Apparently email newsletters are fashionable again. At this rate, we'll all be back on Usenet by next week.
Last night, someone asked if I do anything specific to generate concepts. This is barely a step removed from “Where do you get your ideas from?”, and the asker apologised even as they asked. But honestly, I almost never *try* to generate ideas. That way lies a lot of frustrated angst, and plenty of imposter syndrome to boot, at least for me. On the other hand, I’m fairly opposed to the idea of some kind of otherworldly “inspiration” that visits us from the aether.
So what’s the middle ground? For me it’s being open to the world, and everything going on around you. And, as I said in response last night, “Wherever you go, look for whatever doesn’t belong.”
Example: here’s something that doesn’t belong — a ‘zombie satellite’ that NASA didn’t even know was still orbiting. http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/amateur-astronomer-dicovers-image-satellite/ That story popped up in my news feed just this morning as I ate breakfast. Now, the phrase ‘zombie satellite’ is itself enough to have a bunch of SF writers scrambling for their keyboards. That aside, I immediately wondered: how many more might there be? Could they be hijacked for nefarious purposes? What if someone deliberately hid them by faking malfunctions? Put enough of those together, spread around the tin-can traffic jam that is our overcrowded geostationary orbital belt, and you could create an entirely secret private global communications network. Or you could modify their re-entry trajectories to fall on major metro areas; how’s that for a terrorist threat?
None of these thoughts would have come to me if I hadn’t idly scrolled through a newsfeed, seen that headline, and thought, “huh.”
Of course, I’m not the only writer clicking that link. And it’s almost inevitable someone else will beat me to the punch, as it were, to use it in a story. That’s OK. It took me almost ten years to find a place for Facial Dazzle; I wanted to use it in a story from the moment I saw it, utilised by criminals as much as activists to evade AI facial recognition. But it wasn’t until I began writing THE FUSE that I discovered the perfect home for it. By then several other people had used dazzle in their own stories, for sure. But that didn’t matter, because none of them were like mine. How could they be? I didn’t write them. http://cvdazzle.com/ http://antonyjohnston.com/work/fuse So don’t be surprised if you see ‘zombie satellites’ appear in a comic/TV show/Bond movie/whatever soon. By the time I get round to using the idea — if I ever do — they might already be old hat. Again, that’s OK; the great thing about ideas is, they’re just ideas. It’s what you do with them that counts.
As this is the first newsletter, the List O’ Stuff is a big game of catch up. In future I’ll stick to current stuff, but for this go-around, get your laughing gear around this lot:
THE EXPHORIA CODE is my debut mainstream thriller novel. It's a modern spy story, combining old-school spycraft (speaking of Usenet...!) with cutting-edge cyber-espionage. It's had some amazing reviews from both critics and readers, and it's available now. Crime Time review: http://www.crimetime.co.uk/max-maxim-jakubowski-new-crime/ Shots Mag review: http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/book_reviews_view.aspx?BOOK_REVIEW_ID=1866
Starburst review: https://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/the-exphoria-code IF YOU HAVE A LOCAL BOOKSTORE please buy it there. Otherwise: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/178563061X/
https://www.amazon.com/dp/178563061X/ (print only) LONDON BONUS: I popped into Forbidden Planet London yesterday and signed their stock of the book. https://instagram.com/p/BedN4dNHqMi/
I did a bunch of guest blogs and articles to promote EXPHORIA. One of my favourites is now up on Medium. It's a piece about the balancing act of centring the story around tech, but without confusing people. https://medium.com/@antonyjohnston/everything-is-sci-fi-until-it-isnt-8161dde83c93
I also spent most of the holiday period plotting the sequel to THE EXPHORIA CODE, and recently began writing the rough draft.
I have a new SF story, SOUL MUSIC, appearing in Interzone #274. Here's the title spread, with amazing art by Warwick Fraser-coombe.
I grew up reading Interzone in the late 80s/early 90s. This is a mag whose contributor list is a who's who of SF; Gibson, Sterling, Cadigan, Aldiss, Constantine, Stross, Egan, both Bears, Newman... the list goes on, so I'm thrilled to see my own work in it. IZ #274 is on sale early March. ttapress.com/interzone
I'm ploughing through the first draft of a non-fiction book on how writers can get organised. A taste of the kind of things it contains is at https://medium.com/writing-comics/the-organized-writer-1525e6a8f124 which got 5,000+ views inside a week. Longtime readers will recognise it as a reprint of http://antonyjohnston.com/forwriters/organizedwriter.php which is itself well over a million hits by now. Hence, writing the book.
I'm planning the third COLDEST graphic novel, this time focusing on Lorraine Broughton and her past. No spoilers, but it'll explain how she got to the position in which we find her during COLDEST CITY. thecoldestcity.com
I'm consulting on two videogames at the moment. I can't tell you what they are. (This will be a common refrain in this newsletter. Welcome to videogames, land of NDAs.)
I'm in talks to possibly write a TV pilot. We'll see.
Justin Greenwood and I are kicking around ideas for a new volume of our sci-fi murder mystery series THE FUSE. No schedule, but it's on our (solar-powered) radar. http://www.justingreenwoodart.com
The last episode of THRASH IT OUT, the heavy metal podcast I do with Brian LeTendre, was about Iron Maiden's album THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST. https://thrashitoutpodcast.com
https://www.patreon.com/thrashitout I recently recorded a third "UK 1980s Trivial Pursuit" episode of GAME SHOW on The Incomparable, an occasional series in which I make baffled Americans play a UK nostalgia-themed edition of Triv. Live soon. Older episodes: https://www.theincomparable.com/gameshow/43/
I also guested alongside developer extraordinaire James Thomson on an episode of Kathy Campbell's new Incomparable show FRIENDS IN YOUR EARS, recorded for future release. First ep: https://www.theincomparable.com/fiye/
And of course, for those of you who may only know me from my writing, the archives of my pop culture show UNJUSTLY MALIGNED (currently on hiatus owing to, well, everything else you see here) are still online: http://ump.fm
SAT FEB 3: I'm at True Believers comic festival in Cheltenham, UK. Table H15 https://www.facebook.com/events/1426750714298534/
http://oktruebelievers.com/ WEDS FEB 28: I'm reading & signing THE EXPHORIA CODE at an event in Harrogate, UK. It's organised by Imagined Things bookshop and Destination Venus comics, both of which are wonderful and you should give them money. Tickets can be bought from either shop, and the book will be available to buy at the event. https://www.facebook.com/events/181707169090755/
Did you know I make music, too? Go on, have a guess what it sounds like. https://silencaeon.bandcamp.com
Photos of dogs: http://instagram.com/antonyjohnston
Attempts at humour: http://twitter.com/antonyjohnston
Occasional rants: http://facebook.com/antonyjohnston
Allegedly weekly. Don't @ me.