Friday, 27 August 2010
Who's Scared Of Mark Millar?
10. Friday 27th August 2010
"Shameless? The Superhero Fiction Of Mark Millar."
By Colin Smith, (me),
to be published by Sequart Research & Literacy Organisation, date of publication: TBA.
A book. A real, you-can-hold-it-your-hands-and-turn-the-pages-over book.
And all that comes with a book today too. A Facebook page that's just starting to be built, for which I'm going to have to ditch that possum photo and add a real one of myself, oh God, and a hunt-down-the-rarities programme that'll have me searching page 1124 of Google for months to come. And a regular blog about the process, because I'm fascinated, as any regular visitor to here will know, by the business of writing, and I've always wanted to know what writing a book would actually feel like, would really involve, and now I can ask myself and pass on the information too.
If anybody would find that interesting.
And, so, yeah, the title above at the very top of the page refers to me, it's me that's scared of Mark Millar, or rather, I'm scared of not doing right by his work, which is a thing worth being scared about, I'd say.
9. Tuesday 24th August 2010
It's morning and I've seen every hour of the preceding night.
Julian from Sequart e-mails, and I'm so amazed, or perhaps rather dazed, by the whole business, by the fact that he and his colleagues keep replying so patiently and kindly to my questions, that I don't even think twice about opening it up. I'm too stunned to even be fearful.
"After careful consideration," he writes, "We're very keen to green-light this book."
I read it all a few times, and a few times more, and then, having printed out a copy, potter downstairs to where the Splendid Wife is drinking the mandatory morning coffee.
"After careful consideration, they're very keen to green-light this book." she confirms, adding, "Have you eaten?"
8. Monday 23rd August 2010
Statcounter's going crazy again. Surely I've offended someone this time?
What have I done? The pitch is still, understandably, being processed, and I'm a touch in limbo, and now what have I done?
These links lead back to a page on Millarworld, and then I know, know, that they've found me out. For Millarworld is full of folks who know, and I'd hoped to sail below their radar, but the sample chapter from the book pitch that I put up - "The Very Moral Mr Millar" - has obviously been stumbled upon. And I'm not concerned that they'll be unfair, for it's a rather friendly as well as a knowledgeable board, but I just didn't want to have gotten things wrong.
When you're writing about people's work, I quickly learned, you have to try not to get things wrong. It isn't fair to the folks you're discussing, and it makes you look stupid too.
Oh, well, press the link, take the medicine, be polite and put it right.
And then the following blinks in before my eyes have properly focused and the current of my weary connection has locked;
"REALLY GOOD ARTICLE ON MY KICK-ASS, FF, 1985-ERA WORK"
Who's it by?
Oh. Mark Millar.
How odd. Another Mark Millar posts on the Millarworld forums.
But it isn't another Mark Millar.
It's the Mark Millar, the one I've suggested I write a book about.
The bloke whose work I really do want to write about.
"THIS WRITER REALLY GETS IT." he says, with all the generosity that some folks claim he lacks.
And I think, here I am, waiting for a response to a pitch for a book on Mark Millar, and Mark Millar is commenting kindly on the sample chapter I'd been asked to provide for the pitch.
It simply wouldn't be believed if it was written up as fiction. Or even as fact, I'd imagine.
But I'm watching it happen. There. On that screen.
Fate snipes from its own grassy knoll and you don't even know what the bullets are made of or what they'll change when they hit you.
7. 16th August 2010
There's nothing, nothing, nothing like being e-mailed by your editor on the first day of his holiday to explain that the huge document of a pitch you thought you'd sent in to him hasn't actually arrived.
And all that did arrive was an e-mail saying nothing more than "Here it is!", where there it clearly wasn't.
But it's 4am in the UK, and at least I'm up because I can't sleep, and that means that it's still 9pm in the north of the Americas. And if I can get a bloody attachment to work, I can still meet that deadline of getting the pitch nailed and posted in seven days. Which I so wanted to do, because, I realise, that's what my father would've done, set a demanding deadline and fulfil it just because that's what he always felt he had to do.
It's that Protestant Work Ethic, which seems rather tellingly to be just as prevalent in the Catholic community at home in Scotland as it is with the Protestants.
We were neither, but we had that business of shame and work alright, so we were part of the community.
Sigh and fuss and it's about 22.12pm across the Atlantic when my pitch disappears from the screen over here in England and heads out across the interblogthingnet and into who knows where.
Seven days ago a man I'd barely heard of e-mailed me about writing a book. Now I'm e-mailing him a proposal for one, and he's on holiday watching the sun go down while I'm in Norfolk watching it limp upwards.
6. 10th August 2010
I know what I want to write. I'd really like a joust at the superhero work of Mark Millar.
Mike and Julian at Sequart say "fine". We've always been wanting someone to write about him, they declare. They're incredibly supportive. They want their writers to engage with subjects which they're enthusiastic and knowledgeable about.
Well, I'm keen, if that'll help.
And their support is all very much appreciated and I feel that the worst is behind me until I discover that I really don't know as much about Mark Millar's work as I thought. He's written so much that he must have done it just to baffle any future amateur, such as myself, who's concerned to hit a deadline grappling with his career. Youngblood. 80 Page Giant 3-page origins. 2000AD Sci-Fi Specials nobody ever mentions. It gets to the point where I can't help but feel that I've only ever read about 4 Mark Millar comic books in my life, and that's each of the Ultimates collections twice over. Oh, I thought I'd wolfed down everything of even minor consequence, I'd ticked off a fair chunk of his Wikipedia bibliography, and I was ready to go. And then I discovered that Wikipedia wasn't telling the entire truth.
Wiki fibbed. That's a partial bibliography.
There are a lot more Mike Millar comic books out there than I ever dreamt of, and daydreaming's my particular skill. Suddenly, I'm a hideous amount of money down on Next Day Delivery and that sum will be nestling in my Barclaycard's special high interest "You will owe us forever" account for, well, forever.
And now, with four and half days to go until deadline, I discover that he wrote an issue of Witchblade & Tomb Raider?
Witchblade & Tomb Raider?
It's not that there's anything wrong with the idea of Mr Millar writing "Witchblade & Tomb Raider". It's just that it's the unexpected one-off that nearly broke the blogger's back.
5. 10th August 2010
I want to write a book, I really do. I've always wanted to write a book. All my life, whenever something capricious and cruel has smacked me around the head, I've always said "But I'll write a book someday." But why did I have to say "no problem" and swear on the Stone Of Scone that I'd turn the pitch round for a book that I can't believe they're going to commission anyway in a week? That's not any proof that I'm a writer. That's proof that I'm an idiot.
But I had to, didn't I? Mike asked me if I was sure, and I said I was very sure. He's supportive, he's doesn't want me overheating when Sequart have a million projects on the go anyway, but there's something in my head that feels that it really must show them what I'm made of.
In fact, I'm stubborn, and then more stubborn, and I guess that means I'm exceptionally proud too, and so I will get my homework in before the rest of the school is even out of bed.
Perhaps I'm frightened that if I can't see the cliff that I'm going to have to jump off, I won't start running at it at all.
So I start running anyway, and while I do, I realise that this is one of the best things that I've ever had happen to me in my life. Folks spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds on intensive weekend courses with journalists from the Times and the Guardian in order to gain a sense of what life as a professional writer is like.
And here I am, facing a real deadline, grappling with a real pitch, and whatever happens, I'll always have known what this process is like. This isn't a course, or even work experience, this is actually quite real. It's in truth my life.
As an experience, the whole process has, as I used to teach in psychology, "ecological validity". It's true to life. And it is.
Whatever the outcome, I'm not pretending anymore, no matter how hard I still believe I am. I'm doing the very thing that I've been pretending to all this time.
4. 9th August 2010
Mike suggests that we start the ball rolling properly with me nominating three topics that I'd like to write about.
But what do you write about when somebody asks if you've got a book in you about comics? How do you fill up a pitch with chapter breakdowns, page and word counts, career over-views, sample chapters, marketing strategies and overall themes and perspectives?
How do you even choose three topics to start the process off?
What's the right thing to go with? I start making lists.
It's a long night, a long list, and I haven't got the faintest. I want to write about everything.
3. 8th August 2010
I wake up and there's a Mike-somebody who's left a message in my in-box saying he's with Sequart, he's followed Ms Simone's recommendation to one of my blogs, and he wants to know if I'd like to discuss writing a book for his company.
I make a note, a real pen on paper note, to thank Ms Simone for her kindness, and then, in moving from the concrete to the provisional, I loose something of my bearings. That's odd, I think. This doesn't happen. There's something profoundly unfamiliar here that doesn't belong in my world, and it's that e-mail there asking if I want to talk about one of my life's few remaining viable, though unlikely, ambitions.
I mean, I know who Sequart are. I really do. I've got a couple of their books. I even picked a little argument with Tim Callahan concerning the "Zenith" chapter in his Grant Morrison book. (He didn't notice, of course, but that's OK. It's a small blog and it was a small disagreement.) But this can't be right. It's a mistake, a gag, a prank, a conspiracy, a symbol of the coming Last Days. ("Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ...") And I check the e-mail, the company, the small print, I start to trawl the internet, and then, after about, oh, one hundred and sixty hysterical seconds later, and despite feeling that somebody quite properly is setting me up to be slammed back into my rightful and lowly place, I reply.
Yes please, I tell Mike. I'd love to write a book. I'd love to try to write a book.
Pride is a luxury for folks who have no opportunities to invest their energies in, that's what I tell myself. What does it matter if it's a joke at my expense by someone passing themselves off under Sequart's name? And, anyway, whisper it, it might not be a set-up at all.
Though of course, I know, it must be.
2. 6th August 2010
Before bed, I always look at my blog's Statcounter. It can be disheartening, in a way which proves that all my sincere talk about not doing this for attention isn't as sincere as I'd like to believe it is. Numbers have dropped off just a little for a day or two, and I don't know why. I can accept running a not-so-popular blog or two, for I know what I'm doing has that "selective appeal". But losing visitors is a different business from only having a few turning up in the first place. People not coming is far less hurtful than people deciding that they don't want to hang around or come back. And if half of my readers never come back, well, that leaves what feels like just me, registering on the Statcounter because I'm checking the spelling on the pieces I've just put up because I've not yet learnt to stop it adding me to the visitor tally.
But the Statcounter is going wild, because, I discover with no little bafflement and a tremendous degree of gratitude, Gail Simone has linked to my blog, and she's said the kindest things in the world, which Ms Simone does, because she's as gracious as she is sharp, and she's sharp. And all of sudden I don't feel lost out here in the windswept East Of England, but rather I'm somewhere in the centre of everywhere. I watch the people arrive, and even though most of them disappear pretty quickly, it really doesn't matter.
Hello, Alaska. Hello Spain. Look, Luton.
I'm really glad you all came. I hope it was worth your while, even if just a little.
Hey, Gail Simone recommended my blog. Now, that's .... unreal. Unbelievable.
How can this ever be so?
1. Six Months Before:- February 2010
I start these blogs because I'm getting better. I never thought I would be, but I am. Far, far better. I'm at the gym every morning, and sometimes I find myself, for example, walking without a stick and not even realising it. And the worst of it all is undoubtedly diminishing. I was so ill that I couldn't remember what it was like to be well, to be OK, to wake up and be able to wake up properly.
It's been a long time. I'm grateful for the change.
But my mind, my mind's turned to mush, it's lost it's edge. It doesn't work like it should do, like it used to. Once I could learn a discipline up to degree level in six weeks and teach it too, and now I can barely read for ten minutes without my mind starting to dim and my concentration fading.
So, if the body needs the gym, then why not blogging for the mind? It'd give me some intense deadlines to fulfil, and force me to work, and sharpen up the weary mental matter, perhaps, and, let's be honest, it might be fun too. I could choose something I really love, something personal, something apart from Economics and Sociology, Education, Politics, Media and Psychology.
After all, I'll keep to myself. I'll fly below the radar, and nobody will have to know I'm here. I won't bother anyone, but I'll have the evidence that I've worked up on the screen every few days. I'll know. It's my secret with myself, like a man shy in his shorts who walks back up and down his own stairs every morning instead of going to a gym.
I'll pretend I'm a writer. I've always admired writers, always thought of them as something apart and something better, in their work if not their characters and manners.
I'll pretend I'm a writer for a while and if nothing else, I'll know something of what it's like to have to meet deadlines, and produce when there's nothing in the tank, and I'll try not to write rubbish.
I'll just pretend and pretend hard. You never know.
Something might happen.
There's a little box to your right marked "Shameless?" which contains some links you might like to take a look at. There's one to Sequart, which is worth a go, and one to the barest Facebook Page ever, though I'm going to learn fast, knowing nothing of Facebook at all. If anybody is interested in how somebody like myself tries to master the business of pitching and writing - argh - a book, please feel free to add any questions and issues you'd like to see attended to in coming blogs, though of course most posts here will remain exactly as always. Your ideas, as always, are encouraged and thought of as splendid, and I hope your day is a fine one.