Last week of the year, and we have two releases which are nicely timed. For a comics year that’s been big, brash and work-for-hire, wrapping up with the wrapping up of things more personal seems to be the right note.
Of course, the big, brash Once & Future could only count as a “more personal” in a year when you were also writing the Marvel Event. The Wasteland trade wraps up Bridgette, Duncan and Rose, at least for now, and is also set primarily in the Christmas/New Year period. I’m happy how this concludes. It’s a book which I was trying to write more like I wrote – say – Doctor Aphra, and have fun, and let the rest of the team have fun too. I did. Dan, Tamra and Ed seemed to as well. Even with that, I think we managed to hit some thoughtful and humane stuff too. I like smart popcorn, and I think O&F was that. Hope you enjoy it.
Available from comic shops today, and book shops next week.
There’s also Image! #9 which wraps up Closer, where Steve, Tamra and Clayton do a little 3 part story in the mode of my late-00s apocalypse romances. Doing a short story, doing entirely new characters, just for the sake of it? I find this just important to think about as a creator. Do stuff for the sake of it, to see what it feels, to see what’s there.
Oh – and Ed and Sean’s Criminal short is bleak and hilarious. Devour it.
End of this year, heading into the next and the Sins of Sinister is looming. I did a big interview over at CBR, including some preview art. Here’s a quote…
Me, Al [Ewing], and Si [Spurrier] each do one issue in each time period. Then we skip forward to the next one. Each time period also has its own artist. So, they’ve got their own vibe. The +10 period I describe as near-future cyberpunk. So it’s not overt control yet, but things are pretty creepy. +100 I describe as evil Star Trek. The mutant empire is now multi-planetary, is heading out into space, and is at war. Then +1000 years is hell. [Laughs] It’s the operatic, gothic vibe of Warhammer 40,000. Imagine all the experiments have gone out of control.
+10 is like, “Oh, we’re doing experiments.” +100 is, “Oh . . . those experiments? They’ve blown up the test tube.” Then +1000 is like the experiments have covered the lab with goo. That’s the vibe, and you get all of these characters in this universe surviving or not.
This story is also an extension of the three books involved. In issue #8 of Immortal, we showed you there was a plan in place, and this is where we start showing the cards. Who are the other two Sinisters? What do they do? What do they want? Why do they want this? What’s Destiny up to? That’s the weird thing; Destiny is almost the hero of my book, but you don’t know what her plan is.
I scrubbed my twitter clean of posts this week.
I’d decided to a week or so earlier – the new owner tweeting anti-Vax stuff was my “yeah, I think I can take time out my day to stop this being part of my day” line. When time is as precious as it is, that says a lot. Inertia will carry me a long way. Also, it’s lucky that time is pressing, as otherwise, this would be a full-on State of the Nation Internet Address.
So I’m mainly linking to smarter people than me, who actually know stuff. Noah Smith’s article a few weeks ago about the Internet wanting to be fragmented which was really strong – and the hyperfluidity of crowd of twitter is the poster child on this. I follow Katherine Cross closely, who is particularly astute – here’s her Mastodon/Twitter – and has been posting a lot around the topic on Mastodon (as Quote Tweets are being debated over there). Her It’s Not Your Fault You’re A Jerk On Twitter is essential reading I’ve linked to before. Her model of how harassment actually works is really strong.
Of course, as any break up, I’m thinking of the good times. Twitter is always at the best with the dumbest stuff. Throw a blue/gold dress or 30-50 feral hogs at it, and the whole world will have a great time. It does well with big shared social events (though its approach to spoiler speaks to the fundamental narcissistic heart of twitter – I want to say something, screw it if spoils anyone else’s fun). While I’m unsure of the strength some of its activism claims – Katherine writes about this in this thread - it has allowed me to follow the micro-responses of really smart thinkers who have widened my world-view with their perspective – it’s not as deep as blogging was, but seeing the smaller micro-moments is like nothing else. I met friends. It probably helped sell my work, though I’m increasingly unsure about that – engagement is shit on twitter.
Actually, let’s segue into a larger area: Over the last few years, I’ve had a frustration with people’s talking about their need to be on twitter for work reasons. Like, yes, I get it. It’s why I haven’t deleted my twitter – I’m not throwing away a mailing list of 75k people unless I really have to (“Internet Companies should be governed as utilities, not as companies. If you build water in a desert and people move there, you have responsibilities to things other than shareholder value” is something that would have been explored in a longer essay.)
But it increasingly I was reminded of cigarette smokers back when I worked at the Future Publishing offices. I heard many claim how important the cig-break networking was to their careers. Sure, I can see there’s some truth to it, but it’s not the reason why any of them were smoking. Twitter feeds us dopamine expertly. We are citizens of Latveria, and it is Doctor Doomscroll.
If we have a future as a species, I believe that they will look at this period as the equivalent of the 1950s when they were advertising cigarettes to kids. This is neurological programming aimed at the bugs in our system, and it’s eating us alive. I am aware I am a worse writer by becoming better writer for twitter. And that would have also been part of an essay too (“Why so bad puns, Kieron?” “It wasn’t for the art, darling. I do it for the anti-applause.”)
I was listening to a recent Off Panel where Harper was interviewing the excellent Critic/Journo Tiffany Babb, and both were talking about how much they owe twitter, in terms of the opportunities it offered. And this is true. But also, it speaks to the ultimate triumph of Social Media companies in the last two decades. Young creatives who have grown up with twitter have not seen any world where networking on twitter wasn’t part of the career path.
You’d have been fine. Tiffany, you’re great. David, you’re great. If twitter wasn’t there, anyone dumb and hungry enough want to do comics would have gathered somewhere else (or several somewhere elses) because anyone who really cares to get in knows how to google. Hell, artists especially can do it semi-passively by just showing their work – Instagram is a far better place for artists than twitter. Writers? I came in through the forums – which obviously were deeply imperfect in so many ways… but so is twitter. We would work out something else if there wasn’t twitter. You use twitter. If it wasn’t there, you would use something else, because you are brilliant and smart, and finding tactics to manouvere through an environment is what creatives do.
But all of the above has been true for years now. I say the vax-posting as a final moment, but there’s been final moments just as bad previously. Why finally pulling the pin?
Well, partially just erosion. You say “I better fix that shelf tomorrow” and eventually you shrug, and you try to fix the shelf, fail, tear it off the wall and throw it in the bin, and figure the books can just sit on the floor now.
But it’s also…
Okay, here’s a story from the pre-social media age which has come to mind time and time over recently.
Back when I was slap-bang in the middle of my 20s, I was working on a mod for the videogame Deus Ex called the Cassandra Project. It was a clear mash-up of my obsessions of the time – Planetary, The Invisibles, Planescape Torment and Deus Ex itself. My parts of it are a derivative but well intentioned mess – and it does please me that we were ahead of the curve on a few areas games did pursue later. We released one level, eventually, and then stopped.
We were hosted on a site, which asked us to add advertising to the template. While we did comply, we were huffy pretentious 20-somethings (or at least I was).
We put the ads on the page.
However, beneath every banner, in tiny, but legible font, we put a legend....
Which is obviously all kinds of unbearable, but even in my old age, I’ve a lot of time for youngish person posture. If youngish people aren’t going posture, who is?
What it did – and I was aware of it – was actually make you hyper-aware of the advertising. You couldn’t not see the ad – but you could equally be aware of what it was trying to do. They wouldn’t have paid for that advertisement if they didn’t think they could alter your behaviour. Weirdly, it did have the effect on the people who visited the page I hoped for - they thought about the ad, as we made it impossible to not do so. And certainly broadcast who we were.
(And yes, you may see that “Who us in control of your narrative?” is a theme that’s been with me for a long time.)
Anyway, that’s been on my mind on twitter recently, as I kept on having the urge add at the end of all my tweets “This tweet makes a billionaire richer.” Or just endlessly tweeting “The tweet preceding and following this have made money for a billionaire.” And so on. And when you start thinking like that, even if I didn’t actually tweet it, it was inside my head.
This has always been true, of course. As Sam Kriss noted in his brilliant The Internet Is Already Over one of the previous big investors was Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. It’s just that Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud’s not dumb enough to remind us on a daily basis exactly how big a twonk he is.
I have felt that, overall, twitter was bad for me for a long time. But it’s that extra bit of feeling complicit was just a bit too much. Nah, mate. I’m out.
I refuse to provide free content any more.
If I tweet, expect it to be informational announcements. I’m on Mastodon and Hive (as kierongillen). I’m active on the former at the moment, and won’t be on the latter significantly until they sort it out.
SKTCHD name me their writer of the year, which was really kind, and then had me off Off Panel to talk about the year. You can listen to that here After the show, I mailed David, worried that I came across badly. He said I was fine. Re-listening to it, I think it comes across as a pretty accurate position of where my head is at as we approach 2023. If you’re interested in that, and me being way too honest as usual, it’s well worth a listen. I may even announce my next book and rpg by accident half way though.
Scott Snyder writing about Cheers and Christmas is good stuff, and all kinds of resonant with myself. We watched a lot of Cheers in the covid years in this house.
Chipclass Addendum where Chip tells him how he broke the spirits of a class of illustration majors for their own good, with eternal advice for a successful career: “Hook!’ Up! With! A! Non! Artist!” ](https://zdarsky.substack.com/p/chipclass-addendum). Lovely stuff.
Terry Hall of the Specials passed this week. A huge part of a band whose importance really can’t be overstated. Here’s Neil Kulkarni writing a beautiful obituary for Quietus.
Judgment Day on ComicsXF’s books of the year. There’s been quite a few appearances for my various books elsewhere, but it’s been Christmas so I’ve been distracted enough to not put ‘em in the newsletter document. Thanks, folks. Sorry I am oh so lazy.
It’s been a good week for seeing old comrades doing good stuff. Here’s Keith Stuart writing about being a DM for the first time over at the Guardian.
That I need to do a cursory proof-read of the twitter ramble before eating– we’re celebrating our return from Stafford by ordering from the always astounding Dishoom - means I’ll keep the end note short.
(Oh – that I have just stopped my main bit of outreach for the newsletter, if I ever do write something you think is worth passing around, here’s your encouragement to do so. I would appreciate it.)
Handed in my final script of the year – Immortal 11, which is the Storm issue. Al cast his mighty eye over it, I did a final few tweaks, and stepped back. All I’ve done since is give some notes to artists (mainly STOP WORKING AT LEAST FOR CHRISTMAS!) and prod away at my liminal-week project of another small indie RPG.
I’ve been in Stafford with family. Christmas was good. Iris has been teething, which does reveal that “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” is a fucking lie and should be rewritten to be “Ow! I have bone emerging through my gums! I am in pain and cannot sleep! When will this torment end?”
I’m happy. I hope you’re happy. If you’re not, I hope you will be soon.
At this exact moment, I hear “Let it go” blaring downstairs.
Not a bad idea, Elsa.
See you in 2023.