booklist 2013: LOVE IS STRANGE, Bruce Sterling

January 31st, 2013 | stuff2013

coverThat is one peculiar fucking book.

You get the strong feeling that Bruce sat down one day and said, “A Paranormal Romance.  People like those.  How can I tear down the term ‘Paranormal Romance’ until it a) turns into something I would like to write b) makes people who like Paranormal Romances cry blood?”

Bruce likes breaking things in his fiction. I often see things his characters love getting ruined somehow. It’s hard to think of anyone else who enjoys the casual harrowing of his characters so much.

It is a romance.  Bruce does in fact have fun playing with old romance-fiction tropes.  There are points where you can almost hear him cackling as he rattles around a LOVE BOAT port of call and scatters poison romances across the sun-kissed trattorias and streets.  There is the paranormal: or, at least, people who think they’re paranormal, and people who call each other paranormal.  It’s also, to some extent, about the delusions around these things.  The female romantic lead is a loon, the male romantic lead is a Silicon Canal alpha-drone, the supporting cast are grotesques and I’ll be surprised if Mr Sterling is ever again invited to a European futurism conference.

“Go to your Futurist Congress,” said Farfalla.  “They are expecting you there.  Your important friends will take good care of you.  Nothing will happen to you there.  Nothing ever happens when important people talk about the future.”

Bruce enjoyably tours the world with his romantic monsters, gleefully showing up the sooty old structures of the romance form while cracking its floorboards with brazen hodloads of science and politics.  It’s a weird, lumpy, sometimes uncomfortable comedy about shitty people.  It is the best and only romance novel you should read this year.  It is fun and evil.

But it really is a peculiar fucking book.

Ebook only: find out more at this page.

FAQ 30jan13: Answers To Random Questions Normal People Wouldn’t Ask

January 30th, 2013 | FAQ

How particular do you think new authors should be about which publishing house they get published through?


New authors should be more particular about how many complimentary copies of the book they get (and what it looks like), because that’s your calling card to other publishers, to show that someone else gambled their money on you.  That’s the trick.  Getting published once is often the biggest, toughest hurdle.

So, having just finished the slipcase/box-set of The Sandman that I got for Christmas… what are the chances Vertigo will do something equally lovely for Transmetropolitan? It definitely deserves the box set treatment.


You have to understand that I’m not the publisher, and I cannot cause these things to happen.  THE SANDMAN was a best-selling, critically-acclaimed work that forms the backbone of the mainstream adult comics canon.  TRANSMETROPOLITAN was a fairly obscure, nicely drawn container for a bunch of swearing.  I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Howdy. I just wanted to clamour about "How to Burn Water". After all, you are the reason why I own and enjoy using a mandoline. And why I always keep a small jar of fresh cow tears in my cupboard. So a proper manly cookbook with a beard that would curbstomp my wife’s namby-pamby jamieolivers would really be appreciated.


No plans for the occasionally joked-about cookbook HOW TO BURN WATER.  But I will give you this:


I had two skinless chicken breasts and no idea what to do with them.  So I did this:

Find a bottle of white wine.  Remember the rule: don’t cook with anything you wouldn’t drink.  So drink some.

Now get a roasting tin.  Throw a large glass of the wine into it.  Squeeze one lemon’s worth of juice into it.  Stir.  Throw some herbs in — I used thyme and chives.  I grab some chives and a pair of scissors and just snip half-inch lengths of chive in to the pan.  Stir it all again.  Lay the chicken breasts in.  Go away for five minutes and drink some more wine.  Come back.  Flip the breasts over.  Wow, that sounds weird.  Put them in the oven at 190 C (do the conversion yourself, you have the internet.)  Every five minutes, open the oven and spoon some of the liquid in the pan over the chicken.  And then drink some more wine. Until 25 minutes have passed.  At which point it is cooked.  It is not only stupidly simply, but you’re well on your way to being drunk.  Excellent.

Hello Mr. Ellis, I apologize if you have already answered this, but what was it that made you want to write comic books?


The riches, the glamour and the seductive charisma such a career supernaturally gifts one with.

However, back in the real world: I love visual narrative media, and comics are the purest kind.

(Some Of) My Favourite PLANETARY Covers

January 29th, 2013 | Work

The thing about John Cassaday was that you could just throw anything at him, and it’d work.  So I did, and it did.

The overall concept for the PLANETARY covers was that, every issue, the book would simply look like nothing else next to it on the shelves, and that was how it would stand out.  Look for the thing that looked like none of the other things.  I think we mostly managed that.  These are a few of my favourites.

Hong Kong Action Film issue.  The title and credits were actually supposed to appear as film-style subtitles under the image, but that was a step too far even for the fairly laid-back editorial office.  I’m still kind of sad about that.
I would often just throw shorthand and free-association at John, for the cover images.  In this instance, I think I said something like, “doom, sorrow, monochrome, abstract, Joy Division.  Yes.  Joy Division.”  And probably the title of the story, which was “Magic And Loss.”  (Thereby also summoning Lou Reed.) This was just a perfect conjuring.
The Full Steranko.

In comics, when you say “Steranko,” you mean a pure shot of Pop-Art/Op-Art Sixties mad-science spy story.

”Steranko” may in fact be the best name anyone ever had.

Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey.  RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA and Seventies science-fiction paperbacks.  At this point, we were putting letterer/designer Richard Starkings through such horrors every time that he started crediting himself on the covers as revenge, which we were perfectly fine with.
Our “Doctor Strange” issue, connecting that character’s Sixties origins with psychedelia.  Right off a Fillmore poster, in classic period colours.
And this one.  Which I provided no notes for, had no idea for, and had nothing to do with.  The penultimate issue.  And John just generated the perfect image.  I remember just looking at this and saying, “you clever, clever bastard.”

Can you see the logo?  It’s just a bit of type above the Wildstorm mark in the top left.  By this juncture, we’d proven our point – readers found PLANETARY, every time we released an issue, by looking for the thing that did not look like the other comics.  And that’s all down to the brilliance of John Cassaday.

The Instagramming Of Books

January 28th, 2013 | brainjuice

I have a terrible habit of using Instagram to capture interesting bits of books I’m reading.  I provide the following, without explanation, shame or sourcing (I have the sourcing saved, but these go into a file where I can rediscover them independent of sourcing, so I can make new connections).

I personally think this should be a Thing People Do.

(Some Of) My Favourite TRANSMETROPOLITAN Covers

January 25th, 2013 | Work

We had great cover artists on that book.  I mean, in a perfect world, Darick would have done them all.  But it’s not, and so we had some of the greatest artists in comics taking turns with him.  Not a bad cover in the lot.  I was just thinking about it today.  Some of those covers live with me still, and never got the kind of applause they deserved.  Here are a few of those.

John Cassaday.  We worked together on PLANETARY for years, where he amazed people with his covers.  But, weirdly, I still think this is the greatest cover he’s ever done.  It’s just too exquisitely imagined for words, really.  A beautifully drawn and incredibly simple, incredibly clever piece of work.
Well, it’s Moebius.  Therefore your argument, if you had one, is invalid.

Moebius was the pen name of Jean Giraud, one of the very best comics creators and artists France produced ever.  He was one of those rare people who genuinely deserved the tag “genius,” as far as I’m concerned.

I’m fascinated by how raddled and awful Spider looks under Moebius’ ink, too.

Jaime Hernandez.  Therefore, the comment above mostly applies here too.  How the hell my editors convinced these people to do covers is beyond me.

What interested me here was that artists usually went to the frenetic or the scowly with Spider Jerusalem, but Jaime Hernandez cages up this moment of quiet desperation that I love.

There is something purely Tanino Liberatore about JG Jones’ cover.  I don’t know what Jones is doing these days, but I presume it’s not kinky Euro-style science fiction, and I am sad for that.  Because this picture is just beautifully set up, and I like how it communicates Spider’s relationship with his “filthy assistants” – that they could basically kill him any time they liked because he was a physical wreck with all the implicit fighting ability of an old dishrag.
My favourite of Darick’s own covers.  Pure joy, and yet, at the same time, pure Id.  Spider’s expression says “I am alive and having great fun” and somehow also “I just shat on somebody’s baby.”