

I won't bore you, or insult him, with the press release.

You know who he is.

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