Thursday, August 30, 2012

Perdido Street Station

Sometimes I make my own covers for books I enjoyed reading - today: Perdido Street Station by China MiƩville. I happily disappeared into the weird world it presented for a few days. It's fun, upsetting, ambitious, political, with great characters and generally made me happy.
While I was reading I imagined I'd make a cover that shows all the creatures mentioned... or maybe just the giant inter-dimensional spider... but then I came to the scene with this guy strapping a dog to his back and flying off into the sky to do battle, and that was that.
I probably got it wrong in some way. Maybe he should be wearing a tie, or the dog isn't actually a doberman. Never mind, I can always glue corrections over the top.
Anyway, peeling the top layer off paperbacks and gluing on your own cover: much recommended, although you can't resell them like that.

And yes, it was an article about MiƩville in the Guardian that started me thinking about remixing novels.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yes, I think we will remix novels.

What if we could all edit and remix other author's novels, and share our edits?

Imagine an ebook supplier did this:

They release user-friendly software that lets you edit the novels you bought, on your computer. It doesn't let you export the edited text, though.
You can, however, upload and share those edits you made.
Anyone who also owns the novel as an ebook can download these edits and switch them on or off as they like. Without the original texts: no use.

Readers can choose to highlight the edits or not, but if the edits are activated it will always say REMIX somewhere in the corner of your ereader. There will be no question that what you are reading is NOT as originally intended by the author.
The original book always stays intact - you can't overwrite it.

Authors can opt out, so their books cannot be edited.
Offensive edits can be flagged up. The author may contractually have secured the right to veto edits they detest. The ebook supplier/publisher may also choose not to host certain edits.

Maybe there is a test-run with out of copyright books. But there's no money in that, so we move on, and start to unlock recent books.

Things that will happen:

People will change grammar, change endings, save characters from death, kill others, make everyone have sex and generally do stuff that the author finds very irksome. Hopefully the author does not plunge into depression. Maybe they are inspired, amused, amazed.

There will be attempts to use the system for censorship: people will add and remove religion, sex, politics. Some parents will demand a feature that locks certain approved versions. Hopefully, children will not be deprived of access to the original versions, though they shouldn't get free access to edits because there will be much tentacle-porn and mindless violence available.

Some unacceptable things will happen. Some troll tries to redeem Humbert Humbert. There will be whitewashing. There will be discussions about where lines are drawn. - Thankfully, whatever happens the originals stay intact and the edits stay visible, and we can disapprove, complain, refuse.

People will change the protagonist's names to their own and change the character description to make them more handsome.

People will change the character descriptions to make them black, white, gay, straight, fat, slim, old, young. Some of this will be vile. Some of this will be interesting.

Some characters will swap gender with no ill effects.
Some will turn into vampires with varying degrees of credibility.
Some characters will suddenly have a clear motivation (especially the vampires).

Someone will politically correct "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". We will be conflicted, sometimes appalled, sometimes surprised about what we didn't notice.

People will edit in marriage proposals, for a while. The first one will be a brief internet sensation.

Children's classics will be modernised in many ways. We will very quickly learn a lot about what that actually means.

Some trolls will bully people by putting them into novels as victims, sluts, ridiculous characters.

There will be many crossovers, attempted or successful depending on how copyright regulations pan out. There will be zombie edits and Firefly edits of EVERYTHING.

There will be Reader's Digest versions to save you time studying.

Moby Dick will get REALLY short. There will be a competition about how short you can make Moby Dick.

There will be remixes using several novels at once and people will get very annoyed because a remix of three novels costs three times as much.

There will be a number of popular series where someone invented a new protagonist and shoe-horned them into several unconnected existing novels. People will get addicted and demand more.

Users with a very popular set of edits will get employed by publishers.

Some authors will try to throw out really unfinished stuff for others to fix. This will work in some instances.

People will stay interested in the original. They will become more aware of the craft of writing and editing.

There will be an option to just quickly check various edits after you read the original. Book clubs will like that option.

Some readers will buy books that they would NEVER normally read because yes, there is a Transformers edit of Fifty Shades of Grey, and there is a Harry Potter edit in the style of Camus.

Ebook suppliers will hold competitions to make novelty versions that they think will shift more copies. They will also commission the, but never pay enough money, probably. 

Then non-fiction books get opened up.

Some awesome stuff will happen.
Much totally stupid chaos will happen.

Ebook sales will soar.

And that last point… is why I think this is ACTUALLY RATHER LIKELY, FOLKS.

Don't you think?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Shambala: science stuff

I went to the Shambala festival. There were some very cool things going on, my favourite being the guerrilla science zoo . I met a very nice Chameleon called... Jeffrey? I can't quite remember. Also some snakes. My tent was lovely and green, and I managed to put up with wearing rubber boots.

I carried my sketchbook with me and drew some of the festival-goers.

There were a lot of workshops - the one I decided to spend most time at was the Hacked Human Orchestra T-shirt making workshop.
This is my result, with a stitched circuit board, a speaker, and soft switches that I made from conductive material. If you touch any of the three small creatures, the big one in the middle makes a beeping noise. I spent the last hour or so tuning the shirt with resistors to make the most annoying noises I could manage. Brilliant stuff.
This morning, though, I could take no more of milling around in a field with no way of being a) indoors and/or b) alone, and definitely no more of the compost toilets. I stumbled around feeling ragged and wanting nothing but a cup of tea, queued up at the burlesque cafe, and right when I got to the counter the staff all stopped serving and started a dance routine. I wept, and realised that it was time to go home.

Now I am clean, warm and happy, and I shall sleep in my very own bed which is not at all like a tent next to a box that smells of giant meat-eating hamsters. And new rule: no more festivals for me, not even ones where I am invited or paid or given treats. No. Ok? Good.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A comic I found in Copenhagen

Isn't this pretty? It's from a series of classic adventure stories. I really like the way the whale is rendered on the cover. Some of the inside pages are also rather exciting. And after the main story follows a redrawn and tidied-up Lear limerick - very odd, that - and some natural history, by the looks of it.

While I was away, I noticed there was a lot of discussion on the network about the state of comic magazines for children in the UK. It felt very odd - on the web there was discussion about how we can get even one magazine off the ground and keep it running, and when I went out and into the nearest second hand bookshop in Copenhagen I found a whole room full of basically every comic I ever read as a child. I wish the UK could have a real variety of comics magazines. I mean, if there were just one, I certainly would not want it to look like this one here - but I wish there were space for every literary/visual taste children might have, and also stuff that they'd dislike. Children really benefit from having stories and pictures to dislike as well as ones to like, and to love, and to be unsure about.
I would credit these images, but I can't find any artists' names in here... tsk...

I hope that good old-fashioned non-interactive comics will thrive in the UK. They are fun. Personally, I don't care much if they are printed on paper or not, but if not, we need a really good way to publish them digitally. And I am not into the idea of making everything interactive just because we technically can, because artistically we can't, quite, yet, most of the time. Some stories just communicate better when they aren't moving or making noises, and we shouldn't forget about all the clever ways we developed to tell engaging stories without interactivity.
So, what I am saying is that I would like to see more well-designed digital outlets for children's comics, with high content and a minimum of shiny interactive padding... (but don't ask me how to make money with that).

The future is alarming, but awesome.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Old Friends

Niels Bohr has a very nice grave, with a huge owl's nest on top. It's an excellent spot for a picnic.

I found some old childhood friends - Rasmus Klump, especially. I had a complete collection of the comics. Apparently now you can only get them in collected form. I saw some reprinted comics at a flea market as well, but the quality was dreadful - some images were scanned at low res and sized up.
This collection isn't that great neither. The original layout is broken up with some panel cropped back and others blown up. I wish publishers would stop doing these things to comics. If they have been drawn in a specific format, don't move the panels around as if it didn't matter. They all relate to one another, you know.

I am very happy about this little mole book, there are some really beautiful illustrations in it...

Kopenhagen from above. Look, the tallest buildings are all churches! Isn't that weird? I think that's weird.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I am in Copenhagen!
They have sheets of chocolate in cardboard boxes, and I bought a toy dinosaur and a new hat.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Art Materials Arrived.

I just took delivery of a box of assorted spray paints and some very big felt-tip pens.
Don't bring crayons to a public art event, folks.

Monday, August 13, 2012


The rest of my photos from the weekend.
Almost everyone had the same laptop so I made mine more recognisable. 

We were based at the computerspiele-museum for the weekend.

Tiger Tee. Am not expecting anyone but German ex-pats to get excited.

At the hotel I was like: meeeeh, electric hob. Crap. Then I turned it on. WTF! Death Ray Cooking!

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Hooray! I dodged at least part of the Olympics! No, I don't like the Olympics, enough said.

I am in Berlin, taking part in a games festival. I am, as usual, not playing - I have a deep-seated dislike for playing games myself. I just like to help with the design, it's fun to come up with these little systems and tinker with them to make them work.

I'm finding the city very enjoyable - it's spacious, and I'm staying in an area that seems very laid-back and sensible - loads of artists, quiet streets, lovely old trees, and big well-built houses that people have adjusted to their needs. The whole place is colourful and inviting.
Still, I'm tired out from trying to communicate successfully. This always happens when I visit Germany. It happened when I LIVED here, actually. That's why I moved away in the first place.
And it's gone even worse. My German hasn't been in active use for over a decade and most people assume I am not a native speaker. Also, let's face it, my social skills are eccentric at best, and better suited to London where people who feel bothered by that tend to be happy to just ignore me.
Here, my attempts at politeness misfire and register as vague arrogance, and people give me withering looks and bone-crushing handshakes in return. I am getting into lots of small needless arguments. I also keep seeing children who seem completely alien to me - they strut about, chest puffed out, actually shouting things like "I am a mighty lion" as if they were in a vintage breakfast cereal advert - does everyone here stand their ground all the time? Don't they get tired? - I really don't feel at home, no matter how familiar it all seems.

But thankfully I manage to not insult and confuse everyone. People seem very easy-going and friendly here, on the whole.
I keep seeing the most fabulous yet practical outfits in the street, entirely non-conformist but still completely sensible.
The bottled drinks are extremely cool and tasty.
The street-art is amazing.
I love the huge lamp posts, puffed up with many layers of flyers and private adverts for surprisingly wholesome things like singing lessons and academic proof reading.
It's beautiful. I'll miss some of that when I get back to London.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Look what I turned my garage sale profit into: REALLY EXPENSIVE TIGHTS!
I had been coveting them for a while, they're by Marimekko.

I also found a whole lot of fun things while sorting through the merchandise, most notably an album of X-Files related songs, complete with fold-out poster. That's what I am listening to right now.

Today I did my first editing session over the internet - my excellent editor for the cat books, Lucy Ingrams, is now working freelance and we get to sit in different cities holding things up to the webcam now instead of meeting at the publisher's. It worked surprisingly well. I can actually see this book being finished soon.

I am particularly excited about the next book - it is one I have been working on for years. We kept putting it back for other projects because the time was never quite right, but now I am determined to finish it. It's not written by me, but by Mr. Edward Lear who I never met for a number of reasons, well, mostly one reason, but I have heard only great things about his character.

Work Room

Click to see bigger

I still need some more boxes for the shelf, and some weeks to sort through the boxes on top, but otherwise I'm happy now.

And yes, I am sharing the room with Firehazard Games, hence the street game equipment. I like having that there, stops the place from getting too twee.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Good News!
I will be running the Treasure Maze again soon - that one that ran at the National Maritime Museum last year or so. This time I'll have more time to set it up, so it'll be great, and covered in stencilled sea monsters by me!
While I am planning this - is there a primary school or similar place that would be happy to take a LARGE amount of cardboard  - for free? You could set the maze back up yourself at a party, or just cut out your favourite sea creatures... use the cardboard to build many, many Wendy houses - well, get in touch! Last time it all went straight to recycling, which felt like a waste. Let's have maximum cardboard fun!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Colour Makes People Happy

The Colour Makes People Happy Store where I have my studio has all-new colour cards... here is part of one.

I love all the paint names... it's really lovely paint as well, smells nice and goes on like butter. Mmm.

It's also got a website now. I'm scanning and proofing actual real life paint samples to replace the digital ones on the site.

And the colour cards have my illustrations on the back. I'm rather proud of them, actually.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cats in Progress (also dog)

I am working on the third cat book today. Here's my desk:
Blades, paper, glue, dog

And here's a bit of the most complicated page:
They are doomed

I am pleased with the book, it's at least as funny as the other two, and it's got as many flaps as both of them together, possibly more.

My work room is full of nice things now, here are two random bits:
Mechanical bird and home-assembled Recesky camera