The Books That Made Me – Part Five

It’s been six months or so since I last added anything to my series of posts inspired by the excellent occasional series of interviews that The Guardian newspaper conducts under the title “Books That Made Me.” – So far I’ve talked about:

So let’s get back to it and answer the next couple of questions on the list.

The Book I’m Ahamed Not to Have Read

That’s an interesting question. As much as I read (usually around 100 books a year), I know I’ll never get around to reading everything I want to read, never mind something that others think I should have read. Actually, I never take any notice of those articles and lists outlining what you “should” read. Read what you want because you want to not because someone else says you should. So is there any book I’m ashamed not to have read? No.

But there are books in my to-read stack (currently numbering just a little under 500 volumes) that have been hanging around for several years and I get the occasional twinge of guilt that I haven’t picked them up yet. Let’s pick two; one fiction and one non-fiction.

First up is The Diamond Chariot by Boris Alunin

Several years ago I worked alongside a Russian colleague who knew of my interest in Sherlock Holmes and would tell me stories about the character he felt was the closest Russian equivalent, Erast Fandorin. One day he gifted me this volume suggesting that as it was set around the same time as one of my Holmes stories, 1905, I might enjoy it. – I was delighted and humbled, but I’m afraid that it has sat on my shelf for at least seven years now and I still haven’t got around to picking it up. – And Dimitri, if you’re reading this, one day I will read it. I promise.

On the non-fiction front, there’s 1000 Years of Annoying The French by Stephen Clarke.

This has been on the shelf for around the same amount of time as I purchased i on a trip back to the UK in 2015. I must admit I picked it up while browsing the history section in a Waterstones book store for one reason alone – the title. The book was shelved in the bookcase in our guest room, and I think it’s become a victim of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. But given the fact that I’ve spent a considerable amount of my professional career working alongside French colleagues, I really should give it a read at some point – just to see if it lives up to the, what I hope is, tongue-in-cheek, humor of the title.

The Book I Give as a Gift

My first reaction to this question was that I don’t have a specific book that I give as a gift. Each Christmas we gift books to each member of the family and try and make sure they are a good match for the individual. There isn’t anyone title that we’ve repeatedly gifted.

But then I thought about this question from a different angle and there is one book that I’ve bought for others on a regular basis, rather than loan them my copy (which is a rather fragile first edition), and that is Watchmen.

I read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s now iconic series when it was first published as a twelve-issue monthly comic. I picked up the first UK trade paperback edition (the one that is now falling apart from being re-read so many times), and I also have a nice hardback edition that I was lucky enough to get Dave Gibbons to sign for me. So if talk ever talks to Watchmen, and it’s surprising how often conversations around comics and graphic novels do, and I’m asked if I have a copy that someone could take a look at, my answer is “Yes I have a copy,” and “I’ll happily buy you one to try.”

Looking Forward to an OK Weekend.

Our convention season really kicks off in June with a trip north to Norman, Oklahoma for the OK state’s longest-running pop-culture event, SoonerCon.

During the weekend I’ll will be on panels discussing:

  • Intro to the Business of Writing
  • Elevator to Success – What’s Your Pitch?
  • Comic Book History 101
  • The Hero’s New Reality

Plus I’ll be reading from a new short-story, signing a few books, and hanging out and looking forward to meeting folks.

Come join us the weekend of June 24-26 for what is sure to be a fun, thoughtful, and informative weekend.

Its Seems We Made a New Podcast

Well, we did it. The first episode of our new personal podcast, Can’t See The Forest, is now available. For the moment it is only on Anchor.fm – but other platforms will follow soon.

In this initial episode, Gillian and Alan discuss the ethical dilemma of resurrecting woolly mammoths, talked about sword-swinging superheroes, revisited the spice planet, got nostalgic on the turntable, and even got a little homesick for the British countryside.

If you want to listen to us waffling on for 45 minutes or so about books, comics, movies, tv, and vinyl you can find the podcast at https://anchor.fm/cstf

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It’s ArmadilloCon Weekend

In just a few hours I’ll be heading into Austin to join fellow writers, artists, and fans of SF/F media for one of my favorite events – ArmadilloCon. During our regular walk around the neighborhood this morning I was trying to think back to how long I’ve been attending this particular convention. (A quick dive into the box where I keep past convention brochures confirmed that my first ‘DilloCon was in 2007, so that’s 14 years on and off).

My schedule for this weekend for this weekend is looking something like this:

Friday

  • 4:00pm- Welcome to Armadillocon panel
  • 8:00pm – 25 Things You Didn’t Know About James Bond

Saturday

  • 3:00pm – Reading (from an as yet unpublished story)
  • 4:00pm – Streaming SF/F panel
  • 5:00pm – Monsterverse panel

Sunday

  • 12:00pm – Signing session
  • 1:00pm – Getting Creative in Comics panel

If you are in the Austin area I hope that you can come along and join us for what promises to be a fun and entertaining weekend.

The Books That Made Me – Part Two

Back in August I took the first pass at starting a series of posts inspired by the excellent occasional series of interviews that The Guardian newspaper conducts under the title “Books That Made Me.”

In that post I talked about what I was currently reading, and a book that changed my life.

It was a fun exercise to go through, so let’s pick up the challenge again with the next set of questions.

The Book That I Wish I’d Written

I’ve given this one a lot of thought, and it may seem like a cop-out but there isn’t one.

Let me explain. Sure I’ve picked up many books and thought something along the lines of I could have written a pretty good book on that subject, or I had a story idea like that once, or even, Wow that was very cool, I wonder what inspired it; but nothing that provokes what could be called a feeling of regret because I didn’t do it. For one simple reason, they clearly weren’t my books to write.

I believe that writers write the books they are meant to write.

As an example, I recently became fascinated by the story of the lost World War 2 bomber Lady Be Good. I found a couple of books on the subject but the most recent dated back 25 years or more. I started thinking that maybe this was a subject I could write an updated book on. I had even started pulling together a pitch to send to the imprint of a publisher I’ve worked with before that specializes in aviation history. While I was working on the pitch that very same publisher announced a new book on the Lady Be Good. No problem – I guess it just wasn’t my book to write.

The Book That Had The Greatest Influence On My Writing.

I’m taking this one to mean books about the craft of writing. Over the years I’ve studied quite a few of them, and while many passed unremembered there are a definite handful that I would happily cite as having a positive impact.

Just looking at the shelf by my office desk I see well thumbed and bookmarked copies of

You may notice a pattern in that list. Most revolve around the visual story telling mediums of comics and film, and both heavily influence my prose style. I see all writing as being on a continuum of storytelling, and the lessons leaned for one medium can inform another.

And there is one book I refer to more, and cite more when I’m speaking about writing at conferences. It’s the quintessential examination of graphic storytelling that informs and influences all my writing. Scott McCloud’s masterpiece Understanding Comics.

It doesn’t matter if you have no intention of ever writing a comic, or even have never read a comic – if you are in the business of communicating ideas in any medium you owe it to yourself to read, study, and absorb this work.

Tumbling Around The Web

What do Batman, James Bond, racing cars,  my favorite motorcycle speedway club, and the occasional book review have in common? Well, they are all subjects of the several blogs I run on Tumblr.

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If you enjoy browsing through comics covers, photos, and the occasional video you can find the more visual representations of some of my favorite topics as follows:

  • Alan J. Porter – Writer: Where I post reviews of books I’ve read along with the occasional pop-culture image, cover, or photo that captures my interest or could be fodder for a future project.
  • Racing Comics: A celebration of motorsports in comics, with over 700 different covers posted to date.
  • Batman on the Cover: A chronological journey through Batman’s publishing history around the world starting in 1939. With over 1,100 covers posted so far, we are currently revisiting the Bat-books of 1961
  • James Bond Lexicon: The companion site to the James Bond Lexicon project. Currently posting a chronological journey through James Bond’s timeline.
  • Belle Vue Aces: Just a place for me to celebrate my favorite sports team, the iconic Belle Vue Aces speedway team.

 

 

It’s DilloCon Time

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It’s that time of year again, as the next round of convention appearances kicks off with my local event, ArmadilloCon. Summer in Austin wouldn’t be the same without the DilloCon weekend.

This year you can find me on the following panels etc.

  • Friday, August 2nd
    • 8:00pm – Best Comics You’ve Never Read – Ballroom D
  • Saturday, August 3rd
    • 12:00pm – Signing – Dealers Room
    • 6:00pm – Writing Work For Hire – Ballroom E
  • Sunday, August 3rd
    • 12:00pm – Good Omens – Ballroom F

Or just wandering the halls, hanging out in the bar, and generally enjoying the convention.

It’s a Con. – I’m on the Road Again

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It’s that time of year again. The start of my convention season, and the next several weeks are looking to be busy.

We kick of next week at the STC Summit in Orlando. It’s been a few years since I was last at this event, and I’m looking forward to catching up with my professional colleagues, and meeting some new people. The conference sessions are looking interesting, and as I’m not speaking this year I should have more time to sit back and absorb some new knowledge.

As soon as I get back from Orlando, it’s off to Houston for Comicpalooza. Over the last few years this has rapidly become one of  my favorite pop-culture/comics events. Three days of fun, networking, and entertaining guests. Along the way I’ll be participating in a few panels:

  • The Secret History of James Bond in Comics
  • The Editing Process
  • Finding Writing Inspiration.

In early June I’m heading to Poland for the first time to speak at LocWorld #37 in Warsaw on the subject of Content Convergence. Should be a great experience.

At the end of June I’ll be a little closer to home with my first appearance at SoonerCon in Oklahoma where I’ll be on panels discussing:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Podcasting: How to win Listeners and Influence the Internet
  • Doctor Who: Regeneration – It’s a Lottery
  • All Ages Comics as a Development Tool

I’ll also be doing a reading (I just need to decide what that will be).

Phew… it’s going to be an interesting couple of months, and I’m looking forward to it. If you’re going to be at any of these events, make sure to come find me and say “Hi.”  – See you on the road.

Under The Hood of the CARS Comics: Getting to Radiator Springs

With the Disney publicity machine gearing up for the release of CARS 3 in June I’ve seen a renewed interest in the CARS comics that I was lucky enough to write back in 2009/2010 following on from the original CARS movie. So I thought it might be fun to post a few short articles reliving my time hanging out with the denizens of Radiator Springs  and sharing a few of the behind the scenes insights, and some of the references, homages etc. that we sneaked into the scripts.

Getting to Radiator Springs.

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I’m often asked how I landed the gig to write the CARS comics, and my answer is that I simply begged to do it. It was at ComicCon 2008 in San Diego that comics publisher BOOM Studios announced that they would be producing a line of comics based on the Disney*Pixar movies. The announcement also included the news that the editor of the new line would be one Paul Morrissey, who had joined BOOM from manga publisher Tokyopop. It so happened that Paul had been my editor at Tokyopop on the GOD SHOP project.

As a total gear-head CARS was my favorite Disney*Pixar movie, I also think it is a straight forward fun movie with a great message even if you aren’t that interested in cars. So at San Diego I tracked down Paul and basically begged saying something along the lines of, “I don’t care what anyone else is pitching for, I want to write the CARS comic.” It turned out that most people had asked about writing The Incredibles, or Toy Story*, so the list I was competing with was shorter.

As we walked and talked I pitched Paul a story I had in mind that he seemed to like, so he asked me to come back the next day with four story ideas. I was back at the BOOM booth at 8:00am the next morning with five, the last one being a throw away idea of doing a ‘prequel’ to the movie that told Lightning McQueen’s back story that I knew that Disney would never let me do. I mean if anyone was going to do an ‘origin’ story for one of their lead characters it would be Disney. Right?

Paul reviewed the ideas and took them to Disney, who also approved them. The last day of the convention I got the news from Paul that I was to be the writer on the new CARS comic book series, oh and Disney wanted to kick things off with the origin story.

It was time to start writing – Ka-Chow!

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* I also  also asked to pitch for Toy Story and developed a four issue story arc that was approved and even announced and promoted, but that never saw the light of day – but that’s a whole other story for another blog entry.

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July Rambling at ArmadilloCon

It’s great to be living back in Texas. This month saw us move back to our adopted hometown of Austin after a few years away. We really missed the creative community here and the “welcome home” messages have been humbling and overwhelming.

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One of the staples of our years in Austin has been the annual get together at ArmadilloCon and this year will be no different as I’ll be rounding out the month at the convention participating the following panels:

Friday – July 29th

  • Book Collecting
  • 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Ballroom E
  • Muenzler, Person, Porter*, Weisman
  • Panelists will tackle topics including: choosing what to collect, finding collectible books, cataloging the collection, tools for managing a wish list, preservation, and determining the value of a collection.
  • Comic Books You Should Be Reading
  • 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Ballroom F
  • Benjamin, Mark Finn, Humphrey, Porter*, Rogers
  • What comics should we be reading, and why?

Saturday – July 30th

  • Art of the Short Story
  • Noon-1:00 PM  – Southpark A
  • Afsharirad*, Eudaly, M.A. Finn, Person, Porter, Scarber
  • What makes a good short story? How do you as a writer unlock this form?
  • Time Travel Stories
  • Sat 8:00 PM-9:00 PM Southpark A
  • Gibbons, Jewell*, Maresca, Porter, Schwarz
  • What time travel stories do we love in books and on screen? What are the pitfalls? What are the rules for telling time travel stories that work?

Sunday – July 31st

  • Writing as a Day Job
  • Noon-1:00 PM Southpark A
  • Allen, Chu, Ewing*, Fletcher, Porter, Sisson
  • How do you manage having writing as a day job, when you are not writing for yourself?
  • Autographing
  • Sun 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Dealers’ Room
  • Porter, Rose, Waldrop

If you’re in the Austin area, come along and join us for what is always a fun, engaging weekend.