Monthly Archives: December 2010

News Post -6-

 Season’s Greetings. The calendar year is coming to an end and we have exited the age of mellow fruitfulness to run facelong into an icy gloom that would gladden a Narnian witch-queen. Morally we have also gotten colder. The new government has lost no time in reaffirming Tory values. The milk of human kindness has curdled into the cream cheese of I’m-alright-Jack. It pains my bitter, atheist heart to say this, but we really need the Christmas spirit this year…


Be very afraid...

So here’s the news since my last update (September, wasn’t it?). Lots to tell ya, so there is.


** In October I was invited to read a story out at the Halloween Shortfuse event. For those who don’t know, it’s Leicester’s best spoken word event. I contributed a vampire story that had previously appeared in The Avatar and also read a story by Northampton writer and playwright Stephen Loveless. Enjoyed the event immensely. Fellow Speculators Catherine, Damien and Will were also there (Will Ellwood also read out at the event). Later, I was invited to Polly Tucket’s birthday do (she organizes and compères Shortfuse). Excellent night. A round of applause from a public in fancy dress followed by birthday cake. Can’t ask for more, can you?


** My contribution to Sex & Murder (the magazine, of course).


** Nanowrimo came and went and a number of writers took up the insane challenge of writing a novel in a mere month. Madness! Surprisingly, a bunch of people actually made it. So congratulations to Maria, Sally and Lucy. Awesome achievement.


** Starbase Leicester goes from strength to strength. This Christmas they have an Annual out (just like the Beano or Viz, it’s a lovely thing). I have an article in it too.


** Leicester is crawling with film-makers. We’re going to need a big white HOLLYAYLESTONE sign or something. First, there’s Keith Large, who has had one of his ‘Laughs From Leicestershire’ plays adapted for the screen (By the aforementioned Stephen Loveless). Maria Smith has also had one of her short stories adapted (one previously published in The Speculator, edited by yours truly). Here’s the trailer for it, if I can work out how embedding works.


Furthermore, crime writer Rod Duncan is also engaged in a spot of film making (A production with the intriguing title of ‘£43’) and Graham Joyce’s new novel ‘The Silent Land’ has been optioned for Hollywood itself. This brings me to..


** The book-launch for ‘The Silent Land’ took place on December 14th at Kibworth Cricket Club (An impressive pavilion building). Graham kept it short and sweet, speaking for just a few minutes before letting the attendees – a surprisingly large number, I thought – get back to the bar, mulled wine and mince pies. The event was organized by the Kibworth independent bookshop. It was a great way to acknowledge the value of independent bookshops. Thanks to Selina and Jay for the lift there and back.


** Rumours are that Judith Allnatt’s excellent novel ‘The Poet’s Wife’ will feature on Waterstones’ 3 for 2 tables in the new year, coinciding with the books’ paperback release. Go get one.


** Novacon 40 came to Nottingham this year and I went to two days of the three day event. Really enjoyed the social side of it and got to chat to Iain M Banks and Charlie Stross – and nodded to Brian Aldiss as he walked by me. Sadly, Harry Harrison could not make it due to health problems. I was disappointed as I have a first edition of ‘The Stainless Steel Rat For President’ I wanted him to sign. It was a shame he couldn’t be there. I did enjoy talking to a bunch of new people (I bent the ear of the conference organizers to get them to come to Leicester), flinching with pain as James Worrad spent oodles of cash at the auction and the fire alarm on Sunday night. I even missed my train back…


Iain M Banks. "If you want 'The Culture' to become real, cancel your Sky subscription."!

** A recent news story has brought back a lot of memories, not all of them pleasant. A decade ago I was training as a languages teacher and spending a semester in Perpignan, learning French. From there it is just a hop across the border and an easy train journey to Barcelona where I still have family. There I managed to connect with a childhood friend (my next-door neighbour, no less). He was (and is) a successful editor at a major publisher. We met for drinks on a couple of occasions and he told me of some Spanish investigative journalists working in the old Yugoslavia who were now in hiding. They had stumbled upon a criminal organization involved in the trafficking of human organs to Western Europe. This group had links to governments, law enforcement and even the EU. These journalists had been threatened if they talked, but they relied on my friend to help bring these atrocities to light. Sad to say my friend and I parted on bad terms. It was all my fault. I was besotted with a woman I had no business getting involved with and behaved rudely and stupidly to a lot of people, including him. I was a total dick, in fact. Recently a report has emerged linking the president of Kossovo and the EU to a trade in human organs involving Serbian POW’s fattened up in hidden Kossovar jails, who were then killed and their organs sold on to private clinics in Germany, Scandinavia and Italy. I’d like to think that my friend had some part in exposing this sickening trade. In any event I’ll have to go back to Spain. I need to apologize to a good man and make amends.


** Finally, it’s a sad goodbye to Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) who passed away on Saturday. He was a true original and one of the most original voices in rock music. The name of this blog derives from one of his songs (‘The Floppybootstomp’ on his album Shiny Beast). Rest in peace, Don, it’s a poorer world now you have left us.

Don Van Vliet


Comic Book Classics — 13


It has been a shock to realize that of the dozen Comic-Book classics already posted here at Floppybootland, not a single one has been French. I bow my head in shame for this oversight. All I can do at this stage is rectify this error and beg forgiveness. To get two rectifications in the same post, I have chosen to feature France’s (and perhaps the world’s) best ever SF comic. That should help to deal with the paucity of SF material on this blog.

Metal Hurlant was groundbreaking in a lot of ways. To begin with, it was uncompromisingly aimed at adults rather than children. Adult themes and language were a defining feature of the magazine. A lot of the material was sexually explicit and contained overt violence and/or drug use. This positioned its own brand of SF as transgressive, unsentimental and gritty. In this sense, it helped to shape the modern Science Fiction aesthetic (The most celebrated example of this is Dan O’Bannon’s 1977 story ‘The Long Tomorrow’, which is said to have been a key influence on the look of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner).

Dan O'Bannon's dystopian future world.

Métal Hurlant (Translates as ‘Screaming Metal’) was born in the mid 1970s and was published by a writers and artists’ collective known as the Humanoides Associés (Associated Humanoids). The founders of AH were some of the best comic book artists in France. The two most celebrated (Jean Giraud – aka: Moebius and Philippe Druillet), were already regarded as some of the most original artists in the comic book world. With their input and direction, Métal Hurlant soon became the gold standard for European comic book art. An eclectic roster of in-house artists and contributors included both Moebius and Druillet as well as Enki Bilal, Richard Corben, Juan Gimenez, Beb Deum, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara.

Enki Bilal

The magazine ran initially from 1974. It combined serialised comic-book tales with editorial articles on SF in other media. The model was another classic French comic-book magazine, Pilote, which also combined serialised children’s BD (i.e. Goscinny & Uderzo’s Asterix first appears in Pilote) with articles and features. The French comic book market, based as it is on the hardback, glossy BD album, is supported by magazines that publish extracts of forthcoming titles (Bodoi and Pilote are the two best-known). This format of SF magazine was eventually adapted to other markets including the Italian mag L’Eternauta and Spain’s Cimoc and 1984 (relaunched as Zona 84 after err… 1983). An English language version, Heavy Metal, was brought out in the US and introduced a generation of readers to European comics.

Towards the mid 1980s the original Metal Hurlant was going into decline. The material included began to lose its core SF and fantasy thematic and the magazine had opened its doors to all kinds of comics (yes, even comedy westerns…) to try and maintain its readership. Druillet and Moebius had long since ceased to be involved and without their direction Hurlant appeared to flounder. In 1987, the magazine folded.

Its legend, however, lived on. In 2002, the magazine was resurrected with additional English, Spanish and Portuguese editions. Despite all its problems, closure and relaunches, an outstanding body of work appeared in MH’s pages. Some of the best SF comics of all time have appeared there (often as their debut publication), including Moebius’s Arzach, Druillet’s Lone Sloane, Bilal’s The Town That Didn’t Exist, Beb Deum’s Burocratika, Corben’s Den and Jodorowsky’s Metabarons. In terms of a back catalogue, no magazine can touch Métal Hurlant. It remains the gold standard for SF comic magazines.

Condemned To Repeat

GCSE History & Politics (Paper 1), May 27, 2029.

Question 4: “We have learned, a little late no doubt, that for states as for individuals real wealth consists not in acquiring or invading the domains of others, but in developing one’s own. We have learned that all extensions of territory, all usurpations, by force or by fraud, which have long been connected by prejudice with the idea of ‘rank,’ of ‘hegemony,’ of ‘political stability,’ of ‘superiority’ in the order of the Powers, are only the cruel jests of political lunacy, false estimates of power, and that their real effect is to increase the difficulty of administration and to diminish the happiness and security of the governed for the passing interest or for the vanity of those who govern…”

Charles Maurice de Talleryand (French 18th Century diplomat).

Discuss with reference to Britain’s role in the Iraq and Afghan wars (2003-2024)

[Fee for this question is £1,250 and a 1% surcharge on future Income Tax per exam grade above C.]

ian sneath

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