Organised unboxing / Bridge to America / Deepfake news

COME ON, WRITER, DO THE ORGANISATION

Behold, an unboxing:

It’s only a couple of weeks now until THE ORGANISED WRITER is published. We’ve lined up some interesting events to go along with it (all virtual, of course). Times are UK:

On Thursday 8 October at 6.30pm I’ll be talking to the Nottingham Writers’ Studio about the book, why and how I wrote it, and of course how it can help you — assuming you’re a writer!

Tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-organised-writer-talk-qa-with-author-antony-johnston-tickets-119897822615

Then, on Tuesday 10 November @ 7pm I’ll be running a Writers & Artists Masterclass, ‘The Organised Writer & The Myth of Writer’s Block’. In that one I’ll outline some of the fundamental principles of the book that you can take away to use yourself and, yes, debunk the myth of writer’s block. No, really 😅

Tickets are available here: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/events/the-organised-writer

I’m also doing various interviews and guest blog articles to talk about the book; follow me on Twitter for links to those as and when they happen.

BRIDGE ACROSS THE STATES (oh, and Canada)

Meanwhile, the second week of October sees publication of the North American edition of THE EXPHORIA CODE, the first Brigitte Sharp thriller. 

I know some American readers have been frustrated trying to get their hands on the Brigitte books, so now here’s the first — available in hardback or ebook, whichever you prefer (I assume there’ll be an audiobook, but have no information about it at this time).

We’ve already had some great reactions from US reviewers:

“A fast-paced and cleverly constructed story that uses many of the familiar spy-novel tropes but does so in exciting new ways... A rousing success” — Booklist

“Thrilling action scenes keep the pages turning” — Publisher’s Weekly

The Pegasus Books page has more information, and pre-order links: http://www.pegasusbooks.com/books/the-exphoria-code-9781643135274-hardcover

Obviously, I can’t hop on a plane and appear at bookstores right now. Believe me, if I could, I would. But what I can do is appear virtually. So if you’re a bookseller, librarian, member of a book club, etc… and would like me to hop on a Zoom call or similar with your reading group to talk about Bridge and The Exphoria Code, drop me a line.

One such event promises to be a lot of fun: Greg Rucka and I are set to appear for Massachusetts store Brookline Booksmith on Monday 12 October (that’s Columbus Day, which ironically is usually the day I fly home from New York Comic Con…) at 7pm EST, whereupon Greg will apparently grill me about the book. Which, if you know Greg, sounds terrifying 😅

Tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/antony-johnston-with-greg-rucka-the-exphoria-code-tickets-120298611385

THIRTY STORIES HIGH

Project Gojira is finished at last — at least, my part in it. I still can’t tell you what it is, but the game is set for release next year, at which point you can be sure I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.

What else have I been up to? Well, there’s already a new videogame gig in the offing, from hereon known as Project Speedfreak, for which I’m assembling a writer’s room. Very exciting.

Over the summer I wrote a new short novel, Project Snaggletooth, which is now out with my beta readers. Completely unlike anything I’ve done before, but lots of fun. 

Finishing that has allowed me to re-devote time to Project Overkill, aka the third Brigitte book — which is still causing me coronavirus-related headaches, but one way or another it’s got to be done… 

Meanwhile various film and TV projects like Bomber (film) and Mean Machine (TV) continue to rumble, but as ever, Hollywood moves incredibly slowly until suddenly it doesn’t.

…Oh, and I didn’t even mention that I’ve been roped in to help produce the Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger Awards ceremony this year, as the whole thing is going to be virtual rather than the usual gala dinner event. Yes, a live virtual awards ceremony. What could possibly go wrong.

POWER OF THE ATOM

The Orion Project was a programme tasked with figuring out a method to propel rockets by using atomic bombs. No, you didn’t read that wrong. This is nuts:

FAKE, FAKE, DEEPER FAKE

Regular readers will recall me talking about Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs, and the coming inevitability of ‘deepfakes’ that can be made from a tiny amount of original material but are nevertheless almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Well, consider us one step closer; this breakthrough allows almost perfect lip-synch animation using just an audio source.

And here’s a YouTube video demonstration. There are fantastic legitimate uses, of course, but brace yourselves for ‘fake news’ of alarming verisimilitude:

LIFE ON MA—WAIT, VENUS?

This one just came up this afternoon, as I write; the possibility of microbial life in Venus’ clouds. Venus has long been seen as one of the least hospitable planets in the solar system, so that would be kind of extraordinary. (I’m reminded of the incredible array of life found around ‘black smoker’ vents on the sea bed, which also seem extremely inhospitable, but life there is, and in abundance…)

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/science/venus-life-clouds.html

WRITING AND BREATHING

I remain extremely proud of the variety of guests I manage to persuade to let me grill them about how they write…!

  • John Gruber is the famous tech blogger behind Daring Fireball (and my first non-fiction guest)

  • CL Taylor is the bestselling author of psychological thrillers Sleep and Strangers

And there is, of course, more to come. I love making this show. It’s now been running more than six months, so I’ll take this opportunity to plug the Patreon page: if you enjoy W&B, do consider showing your support. It means a lot.

DEAD WITNESS TO AN UNSEEN FIGHT:

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Hashtag-Filmmaking / New Alex Rider / The Organised Writer

I made that for a friend a few days ago, and it’s just too true not to share 😅

CROSSOVER POINT: LIVE & BEHIND-THE-SCENES

CROSSOVER POINT, the short sci-fi film I wrote and directed entirely during lockdown, launched a few weeks ago. We did a live premiere for it on YouTube, which was fun — stars Moisés Chiullan and Casey McKinnon joined in to chat with people watching along live, and reception has been fantastic. 

I even keep getting asked if there’s going to be a sequel, or any more stories in this world 😂 And the honest answer is, I have no idea. It’s not something I thought about while we were making the film, and right now I have a bunch of other stuff on my plate. But never say never.

You can watch CROSSOVER POINT for yourself on YouTube: bit.ly/crossoverpoint. It has Italian and Spanish subtitles, in addition to English closed captions.

I also wrote a Medium article going behind-the-scenes of the film, talking about how we made it despite all being in quarantine, the pitfalls of filming remotely (and some of the advantages, to be fair), walking through post-production, and more:

https://medium.com/@antonyjohnston/crossoverpoint-21316525f161

Finally, you can also hear myself and Casey talk about making CP on the 7th Matrix EYE ON SCI-FI podcast:

https://www.the7thmatrix.com/eosfpodcast/2020/7/19/episode-105-casey-mckinnon-and-antony-johnston-discuss-their-sci-fi-short-crossover-point

ARK ANGEL NOW ON SALE

ARK ANGEL: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, adapting the sixth book in Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider teen spy series, was published earlier this month with art from Amrit Birdi over Emma Vieceli’s layouts. AA is unlike any of Alex’s previous adventures — not least because it includes a trip to space! Check it out at Walker Books’ website:

https://www.walker.co.uk/Ark-Angel-The-Graphic-Novel-9781406341898.aspx

Right now I don’t know if there’ll be any more Alex Rider graphic novels, as ARK ANGEL is the last one for which I was contracted. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed adapting Alex’s escapades over the years, and want to thank Walker, and Anthony, for trusting me with him.

THE ORGANISED AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR

This week I’ve been recording the audiobook of THE ORGANISED WRITER. As is always the case when I do something like this, my respect for voice actors and professional narrators has only increased! 

I don’t think I’d ever try to narrate one of my own fiction books — that requires a level of acting and voice/accent variation I don’t think I’m capable of — but for a non-fiction like this, which is very much written in the conversational style of my ‘voice’, I wanted to do it. THE ORGANISED WRITER is a very personal book, so it felt right.

You can read more at the book’s brand-spanking new promo website, organised-writer.com (yes, non-Brits, organized-writer.com will take you to the same place 😅)

WRITERS’ GUILD GAME NARRATIVE PANELS

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain recently held a week-long series of online panels to talk about several aspects of writing for games — and if you missed any of them, they’re now all online.

There’s a full list of the panels, and who took part, at https://writersguild.org.uk/join-our-free-online-festival-of-games-writing-events/

I chaired the panel on Transmedia, looking at how we can tell stories across multiple forms of media, and how that changes our approach to narrative: 

And I was a panelist on the Worldbuilding discussion, talking about how we create and design universes for our games, and making them expansive and immersive enough to support the narrative we want players to experience: 

Finally, if you enjoy the Worldbuilding panel, I also wrote a follow-up piece answering audience questions we simply didn’t have time for during the panel itself. You can read that at https://link.medium.com/YyRfvRKLv8

WRITING AND BREATHING

Since the last newsletter I’ve published two new episodes of Writing And Breathing, with Lauren Beukes and James Swallow. As seems to always be the case with this show, they couldn’t be more different, yet both episodes are fascinating conversations about craft, method, and how each of them approaches their career.

http://writingandbreathing.com

AUDREY TANG: HACKER/MINISTER

Fascinating profile on Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s youngest-ever government minister, and how she’s shepherded a digital-democracy movement that helped the country escape the worst of the pandemic, relying entirely on mutual trust between the people and the government. 

It’s kind of heartbreaking to read this and realise just how difficult it would be for such a movement to take hold in many other countries.

https://www.wired.com/story/how-taiwans-unlikely-digital-minister-hacked-the-pandemic/

SCIENTISTS FIND ‘STREAM’ OF STARS IN OUR GALAXY THAT APPEAR TO HAVE COME FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE

I mean, if that headline doesn’t make you want to click, I don’t know what else to tell you.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/stars-galaxy-space-nyx-nature-stellar-streams-a9610206.html

RANDOM TREK 224: “THE CHILD”

Finally, I recently had my third appearance on Scott McNulty’s RANDOM TREK podcast, and what should we get to discuss this time but the Season 2 opener of THE NEXT GENERATION, in which Counselor Troi is impregnated by a space orb, Guinan makes her first appearance, Wesley Crusher is… pretty great, actually… and Dr Pulaski comes over all robot racist.

https://www.theincomparable.com/randomtrek/224/

THIS IS WHAT THE PEOPLE SAY, A NEW WAY:

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Crossover Point / Black Greeks / Danger! Meteorite!

CROSSOVER POINT PREMIERE

CROSSOVER POINT, the short sci-fi film I wrote and directed, premieres on YouTube July 1, at 11am PST / 7pm BST. You can set a reminder from the YouTube page.

Myself, Casey, and possibly Moisés will be there in the chat as it goes out, so join us if you can. But don’t worry if you can’t make the premiere time: it’ll stay up online at the same URL for you to watch at your leisure.

Which is just as well, because you’ll almost certainly want to go back and watch it again after you reach the end…

Remember, this whole film was conceived 🤔 written 🖋 shot 📽 edited 🎞 and completed 🥂 while all three of us were self-isolating in lockdown, thanks to the amazing power of modern tech. We think that's pretty cool, and we can't wait for you all to see it 👍

Read more at Bleeding Cool: https://bleedingcool.com/movies/atomic-blonde-creator-directed-sci-fi-film-crossover-point-in-lockdown/

ACHILLES: BLACK, WHITE, GREEK?

A fascinating article by Tim Whitmarsh, asking not “was Achilles black?” — because Achilles as we know of him, like King Arthur or Robin Hood, is more of a mythological figure who may or may not have been based on a real person, than a confirmed historical figure — but instead asking, “Did Homer intend Achilles to be perceived as black by his audience?”

The answer, like the question of Achilles’ existence, is complex, thought-provoking, and one that would almost certainly have baffled the ancient Greeks themselves.

https://aeon.co/essays/when-homer-envisioned-achilles-did-he-see-a-black-man

STILL WRITING, STILL BREATHING

Two new episodes of W&B online since the last newsletter. First with the multitalented Paul Cornell, writer of TV, comics, novels, radio dramas, and more:

http://writingandbreathing.com/episodes/10

And then with the multi-award-winning thriller author Steve Cavanagh:

http://writingandbreathing.com/episodes/11

These episodes are a great example of what I love about making this show: they couldn’t be more different in outlook, method, and practice… and yet there are also commonalities than any writer will recognise, and of course both have found great success. It really goes to show there’s no monolithic One Way of doing things.

And there’s even more evidence of that coming up; future guests lined up include Lauren Beukes, John Gruber, Rhianna Pratchett, James Swallow, and more.

FRIDAY NIGHT METEORITE

On a clear afternoon in Sylacauga, Alabama in 1954, Ann Hodges was napping on her couch, covered by quilts, when a softball-size hunk of black rock broke through the ceiling, bounced off a radio, and hit her in the thigh, leaving a pineapple-shaped bruise.

This turns out to be quite a sad story, but still kind of eye-popping just due to its rarity. As one expert quoted in the piece says, think how many people have existed all throughout history — and as far as we know, only one has ever actually been struck by a meteorite and survived.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/2/130220-russia-meteorite-ann-hodges-science-space-hit/

NERD IN THE BACKGROUND

I was recently John Martarello’s guest on Background Mode, a show produced by the Mac Observer, to talk about my nerdy background, using technology as a writer, and more. Many thanks to my Incomparable cohort Kelly Guimont for setting it up.

https://www.macobserver.com/podcasts/background-mode-antony-johnston/

YOU TAUGHT ME HELL NOW AND NO-ONE KNOWS IT:

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Tempus blog tour / Crime Reading Month / Podcasts

NB this is the first newsletter coming from Substack, following the switch away from Tinyletter. You don’t need to do anything, but you might want to add this newsletter’s email address to your non-spam list just in case.


NATIONAL CRIME READING MONTH

May was National Crime Reading Month, an annual celebration organised by the Crime Writers’ Association. Normally this means holding and supporting events all over the UK, from festivals to bookstore appearances to library groups and more. Of course, this year none of that could happen — but rather than just abandon it, the CWA decided to move #CrimeReadingMonth online instead. 

One of the main initiatives was ‘Crime Writers in Residence’, where members made short videos from our workspaces to talk about our work, life during lockdown, and recommend our own favourite books. I helped out by editing and assembling the videos from the raw footage sent by our members, and (naturally) making one myself.

Another part of the initiative was publishing new short stories by CWA authors online, and I took part in that too. So if you fancy a NEW short story by me, about post-viral illegal dining and too much tequila, go read FOOD BY HAND:

https://thecra.co.uk/short_stories/food-hand-antony-johnston/

THE #WEEKOFTEMPUS

Meanwhile, THE TEMPUS PROJECT is now on sale, and all last week we ran a blog tour called the Week Of Tempus, alongside a bunch of very nice reviews going live. I won’t link to everything here, as it’s quite a list: check my twitter and the #WeekOfTempus hashtag to see what people thought. But here are a few choice quotes:

“Delivers countless thrills and suspensions of the heartbeat”
Maxim Jakubowski

“Johnston’s cracked the code on how to make a keyboard warrior into an exciting spy”
Spywrite

“Brigitte Sharp is the most effective female espionage agent in fiction since Modesty Blaise”
Barry Forshaw

“Exciting and refreshing… an overall explosive thriller that excites on many levels”
Novel Novelist

“I have recently been reading a number of thrillers with strong female protagonists [and] The Tempus Project ranks as one of the best”
Scintilla

“A smart, high-octane cyber-thriller featuring a heroine after my own heart”
Dr Alice Violett

“This is the first Brigitte Sharp book I’ve read and I really enjoyed it… a fantastic read”
Lecari

DOING THE ROUNDS

As always, part of the publicity for a new book involves appearing on podcasts, writing articles, and so on.

Espionage aficionado and reviewer Jeff Quest interviewed me for the Spybrary podcast. As you might imagine, that one’s very heavily aimed at fellow spy nerds.

I was also on the Red Hot Chilli Writers podcast, hosted by two of the UK’s foremost crime writers, Vaseem Khan and Abir Mukherjee. That was more of a general chat about work and writing, and is worth listening to just for Abir’s bafflement at my workload…!

As for articles, I often find these a bit tricky. Contrary to the evidence herein, I don’t want to just recount the book blurb and talk about how great I am 😅 But at the same time, everyone wants 400-600 words, max. What on earth can I say in such a short piece?

Example: Martin Edwards offered me a guest spot on his blog. Martin is a veteran author and historian of the crime and mystery genre, a former chair of the CWA, president of the Detection Club, and this year’s Diamond Dagger recipient. He’s become a good friend in the past few years, and I enjoy his work… but it’s very different to mine. So for him I wrote a piece called A MYSTERIOUS LOVE, about something fundamental that we do have in common; a love of mysteries and puzzles in fiction.

http://doyouwriteunderyourownname.blogspot.com/2020/05/antony-johnston-guest-post-mysterious.html

Barry Forshaw also invited me to write a piece for Crime Time, and while that’s a much broader remit, it’s also read by other writers as much as readers. So for him I wrote ATTRACTED TO DAMAGE, a piece discussing why flawed and psychologically damaged characters are so attractive to both authors and readers, and how that relates to Brigitte Sharp.

https://www.crimetime.co.uk/attracted-to-damage-antony-johnston-talks-the-tempus-project-for-crime-time/

(I also wrote a new piece for this month’s Crime Readers’ Association newsletter. I’ll link to it here when it goes online, either at the CRA website or if I post it at Medium.)

CROSSOVER POINT

Here’s something nobody ever tells you about film post-production: it’s kind of boring.

Oh, sure, the editing per se is fun and creative. But everything around that part — selecting which takes to use, marking up their timecodes, taking notes, ensuring you import the right takes into the editing software, syncing up video and sound, processing the audio, compiling credits… well, that stuff is kind of dull. 

(Although somewhat livened up when you have to watch out for a house cat randomly appearing in several shots)

Still, it has to be done, as I found out last week when I did all of that for CROSSOVER POINT. Written, shot, edited, and completed entirely during lockdown. Not bad. No date yet set for release, but it probably won’t be long. We’re thinking of doing a YouTube Premiere thing, where everyone gets to see it live at the same time. Once it’s decided I’ll let you all know.

PODCAST GUEST GUIDE UPDATED

Shortly after launching UNJUSTLY MALIGNED, I made a ‘hidden’ webpage for the benefit of guests who’d never been on a podcast before, explaining how to take part and record their side of the conversation so I could edit it all together afterwards.

I showed the page to a few other podcast host friends, and some asked if they could direct their own guests to it. In fact, a lot of them began asking, so eventually I figured I should just make it publicly accessible. I revised it to make it show-agnostic, bought a URL, and The Podcast Guest Guide was born. 

But that was some years ago, and since then the technological landscape of how podcasts are made has changed somewhat — while simultaneously, thanks to the pandemic more and more of us are appearing on podcasts, doing radio phone-ins, and conducting conference calls.

Voila: The Podcast Guest Guide v3 is now online. Spread the word.

WRITING & BREATHING & THRASHING

As for my own podcasts, there are two new episode of WRITING AND BREATHING now online, with screenwriter Bryan Hill — whose work ethic puts even mine to shame — and multi-award-winning poet and novelist Amal El-Mohtar, who explains why poetry is important to all writers, even potboiler-peddlers like me. 

Find them both, and all previous episodes, at WritingAndBreathing.com

Finally, there’s a new episode of my heavy metal show THRASH IT OUT, where I subject my co-host Brian LeTendre to the grinding death metal of Arizona grunters Gatecreeper, and their new album DESERTED. 🤘


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