One thing I always do when I start a new writing project – if possible – is go out and take some reference photos. I usually don’t actually use them that specifically – I rarely describe something featured in the pictures in precise detail – but I do find having them to hand, or even the act of taking them, helps me build atmosphere when writing. At least it does usually; it’s not a precise science by any means.
Those of you that have read my book Paintwork will know that the title story is about re-purposing advertising billboards for art – in fact you might recall that I described pretty specifically the location of the billboards in question. They are real things, in a very real place. I walk past them everyday. That’s why I wrote that story – I felt I needed some way of striking back against the visual invasion of public space I’m subjected to every time I walk past there. Billboards are imposing enough when you see them from a passing bus or car, but the way they impose and dominate your reality – blocking out all other imagery – as you pass them as a pedestrian starts to grate pretty quickly.
Quick post – just wanted to say thanks to everyone that came and checked out the See No Evil post last week, the response was phenomenal. Thanks especially to Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing for picking it up, and to all his readers that swung by.
This weekend saw the final unveiling of the the See No Evil project in Bristol; Europe’s largest street art exhibition. It is, to say the very least, an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement. Graffiti artists not just from Bristol but around the globe descended on Nelson Street, transforming the whole area from drab, urban decay into what feels like a new – almost virtual – space. It is truly something that needs to be experienced, but hopefully some of the photos I grabbed (along with the many on the official Flickr page) will give you some idea of its scale and raw beauty.
Right, I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible.
Last night, inspired by the latest ‘foreign pirates are killing anime’ outburst from the Japanese industry, I fell into one of my usual rants on Twitter:
“The anime industry avoiding the same elephant in the room as music industry did 10 yrs ago: consumers know worthless product when they see it.
And who wants to pay for worthless, disposable product when you can get it for free?
The name Natsuhiko Kyogoku is probably unfamiliar to most anime fans, but the novelist has already had one of his works adapted – Madhouse’s 2008 series Mōryō no Hako – with a second, Loups-Garous, being adapted into a movie by Production IG and due for release in 2010. An expert in Japanese folklore tales and yōkai, the supernatural creatures that inhabit them, Kyogoku-san is best known in Japan for his award winning mystery novels. Unfamiliar with his work myself until now, I was intrigued when US publisher Vertical Inc sent me a review copy of his debut novel – and the first to be translated into English – The Summer of The Ubume.
Someone is killing robots. Not just any robots either; apparently someone is hunting down and killing the world’s most powerful and famous robots. And this is a problem for Inspector Gesicht of Europol, not just because he’s been put in charge of tracking down the killer, but because the list of victims so far suggests he might be a target himself.
One name has dominated manga over the last few years – in the west at least – Naoki Urasawa. Probably best known for his dark mystery series (and it’s subsequent anime spin-off) Monster and Pluto, his recent re-telling of a story arc from Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, the series that has most recently grabbed not only the attention and awards but also spawned a trilogy of live action movies is the sci-fi and comedy tinged mystery 20th Century Boys. Despite the ferocious buzz around the comic across manga-fandom, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that it was only this month I finally managed to sit down and check it out, courtesy of Viz Media dropping me copies of the first two books to review.
It’s always a buzz when you find that you have a connection with an artist you admire; it somehow feels like it brings you a little bit closer to understanding them and their work.
Even if you’ve never read a single page of manga before, the chances are you’re familiar with Osamu Tezuka – and if the name isn’t familiar, then it’s likely that his most famous creation Astro Boy, is. Even though she’s never, to my knowledge, read a page of the manga herself, my girlfriend’s most prized purchases during last year’s Tokyo shopping exhibitions where the t-shirts featuring the iconic robo-Pinocchio she picked up in Harajuku. But Tezuka – often referred to as the ‘God of Manga’ and the ‘Father of Anime’ – had an impact beyond his cute character designs and children’s adventure stories, with even Astro Boy at times exploring the darker sides and moral ambiguities of human nature, and perhaps his strongest vehicle for this being the character Black Jack.