Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fantasycon Update

Information for advertising in the FantasyCon 2009 Souvenir Programme book is now available. If you wish to advertise your wares to a targetted audience, email organisers@fantasycon.org.uk for details.

There have been some chair shifting on the Fantasycon committe. Due to changes in the BFS committee, Guy has stepped down as FCon co-chair to concentrate on the BFS. That means I take over the FantasyCon chair -- but Guy remains on the committee, and I will greatly value his input.

And this year sees the return of the Art Show, long missed by the artists who wish to diplay their work. If you are interested, send an email to the above e-address.

Jack of Fables. Volume 5: Turning Pages

It used to be that you could pick up any American monthly comic and read the whole story in 20 or so four-colour pages. But story telling grew up and story arcs developed that required several issues. Nowadays, this is clearly evident with the ‘mature reader’ themed comics published by the likes of DC’s Vertigo. And in theory this is where graphic novels -- compilations of the monthly comics -- come into their own, when you could buy and read a story arc in one go.

However, in some cases, even the graphic novel format proves to be less than satisfactory. Take Jack of Fables, for instance. Volume 5 has just appeared, which collects six of the monthly format (issues 22 to 27). Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges wrote the story; Russ Braun and Tony Akins provided the pencil work.

The first three ‘chapters’ in this compilation can be read in isolation. They have little to do with the ongoing Revise saga. These chapters detail a period in Jack’s history, when he ran a gang of outlaws in the Wild West of the 1880s. His murderous spree is only brought to a halt by the intervention of a sheriff from back East, one Bigby Wolf. There is practically no explanation of Bigby’s and Jack’s previous relationship; you really do need to read volumes 1 to 4 of Jack of Fables, plus the parent series Fables, to understand just what is going on, and what this particular story means in the big scheme.

When we get to the final three chapters, ‘Turning Pages’ (which is a delicious pun, by the way), ignorance of the Fable characters (beings derived from the realms of myth and legend), why they exist in the real world, who is Jack, etc, etc, is likely to detract seriously from your enjoyment. (A hint regarding Jack: think trickster gods!)

Several volumes ago, Jack was imprisoned by Mr Revise, a person seeking to eliminate all magical beings. Jack escaped; and Jack being Jack he seduced (or attempted to) Revise’s right hand assistants, the Page sisters. In volume 5 Jack's attempts at seduction continue and hence the title of this section. And as ever, Jack is scheming away with get-rich-quick plans. ‘Turning Pages’ is an amusing tale – I very much enjoyed it. But on its own, I suspect it is all but meaningless. If you want to read Jack of Fables – and I earnestly recommend that you do – buy volume 1 and start there. I also suggest that you read the Fables graphic novels.

As for Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges: their story telling over all these volumes is finely honed, mixing fairy tale and mythological characters in with us ordinary humans, in the same way that some people mix their metaphors -- seamlessly. The artwork has a charming simplicity to it which is, I think, absolutely appropriate for this tale of dark deeds and comical capers.

(c) Peter Coleborn

Monday, April 20, 2009

World Horror Convention announces its MOC

The World Horror Convention now lists five guests of honor plus one mistress of ceremonies. The GOH are writers Tanith Lee and David Case; artists Les Edwards and Dave Carson; and editor Hugh Lamb. All good enough reasons to attend. The icing on the cake is that the MOC is my long-time friend Jo Fletcher. She is Associate Publisherat Gollancz and has worked as an editor at several other publishers, including Headline and Pan. Jo has also edited and co-edited several books. She is an award-winning poet -- and examples of her brilliant and moving poetry can be found in Shadows of Light and Dark, co-published by the Alchemy Press and Airgedlamh Publications.

Copies of this book remain available -- but only a few. This book was designed by Michael Marshall Smith, has an introduction by Neil Gaiman, and is illustrated by Les Edwards and Seamus A Ryan -- and all of these, as well as Jo -- have signed copies of this limited edition hardcover.

If you would like a copy, at the special price of £10 inclusive of p&p in the UK, please email me at gatesoffantasy@gmail.com. I accept payment by PayPal, if that helps. And the WHC website is here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fantasy Centre to close

Couldn't think of a silly title for this posting -- the news is too depressing. I've learned today that Fantasy Centre, that treasure trove of old SF, fantasy and horror books and magazine on Holloway Road is to close. I gather that they won't even continue in the virtual realms. It's all very sad.