I was on the Cover to Cover podcast this week…

I had good fun being interviewed by Lee Middleton on the Cover to Cover podcast this week. We talk Star Wars, the Bestseller Experiment, Back to Reality and my thwarted dream to become a firefighter. It’s a fab show for readers and writers alike. Click to listen… https://m.mixcloud.com/Studio5OnAir/cover-to-cover-episode-12/

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“You’ve got bread on your nose…” Favourite comments from comic-cons 2015

It’s been a hell of a fun year, and one of the highlights has been attending a record number (for me) of festivals and cons to plug and pimp the ROBOT OVERLORDS film and book. If I was lucky enough to meet you, then thanks for taking the time to chat, if you bought a copy of the book, then you have my undying love, and if you torrented the film, then I hope your tiny genitals shrivel and die 😉 winky face!

The year ended with the biggest one of all, the MCM Comic Con at the Excel Centre in London. I was invited by fellow author and all round gentleman Kit Cox to join him selling and signing books for the whole weekend. Make no mistake, this is a huge event; the footfall on the Saturday alone is over a hundred thousand people, and they’re all eager genre fans, many in wonderful cosplay, and the feeling of belonging and bonhomie is infectious. I started keeping a tally of how many books I sold, but then started jotting down some of the comments made by those who visited my stall. It’s a brilliant snapshot of the kinds of people who come to cons, and I’ve broken them down into three sections: THE WONDERFUL, THE BIZARRE and THE HUMBLING…

THE WONDERFUL

Comments to make an author’s heart swell…

“Such a cool film, there’s nothing like it.”

“You had me at Robots and explosions!”

“I sell your book in Israel!” A passing Israeli bookseller.

“He’s buying this because he torrented the film after I recommended it!” A punter making his friend buy a copy of the book.

“I’d better get some cash!” A punter, after I pitched the book to them… and they actually came back and bought it!

“I’m Chris Lunt’s agent!” Chris is the show runner on the TV version of Robot Overlords!

“This is our first comic-con…” A slightly overwhelmed father and son (who bought a copy of the book).

“Can’t remember the last time I bought a book…” And he bought a copy!

“Where does the food come from? Where’s the booze? Can you imagine a completely dry country? It’ll never work!” A punter trying to pick holes in the premise. He bought a copy after I reassured him that we’d thought all this stuff through and that there was plenty of illegal hooch in a Robot-occupied UK.

“Dystopia is, like, my favourite, evah…” A wonderfully stereotypical emo teen.

“If it’s rubbish, I’m coming back.” A punter after buying a copy. He didn’t.

“I auditioned for this!” Young actor John Otteson!

“That little guy freaked me out.” Job done, Craig Garner!

“I’m downloading it right now.” Someone who bought the audiobook from Audible right in front of me!

“I love your film!” Several people. I love you, too.

THE BIZARRE

From the adorable to the baffling…

“Do you mind holding my bow while I go for a wee?” A Katniss cosplayer.

“If he finishes it, he gets fifty quid!” A father determined to get his son reading books. Who am I to argue with this carrot-on-a-stick version of parenthood?

“Everybody’s sucking Chinese dick.” A fellow writer/illustrator on the current state of Hollywood film production.

“I hate to be the person who asks where another table is…” Several people who mistook me for an information desk. I was happy to help…

“Oh my God! Monkey Magic!” A punter who was distracted mid-pitch by some fantastic Monkey Magic cosplay.

THE HUMBLING

Comments to bring the ego down to Earth with a bump.

Now, bear in mind that these comments came from folks standing right in front of a table with two showcards featuring the book, big piles of the book, and a bloody great quad poster of the film shouting ROBOT OVERLORDS in big shiny, silver letters with the release date stated plainly below…

“Is the film out yet?”

“Are they going to make this into a movie?” You never know!

“Are you the writer?”

“I think I’ve heard of this…”

“And that would make you… Mark?” A punter squinting at the showcard, then the book, then me…

“That’s a bit of a cliché, isn’t it?’ A kid on the title. I somehow resisted clipping the precocious little nerk around the ear’ole… Too many witnesses.

“I can’t finish long books.” A young boy. Try writing them, mate.

“When is this in cinemas?” Sorry mate, you blinked and missed it.

“Doesn’t look anything like her…” A punter looking askance at Gillian Anderson on the poster (who clearly hasn’t seen her in anything since The X-Files).

“Free book?” No. Buy one or fuck off.

“I haven’t got any cash!” from a punter after I spent a good five minutes pitching the story.

“I only brought thirty pounds!”

“I don’t read and I’m broke.”

“I’ve run out of money!” Everyone after 5.30.

“You’ve got bread on your nose…” My son, who pointed out that I still had some of my lunchtime sandwich attached to me after I spent a long and futile five minutes pitching the book to a couple who, perhaps understandably, spent the whole time looking at me funny.

 

I had huge fun at these cons, and sold a ton of books. I’m surprised the major publishers don’t have a presence at these. Certainly plenty of indie authors do pretty well, and I hope to do more in the future. If we should meet, don’t hesitate to ask about the film’s release date, plot holes, the state of Hollywood’s sexual peccadilloes, or where the manga books are sold, just don’t boast about torrenting the film, because I will have to kill you with the bow and arrow that nice lady asked me to look after while she was taking a whizz.

The GollanczFest is a go-go!

gollanczfest

Gollancz Fest 2015: 16th-17th October – Manchester and London, events tbc

Not sure what I’ll be doing yet, but there will be an awesome line-up of talent (and me!), so you’d have to be some sort of weird anti-geek to miss out…

Last year tickets were sold out in three weeks, so to get yours click here.

Five books to keep you sane during the robot occupation

A shorter version of this first appeared in the Big Issue on 9th February 2015…

Morse Code Martin (Roy Hudd) and Nathan (James Tarpey) discuss the classics in a scene from Robot Overlords © MEDIATOR 452 LIMITED/BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE 2014
Morse Code Martin (Roy Hudd) and Nathan (James Tarpey) discuss the classics in a scene from Robot Overlords © MEDIATOR 452 LIMITED/BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE 2014

Robot Overlords shows us a near-future where Earth has been invaded and occupied by an overwhelming force of Robots from another world. Everyone has been confined to their homes, and while the Robots’ purpose here is a mystery, they’ve promised to leave after seven years.

So what books would I grab to keep me sane during the occupation…?

SAS Handbook by Jon ‘Lofty’ Wiseman (Harper Collins)

SAS handbook

As used by Connor (played by Milo Parker in the film) to identify edible mushrooms, this is the only book I know of with a chapter on how to survive a nuclear explosion, an essential bit of info when your enemy has defeated every army on the planet (though, to be fair, they do make it clear that the odds aren’t great for surviving a nuclear holocaust). Also check out the Homefront chapter, with excellent advice on food storage, rationing, vitamins and filtering and sterilising water. Of course, for when times are really bad, there’s the obligatory bit on drinking urine.

Also available as an App, not that you’ll have any use for that once the robots destroy your phone.

Reader’s Digest DIY Manual (Readers Digest)

readers digest diy

In Robot Overlords the Volunteer Corps are humans who have chosen to collaborate with the robots by delivering rations, making repairs etc. But these are exactly the kind of humourless sociopaths you find in every level of bureaucracy (best represented by Robin Smythe, Ben Kingsley’s character in the film), and so you don’t want to be relying on them to fix a leaky tap. I’ve had a copy of this for twenty years and it’s so clearly laid out that even an idiot like me can use it with only the occasional flood and mild electric shock.

Asterix and the Big Fight by Goscinny & Uderzo (Orion Children’s Books)

Asterix and the big fight

There are many works of literature to inspire a burgeoning resistance against the invaders, but I can think of none finer than the seventh instalment in the Gaulish saga in which our heroes stage an enormous punch-up to save their village. A bit of genuine light relief in all the trauma.

Cooking For Blokes by Dr. Duncan Anderson and Marian Walls (Sphere)

cooking for blokes

When the Volunteer Corps deliver your weekly ration of unleavened bread, unidentifiable grey meat, and misshapen vegetables, you’ll need more than a little imagination to keep things exciting and varied at the dinner table. My wife bought me a copy of this when we first started living together and it set me in good stead when all we could afford was unleavened bread, unidentifiable grey meat, and misshapen vegetables.

Great British Songbook (Wise Publications)

great brit songbook

And finally, something to keep you going through those long winter nights of the occupation. As a busking level guitarist (ie: a bit rubbish) I can select any one of over 170 songs from Keep The Home Fires Burning and We’ll Meet Again all the way through to erm… Careless Whisper and I Believe In A Thing Called Love. And if you do drive your fellow housemates mad with your caterwauling, then it’s big enough for them to beat you to death with, and makes for good fire fuel.

Robot Overlords by Mark Stay is available now.