Stross: how I ended up as a science fiction writer

Tom James @ 11-06-2009

lifeCharles Stross is recounting the long journey to his current position has one of the stars of British science fiction, beginning with his first steps into education during the years of Thatcher:

I already knew (from an early age — 12 or so) that I wanted to be an SF writer. But there was a fly in the ointment — a fly called Margaret Thatcher. I turned 15 in 1979, the year the conservatives won an election and the Thatcherite revolution swung into action.

Unemployment soared from around one million to over three million in twelve months as the UK experienced the worst industrial recession since the end of the second world war (largely caused by Thatcher’s dramatic decision to cut most of the state-owned industries off at their knees, on the assumption that the workers would find new and more productive jobs sooner rather than later — a misplaced assumption, as it turned out).

I come from a middle-class background; I could expect to go to university, but not to rely indefinitely on parental hand-outs. “You’ll need some kind of way to earn a living while you’re trying to write,” the careers guidance teachers told me.

A familiar story, as this happy university dropout will affirm (except it was Blair instead of Thatcher and the economic collapse only really started after I left).
[image from The Wandering Angel]


A new book about Steve Ditko

Tom Marcinko @ 22-08-2008

steveditkoThe New York Times has a review of Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, a biography and critical study by Blake Bell (Fantagraphics). Stan Lee always knew how to promote himself, and the late Jack Kirby is getting the props he deserves. Ditko is less well known to the public, but of course every comics fan knows he was the original Spider-Man artist. (Tobey Maguire was such a great casting choice, capturing the antiheroic geekiness of the early Peter Parker.)

Ditko now seems now to be leading a strange, sad life, recounts Times reviewer Douglas Wolk:

He split with Lee and Marvel in 1966. By then, he’d fallen under the spell of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and started producing an endless string of ham-fisted comics about how A is A and there is no gray area between good and evil and so on. “The Hawk and the Dove,” for instance, concerns two superhero brothers who … oh, you’ve already figured it out. Ditko could still devise brilliantly disturbing visuals — the Question, one of his many Objectivist mouthpieces, is a man in a jacket, tie and hat, with a blank expanse of flesh for a face — and his drawing style kept evolving, even as his stories tediously parroted “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” at the expense of character, plot and ultimately bearability.

He drew Transformer coloring books and Big Boy comic books, almost as if he followed John Galt on strike.

(Self-indulgent note: Rand is always good for starting an argument, in my experience…)

[Image: book cover from Fantagraphics]