Peacemaker: Comic vs Book

Peacemaker Tour BannerGR author pic_webMarianne de Pierres is my guest blogger today. Her new book, Peacemaker, began life as a short story, turned into a comic book and is now galloping towards us a a novel by Angry Robot book. I asked Marianne to talk about writing a comic versus a book.

Peacemaker: Comic vs Book

Peacemaker cover_BlackMy new novel Peacemaker started out as a short story about ten years ago. Even after it was published, the story kind hung around in the back of my mind, whispering subliminal messages to me that it wasn’t done yet.

When I got around to thinking about it again, it demanded to be turned into a novel. I set about making the story transition from short fiction to long form, delving deeper into the narrative and the characters. The protagonist felt very natural to write, and the setting excited me, so it was a fun experience.

That’s what made it all the more curious that, when seventy pages into the novel version, I became smitten with the idea of turning it into an online comic.

Peacemaker_p1_loresI began to talk to friends in the industry. Nicola Scott, Andrew Constant and Paul Jenkins were fantastic and gave me much helpful advice. I knew I was a complete beginner at this kind of writing, and I was acutely aware of my inexperience. Somehow, that still wasn’t enough to stall the whim. I just loved how this world looked in my mind. I had to see it drawn. Thanks to Nicola, I hooked up with emerging artist Brigitte Sutherland, and we opened a dialogue that lead to the first issue being published about a year later.

In that time, I learned a huge amount. I’ve always been someone who writes fairly lean prose. I like to get to the point. I like that you can use just a few words and still pack them full of electrical charge. I take it as a challenge to do that.

Writing the comic then, I told myself, should just be a more compacted version of what I was already doing. Not so!

Peacemaker-CR_webI soon came to the realisation (by the end of the second issue – still unpublished) that it is really the artist telling the story. The writer gives signposts, enhances characterisation and makes sure there is an overall coherence to the plot (a thousand comic writers are going to POW! me off stage right now). Remember, this perspective is framed by a novelists brain. A novelist controls everything about his/her novel. A comic writer has an entirely different process.

I had to take myself out of the equation and let the artist and their images tell as much of the story as possible. Most interestingly for me was the fact that I felt compelled to show the reader a glimpse of the antagonist in the very first issue, something I would rarely do in a novel. It was then that I realised the luxury that even a lean writer has in books, playing with their words, creating a slow burn, luring the reader along.

So much time; so many words; such bliss …

Peacemaker will be released as an e-book on 29 April 2014. Check out Angry Robot for links and the print book release dates!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

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A Powerful Theme: an exploration of theme tunes by Night Terrace’s David Ashton

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Recently, I’ve been very excited by a new Kickstarter project –  the SF comedy radio serial Night Terrace, about Anastasia Black (Jackie Woodburne of Neighbours fame) a retired world-saving adventurer who finds her quiet life irritatingly interrupted when her house starts inexplicably travelling through space and time. Stuck with her (or indeed the other way around) is Eddie Jones (Ben McKenzie), who was trying to sell her something at the time.

Of course, the show needs funding first!

Music is an important part of the TV and radio experience (and I hope to the reading experience of Kitty and Cadaver!) With this in mind, I’ve asked David Ashton, responsible for the theme tune and other sounds of Night Terrace, to write about TV and radio theme tunes. Read on! (or skip straight to pledging support for Night Terrace at Kickstarter.)

A POWERFUL THEME

by David Ashton

I have the ‘Sound Designer’ job for Night Terrace. If the project meets the Kickstarter goal then I’ll be making whizz-bang spacey sound effects and stuff. Kind of like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop working on Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

In other words, this is pretty much my dream job.

I also have to come up with a theme tune. Television and radio themes are among the most evocative pieces of music there are. Once, when I was working at the ABC, I unexpectedly heard the BBC Match of the Day theme wafting across the airwaves, instantly transporting me back to childhood Sunday teatimes listening to the UK soccer results. When I mentioned it to the broadcaster he said that several people had called in to say the same thing – obviously I wasn’t the only one with an English Dad.

Theme tunes do a vital job of setting up the mood and tone of a series. Take Nerf Herder’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme for example. It starts with an ominous descending pipe organ riff – the kind of thing you’d expect to hear in a Vincent Price movie – before suddenly becoming an upbeat, punk-ish guitar instrumental just on the ‘edgy’ side of mainstream. What better way to say “we’re going to take all your boring old ideas of what a vampire story is and replace it with something clever and youth-oriented”?

Or compare the ‘adventure in space’ theme from the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica (by Stu Phillips and Glen Larson) to the elegiac theme to the 21st version of the series (by Bear McCreary) and you’ll know immediately all you need to know about the two approaches to the same story.

Sometimes a really good theme tune can lift less-than-stellar material too. The Walking Dead is too often a mediocre series but usually the best moment in any given episode is towards the end of the cold open when the arpeggiated violins start to fade in.

I should admit at this point that I’m enough of a theme tune nerd that I don’t just have favourite theme tunes, but favourite moments in theme tunes. I even have a favourite hi-hat hit in the Cowboy Beebop theme (its at about 29 seconds if you’re interested.)

My favourite era of TV themes is probably the ‘spy-fi’ era of the sixties (with some overlap to the fifties and seventies). Shows like Danger Man, The Man From Uncle, The Prisoner, The Avengers and so on. These programmes manage to pack more action and intrigue into their theme tunes than most shows manage in a whole series. If you’ve wondered how Tom Cruise keeps having hits with those Mission Impossible films – well, you can thank Lalo Shifrin for that.

I want to make a special mention here of Barry Gray, who created the many classic theme tunes for Gerry Anderson’s TV series. He’s best known for the military bombast of the Thunderbirds music, but his U.F.O. theme is classic spy-fi and the Space 1999 theme is spy-fi given a wakka-wakka disco groove for the 1970s. My favourite of his, though is the absolutely manic theme for Stingray. “Anything can happen for the next half hour” goes the voice-over, but really that promise is there in the theme tune.

Here are six Fun (And Slightly Opinionated) ‘Facts’ About Theme Tunes You Might Not Already Know:

  1. The singing in the theme music for the Battlestar Galactica re-boot is actually real lyrics in Sanskrit.
  2. Hollywood composer John Williams began his career writing theme tunes for television, including the great themes for Irwin Allen’s TV productions such as Lost in Space and one of my favourites The Time Tunnel. Back than he was credited as “Johnny Williams.”
  3. The original version of the Doctor Who theme was made in 1963 – before synthesizers had even been invented. Delia Derbyshire, working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, realised Ron Grainer’s composition by taking a lot of individual sounds (including some made by electronic testing equipment and some made plucking a piece of string) re-recording them at different speeds to create the right pitches and the sticking all the resulting pieces of tape together in the correct order to make the tune.
  4. Douglas Adams was a brilliant writer with terrible taste in music, but he did good when he picked Journey of the Sorcerer by The Eagles to be the theme music for the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy radio series.
  5. The theme to Futurama is heavily inspired by the 1967 track Psyché Rock by Pierre Henry. The opening theme and animation for Archer is just a straight rip-off of Cowboy Beebop.
  6. One theme tune to have an impact on the pop charts was Angelo Badalamenti’s theme to Twin Peaks (with vocals by Julee Cruise.) What you might not know is that the Badalamenti/Cruise/David Lynch style of spooky twangy jazz actually came about when Lynch wanted to use This Mortal Coil’s version of Song to Siren in his movie Blue Velvet. When they couldn’t afford to license that track they instead went about re-creating their own version of ethereal-vocals-and-guitar pop, which then carried over to become the musical identity of Twin Peaks.

WHAT IS NIGHT TERRACE?

Night Terrace is a new audio comedy from the minds behind ABC1′s Outland, ABC2′s Bazura Project and the hit podcast Splendid Chaps. It follows the adventures of Anastasia Black (played by Neighbours veteran Jackie Woodburne), who used to save the world for the government but now just wants a quiet life in retirement. So when her house inexplicably starts travelling in time and space she’s understandably miffed. She’s also not exactly thrilled about Eddie Jones, who happened to be on her doorstep at the time and is now her unlikely fellow traveller. University hasn’t prepared Eddie to cope with other worlds or time paradoxes, but he still thinks they’re a step up from selling electricity plans door-to-door.

Together Anastasia and Eddie will face alien invasions, hideous monsters, and a shadowy figure known only as “Sue”. All the while hoping the house will eventually take them home…

The team are crowdfunding the first series of Night Terrace right now. Jane Badler, chanteuse and actress (the original Diana of the original V!) is also slated for a role if the show is funded. They’re over two thirds of the way to their goal – and you can help them reach their funding goal at Kickstarter. I have a Key to the Terrace, but if you’re really keen you can be listed as a producer!

What’s your favourite theme tune (or Kitty song?) Feel free to leave a comment!

Guest blog: Alexandra Pierce’s Rock ‘n’ Read – Rock On

RockOn_lg_largeAlexandra Pierce is a teacher, reviewer and podcaster. She interviewed me recently on her Galactichat podcast and is one of the fabulous women behind Galactic Suburbia.

Rock music has a lot to answer for. Hairstyles, twerking, blasted eardrums… and a lot of fiction. Paula Guran hasn’t collected quite all the rock’n’roll inspired short speculative fiction in Rock On, but she’s had a good crack at collecting some of the best.

These stories involve music creators, players, fans and management; they’re set now, back then, and sometime soon. While most of the stories definitely stand pretty all by themselves, there are also some clear patterns that develop when music is a guiding force.

Can music save your mortal soul? (Sorry, it was inevitable.) Howard Waldrop’s Flying Saucer Rock and Roll suggests maybe it can try, and maybe it will fail but the trying is worth it – music is always worth it. Bradley Denton’s We Love Lydia Love paints music creation as a necessary catharsis for a tortured soul. On the flip side, the old Robert Johnson selling-your-soul-for-fame story is a natural one for speculative fiction to take up, and is reflected in Elizabeth Hand’s and Graham Masterson’s very different stories.

Bruce Sterling in We See Things Differently suggests a horrible kind of salvation through music, but also destruction – which is another major theme of music + fantasy or science fiction: music, and its creation, has a dark side – which critics (not the magazine ones but the ones that don’t understand) have always feared. Michael Swanwick’s The Feast of Saint Janis fulfils all those fears of rock music bringing out the animal in people, possibly taking a line from the ancient play The Bacchae by Euripides, and also plays on the two-sides-of-one-coin nature of salvation/destruction.

Greg Kihn and Poppy Z Brite take the darker line too, especially riffing off the sometimes fevered connection between music and performer, while Edward Bryant’s Stone and David J Schow’s Odeed go to the nth degree in the performer-crowd feedback loop. Del James’ Mourningstar has the sort of music that makes Alice Cooper look like Pat Boon.

Technology has long been an intimate part of rock and roll, from Bob Dylan’s controversial electrification to Japan’s vocaloid stars such as Hatsune Miku. Bryant’s story plays on the danger of technology in music, as does Pat Cadigan in Rock On. Alastair Reynolds’ At Budokan doesn’t play on technology in music so much as using external technology in order to create the Next Big Thing (and I do mean create, and big, in the most literal sense).

And then there are the stories where music is the great definer of culture, where life revolves around music and if you don’t get the references then you just don’t fit. F Paul Wilson has a time traveller using music to get rich, creating a rather dangerous feedback loop of sound, while Mercenary by Lawrence C Connolly imagines music as pure manipulation. John Shirley posits a time when your preferred music is your identity – and, of course, whether you can change that.

In Charles de Lint’s That was Radio Clash, the music isn’t inherent to the story but it is vital to the world-building. And when rock music is seen as dangerous, you just know that those young uns will do anything to hear it: thus, Lucius Shepard’s … How My Heart Breaks when I Sing this Song….

This anthology has magic and aliens and Loki; the past and the future; successful America and America destroyed; music as solace and music as destruction. It references Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck, Goethe, the Clash, Janis Joplin, the Five Satins, and bands that have never existed. Paula Guran, in her liner notes, quotes from music critic Nat Hentoff to show the similarities between rock music and speculative fiction: they both “make up lies that tell us something about the truth of being human.”

Guest Blog: Jason Franks’s Rock ‘n’ Read (part 2)

jason fJason Franks is the author of Bloody Waters, the subject of a previous Rock ‘n’ Read, and comic books The Sixsmiths and McBlack, among others. This is the second part of Jason’s recommendations of stories about music and monsters.

Read Part One.

In part 2 of my Rock ‘n’ Reads, we are going multimedia.

METALOCALYPSE, by Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha, is an Adult Swim cartoon about a a death metal band has become the most popular music act in the world. A hundred times bigger, a thousand times stupider and a million times louder than the Beatles, Dethklok’s ascension is not only a threat to geopolitical stability, but it might well be the end of the world.

Each of the band’s adventures is more gruesome than the last as they tour the world, record new music, awaken ancient evils and attempt to go grocery shopping, ‘like ordinary jack-offs’. Every music joke you’ve ever heard is here – with spikes on it and blood gushing from its eye sockets. Every story of rock’n’roll excess is here, larger even than real life and three times as brutal. If you’re unsure how brutal that is… that’s really, really brutal.

But for all its vicious satire, this cartoon is redolent with love for the music. Small not only sings (er, death-growls) the vocals and plays guitars for the show, but he actually tours a real life version of the band as well. Metalocalypse boasts a who’s who of metal as guests: Kirk Hammett, George Fisher, Angela Gossow, Mike Patton and heaps of others.

The Metal Apocalypse continues with a fifth season currently in production.

Kiminori Wakasugi’s manga series DETROIT METAL CITY is about a bashful farmboy, Soichi Negishi, who moves to the big city in order to become a rock star. It’s Negishi’s dream to conquer the fashionable world of Scandinavian pop music and win the heart of his beloved, the gentle Yuri Aikawa. How, then, does he wind up fronting the death metal band Detroit Metal City, costumed as the demon terrorist Johannes Krauser II, screaming songs about rape and murder?

Much to Negishi’s chagrin, DMC is becoming a huge success. Krauser is lauded as an incredible guitarist and a brilliant musician, while Negishi’s career singing hipster love songs is an abject failure. And what if Yuri finds out?

Wakasugi is equally willing to make fun of both musical genres; he’s very clever about inverting stereotypes. While Negishi’s Krauser alter ego is ostensibly the villain of the piece, it’s almost always Krauser who saves Negishi’s hide whenever he gets into serious trouble. Negishi’s real problems all stem from his personal failings.

DMC has been adapted into an anime series and a live action movie featuring a guest performance by Gene Simmons as Jack Ill Dark, the ’emperor’ of extreme metal.

I think my first encounter with  Josie and the Pussycats was in the back of some old Archie digests that a cousin gave to me. I always liked the Josie stories better than Archie, because… duh… they were about a band. But it was the Hanna Barbera cartoon that captured my imagination–stories were about a band who travelled around having adventures, tangling with aliens, spies and mad scientists.

In the second season of the cartoon, the Pussycats are accidentally launched into outer space. Each episode sees them travel to a different planet where they have more adventures. I remember being scornful of this gimmick, when I was a kid… but I still watched every episode that came on TV. As an adult I would go on to write a novel about the adventures of a red-haired girl who plays the guitar, so I guess something must have stuck with me.

Josie and the Pussycats became a live action movie in 2001. The movie is about a collusion between the American government and a music company to brainwash teenagers into spending their disposable income on corporate pop music. It was a resounding bomb but it has some smart commentary buried in all the anodyne silliness and even some sharp musical satire.

Have you read these books or seen the shows? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for books about music, magic and monsters? Leave a comment below!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Guest Blog: Jason Franks’s Rock ‘n’ Read (part 1)

Jason Franks, Photo by Denh LayJason Franks is the author of Bloody Waters, the subject of a previous Rock ‘n’ Read, and comic books The Sixsmiths and McBlack, among others. Here, Jason gives a few recommendations of books about music and monsters of his own.

My friendship with Narrelle is more or less based on our mutual love of stories about rock’n’roll and/or monsters. Love to read about them, love to write about them. So I’m here to talk about some books that I think will appeal to the readers of Kitty and Cadaver.

A and ROne of my absolute favourite rock’n’roll books is A&R by Bill Flanagan. The protagonist of this book is Jim Cantone, an Artist and Repertoire man who works for a small music label. Jim’s an honest guy who just loves music and who wants to help new bands develop and find success, but the LA music industry has always been a fickle place, and now that the business is in its death throes it’s more vicious than ever. When Jim is hired on by a major label he struggles to serve his corporate masters as well as the bands he represents, with  hilarious and tragic results.

You may or may not recognise many of the larger-than-life music industry personalities that appear in this book, but Flanagan finds the humanity in each of them – even the monsters.

little heroesIconoclastic New Wave Science Fiction writer Norman Spinrad’s most famous book, Bug Jack Barron, in many ways anticipates today’s tabloid TV shock jocks. Little Heroes, Spinrad’s cyberpunk take on sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, is a bit less prescient and a hell of a lot more way out – as a rock’n’roll book should be.

In Little Heroes, the public is kept docile with a combination of designer drugs, manufactured pop music and virtual reality trash-TV. But when the music business is starts to fail, Musik Inc hires whiz kids Bobby Rubin and Sally Genaro to create some new musical icons, from the ground up. But Bobby and Sally have their own issues and, under the supervision of producer Glorianna O’Toole, last survivor of the Sixties, they find somehow uncover the true, rebellious spirit of rock’n’roll.

Although this book was published in 1987, Spinrad broaches some issues that are topical today From crashing music sales to Digital Rights Management to vocaloid performers, Spinrad picked it first – but, while the real world versions are banal and insipid, Spinrad’s are grandiose and awesome. Spinrad knows some rock’n’roll when he sees it.

hopeless savagesJen Van Meter’s Hopeless Savages graphic novels (illustrated by Christine Norrie, Chynna Clugston, Andi Watson, Vera Brosgol, and Scott Pilgrim’s Bryan Lee O’Malley) are a about the sprawling family of a pair of former punk rock idols, Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage.

In these stories the various members of the Hopeless-Savage clan (Dirk and Nikki and their children,  Rat Bastard, Arsenal Fierce, Twitch Strummer and Skank Zero) must deal with kidnappings, documentary crews, martial arts tournaments, groundings, criminal gangs, band practice, spies, and protesting fundamentalists.

These are the adventures of a refreshingly functional family told with a sly sense of humour and plenty of punk rock attitude.

So there you go, folks, that oughta keep you busy until next week’s installment of Kitty and Cadaver. Over and out!

Have you read these book? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for books about music, magic and monsters? Leave a comment below!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.