Filmmaker and comic author Hugh Hancock here again. Charlie's currently locked in his study babbling over blasphemous and forbidden tomes, so whilst we attempt to hack down the door with a fireaxe and get counselling for the guy to whom Charlie explained the hidden meaning of the Nightmare Stacks, I'm here with another blog post.

In the last couple of posts I've made over here (thanks as always to OGH for the invitation), I've been making the point that, both through necessity and lucky happenstance, the themes and subtext of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos are still very workable in today's world. In fact, they've acquired a lot of resonance thanks to advances in technology and society that run parallel to some of their main themes.

But still, the Cthulhu Mythos' core squamous, eldrich concepts were created just under 100 years ago at this point. They reflect the concerns of the time, like the sudden discovery that the universe is mind-blowingly, terrifyingly huge. And they have a few... issues for modern readers, like inbuilt xenophobia.

So what would a Cthulhu Mythos-equivalent for today, expressing the zeitgeist terrors of 2015 society, look like?

Bloody terrifying, that's what.

Because unlike Lovecraft, in 2015 we have plenty of experience with actual gigantic, inhuman entities with agendas entirely orthogonal to the safety and security of the human race.

It's that time of year again and I'm travelling and doing stuff in public on That Other Continent, so here's a preliminary list of fixtures.

As Damien Walter noted recently on twitter, some time between 1995 and 2010, the human species began to develop functional telepathy. (Actually, the first sign of this became real on October 29th, 1969, but exponential growth from a small base takes a long time to become noticeable.) We now have over a billion human beings on the internet, and so many devices that the IPv4 address space is saturated: within the next decade we can expect multiple new satellite internet constellations (such as OneWeb and rivals) to bring pervasive internet access to the globe. Smartphones are pushing down into the sub-$50 space where they're affordable even by those living just at the global poverty threshold (and the decline in global poverty over the past decade is working away at the other end). It no longer looks implausible to suggest that almost everybody will be online by 2025.

Hugh Hancock here. Charlie is currently in a space beyond place and time, folded into manifold dimensions that ring like bone-carved bells. Or to put it another way, he's on public transport. So I'm filling in for the day - he'll be back shortly!

Our Gracious Host's supernatural comedy-thriller series is set in a Lovecraftian universe, and features a geek of the programmer variety who uses his knowledge to invoke Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, following which he gets into a great deal of trouble.

My latest film, HOWTO: Demon Summoning (released about 25 minutes ago - watch here), is the first part of a supernatural comedy-thriller series set in a Lovecraftian universe, featuring a geek of the programmer variety who use his knowledge to invoke Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, following which... well, spoilers. But it doesn't end in hugs and puppies.

And yet, the two universes and the two stories aren't - at least as far as I can tell - very similar. The tone's different, the magic's different.

Is "Geek Cthulhu" sufficiently broad to actually constitute a genre?

Here's a Big Idea piece about the book that I wrote for John Scalzi's blog.

I did an AMA on Reddit's /r/books forum—lots more stuff here!

Here's a review on Tor.com.

And here's the copy editor's account of working on the book.

(I may update this entry and add more stuff as I see fit.)

Update: On the Audio book front: there's been some delay with the recording process, but the audio book version is due out "soon". (Which in publishing-speak probably means 1-3 months tops.)

It's US publication day for The Annihilation Score!

So here is a spoiler thread.

Feel free to discuss "The Annihilation Score" (and if you ask me a question I might show up and answer it) in the comments below.

But it would be unwise to read the comments below if you haven't read the book yet and want it to hold any surprises.

Some novels just don't happen when you expect them to. That was the case in mid to late 2013. I was supposed to be working on The Lambda Functionary, a third book in a thematic trilogy that started with Halting State and Rule 34, but it was turning out to be tough—much tougher than I expected. Partly I'd loaded too many ideas into it, but I was also becoming uneasily aware of the impending Scottish political singularity. The world of Halting State diverges from our own because I dreamed it up in 2005-06 as a plausible projection for the world of 2017, and we're much closer to 2017 now than we were back then: the flaws are visible. Given that the SPS will extend through 2017 (thanks to the coming referendum on continuing UK membership of the EU) it became impossible to write a third book in that universe. So I shelved it (although a bunch of those ideas will turn up, sooner rather than later, in a different near future novel).

So in August 2012 I was getting a bit panicky over the book I was failing to write. I was at the world science fiction convention, and had a date to do dinner with my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, lately of Ace. (She retired in March 2014.) So once we'd eaten, I raised the topic of The Lambda Functionary. "It's being difficult," I said: "I really need an extra year to write it."

Ever told a project manager that you're running a bit late and please can I have an extra year? Yeah, it went down about the way you might imagine: except that Ginjer had been editing me for over a decade and has my number. "You're thinking of something else," she suggested.

A very brief update (because I'm still knee-deep in work and I don't want to bomb you with trivia):

  1. If you're in Edinburgh, I'll be reading from and signing "The Annihilation Score" in Blackwell's Bookshop this evening at 6:30pm. Tickets are free from the front desk; further details here.

  2. Tor.com have published a longer extract from "The Annihilation Score", which you can read online (it goes a good bit further than the teaser Orbit put out last week: note, may contain spoilers for the ending of The Rhesus Chart).

  3. The official UK/Aus/NZ launch date is tomorrow, which is when the ebooks will show up. In the UK, hardbacks are already showing up on shop displays; they're in a container on their way to the antipodes and on past form I expect them to be in shops by the end of the month. North Americans will have to wait until next Thursday ...

2014 saw the publication of two long format Laundry Files stories—the novella "Equoid" and the novel "The Rhesus Chart", the fifth book in the series. I wrote them at different times and for different reasons, but they share a common theme. (It was also around this time that I got the memo from editorial at Ace—all series of three or more books must have a series title—and was handed "The Laundry Files"by default.)

So let me tackle "Equoid" first. "Equoid" has an origin story all of its own, which I've described at length (and I don't have the energy to repeat myself). What I didn't explain in that essay was why I went with unicorns.

hardback book

Yes, I've got a new book coming out real soon now: "The Annihilation Score" (US kindle edition) (UK kindle edition) comes out on July 2nd in the UK and July 7th in the USA (yes, different publishers release books on different dates: who knew?).

Amazon and the big bookstore chains won't sell you a copy ahead of schedule, but if you happen to be in Edinburgh on Wednesday July 1st I'm going to be reading from (and signing copies of) "The Annihilation Score" at Blackwell's Bookshop on South Bridge at 6:30pm. The event is ticketed but free; tickets available from Blackwell's, more event information here.

If you really, truly can't wait to get a taste of the book, Tor.com will be running an extract on June 30th (and I'll be mirroring it here)!

In addition, I'm going to be doing an AmA—Ask Me Anything—on Reddit's /r/Books subreddit on Wednesday July 8th at 2:30pm ET (7:30pm here in the UK), and (needless to say) talking a lot about the Laundry Files and "The Annihilation Score" for a couple of weeks. Including, if I remember, writing the Crib Notes to "The Rhesus Chart" (now that it's out in paperback) and trying not to give too much away about the overall trajectory of the series (hint: book 7 is mostly written, and I know where book 8 and 9 go in considerable detail—yes there's a series story arc).

What if you want your very own signed hardcover book and can't make it to Edinburgh on July 1st?

Well, Blackwell's will have signed stock to hand after that session, and are happy to sell via mail order: their contact details are here. In addition, Transreal Fiction, Edinburgh's specialist SF/F bookshop, will also have stock and are happy to ship signed copies of the Annihilation Score anywhere on the planet: ordering details here.

Finally, I'm going to be in the United States for Sasquan, the 2015 worldcon, so by late August there are likely to be signed copies available in Seattle and Spokane, if not further afield—and I hope to be able to announce a reading, signing, or other meet-ups in Seattle and Spokane nearer the time.

I grew up reading comics; but unless you're British and of a certain age, they almost certainly weren't the comics you grew up reading.

I'm British, ~50 years old. The weekly printed-on-crap-newsprint kids' comics market was dominated by D. C. Thompson & Co., rigidly gender-segregated, and on the boys' side of the counter contained plenty of short strips heavy on two-fisted derring-do and schoolboy humour, but not so much on superheroes: comics like The Beano and The Hotspur set the tone. For the more militarily-minded there were Commando comics. And, like a bolt from the blue, 2000 AD arrived in 1977, when I was twelve and just about growing out of the whole comics thing; that probably kept me hooked for an extra year, and I have fond memories of the early tales of Judge Dredd. But then I discovered D&D and that was that.

It's a truisim in fiction publishing (as well as movies) that nobody knows anything about what the next big thing will be. The best we can get is some vague entrail-reading on the part of editors, who see far more hopeful monsters cross the transom (or arrive in their submissions email queue) than you or I can ever expect, and who therefore may have a slightly tighter grasp on the zeitgeist than those of us who form our judgements on the basis of new arrivals in the bookshops—arrivals which were commissioned or bought 2-3 years ago.

But what if we could make testable predictions about trends?

(Hugh Hancock here again. Charlie's still beating the squamous and eldrich tentacles into malleable literary form, so I'm filling in for a few days. He'll be back soon.)

It's a weird time right now.

That's true in general. It's fascinating watching sci-fi authors like Charlie sprinting increasingly fast to keep ahead of the Bear Of Social And Technological Change. But it's specifically true right now for storytellers of all stripes, from comics artists (which category, somewhat to my surprise after two decades of movie-making, now includes me), to writers, to games designers, to filmmakers (also still including me).

Over the last year or so I've been taking a step back from my previous single-minded pursuit of performance capture and Machinima to get a broader understanding of the opportunities for anyone who wants to tell stories right now. Whilst Machinima has been pretty good to me, letting me travel all over the world, giving me the opportunity to pretend to be a Muppet on live CNN, and letting me tell stories ranging in scale from feature films to experimental arthouse shorts, it became clear to me that the landscape was changing pretty fast and I was probably missing out on all sorts of interesting things. So over the last year, I've experimented with comics, game development, prose fiction, a little bit of app development, virtual reality and filmmaking in many and various flavours.

And it's no exaggeration to say that the world of a lot of these artforms has been upended -- or in some cases entirely created -- in the last decade or so. And the next decade's going to make the last one look comparatively stable.

So what media are going to rise? Which are going to fall? Is VR going to look awesome then fail to deliver again?

I've got no certainties, but I do have some hunches and a lot more information than I had a year ago.

Feature Films

Right now, the world of indie feature films is fucked up.

(Hi - Hugh Hancock here. Charlie is still grappling with a Laundry Files novel, so I'm helping fill in this week. He'll be back later.)

Just why is Cthulhu so popular?

Sure, H.P. Lovecraft's horrifying vision of an uncaring universe is pretty good stuff. Sure, he was one of the first writers to tie all his creations into a single semi-coherent universe. Sure, he was drawing on and remixing ideas from older writers too, such as Robert Chambers' "King In Yellow".

But there are a lot of great fictional universes out there -- even great horror universes. What is it that makes writers -- including both Our Gracious Host, Charlie, and myself -- gravitate so hard to the big squid?

This is something that I've been thinking a lot about recently, because almost all my artistic output at present has a strong Cthulhu flavour. Notably, even the title of my just-released comic is taken from the Mythos and its forebears: Carcosa, the City By The Lake in which the King In Yellow waits.

So why does the Mythos have such draw? Is it because the Mythos is classic?

Absolutely not. It's because, comparatively speaking, it's modern.

The Cthulhu Mythos is almost 100 years old. And it's the most modern part of our mythology that we're allowed to access.

A product testimonial of sorts:

I've now had my new retina Macbook for about two weeks, and completed my first multi-day trip from home with it. Verdict: it's not perfect but it's a keeper. On the other hand, it raises some disturbing questions about the future ...

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