NWG Innovation Festival

I'm a guest at the upcoming NWG Innovation Festival in Newcastle. The Festival is a unique event: a week-long series of hack days, with teams trying to solve a dozen different societal and environmental problems. That's a lot, but there's even more around the edges - speakers (hi!), school programmes, panels, workshops and much more.

I'll be working with the team from Explain to answer: 'how to build advocacy with communities and customers?':

Market research experts Explain Market Research will be heading up the sprint team looking at how companies and business from across the world build fan bases and what they can do to turn customers into fans. How do you change ‘likes' into loyalty and turn sales into supporters, Explain will lead the way.

A great challenge, and I'm delighted to be participating as planner and a shameless fanboy. I'll be speaking on Tuesday (10th) about fandoms and fan culture. Tickets and details here. (And some recent thoughts on loyalty here.)

Tentacles and terror

New newsletter:

What Lovecraft lacked, and still lacks, in popular success, he makes up for in fan loyalty. There's an entire ecosystem that exists with the singular and self-reinforcing purpose of keeping Lovecraft important. There's a lot to be questioned about this, including: 'Is Lovecraft actually important?' But, to me, what's more interesting is the why. Why is it so important that Lovecraft is important?

When Supernatural Horror in Literature meets Terror Management Theory! Subscribe.

Culture Sector Industry Day

Also in Bradford, I'm taking part in the inaugural Culture Sector Industry Day alongside some very impressive speakers from the arts, culture and publishing worlds.

I'll be participating in the morning session on Sponsorship:

This session will focus on how to build and nurture strong relationships in the world of private sponsorship. From developing title sponsorship relationships with FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, to how regional and local companies can offer smaller scale but vital funding and sponsorship in-kind, to an exploration of how private benefactors and individuals with a track record in philanthropic giving, can provide much needed financial diversification and resilience to organisations operating on all scales. The session will offer practical, tangible advice into building sponsorship relationships, at a time when private giving may seem like a less viable option.

I've been on both sides of the fence - both seeking out, and handing out, sponsorships. For both public and private sector organisations, in culture and beyond. And, as always, will try to be more useful than noisy (but no promises).

The entire day looks terrific, and has a disturbingly reasonable price. Tickets here.

Raptor Velocity

...and we're off! First newsletter has hit inboxes, featuring algorithmic marketing and Harry Potter. 

As a sector, we've veered away from wonder. The most famous marketing agency in the world right now is Cambridge Analytica. Which means the biggest communications story for a decade is not only seedy af, but also disproportionately bitty. (more)

Further instalments should be - roughly - weekly. Subscribe here.

Shirley Jackson Day

Join four terrific authors at Foyles Royal Festival Hall for Shirley Jackson Day!

This is a ticketed event on 27 June (click here for details).

Shirley Jackson Day celebrates the legacy of the legendary suspense author, and takes place on the day of the "Lottery" (from Jackson's iconic story of the same name). Join four talented authors for haunting readings and a discussion of Jackson's impact. This year's event will feature readings from finalists for this year's Shirley Jackson Awards:

Sophia Al-Maria ("The Righteous Guide of Arabsat", from The Djinn Falls in Love) is a Qatari-American artist and screenwriter. She is currently writer in residence at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. A collection of Al-Maria’s writing, Sad Sack, will be released later this year with Bookworks UK. Her first book was The Girl Who Fell to Earth (Harper Collins, 2012).

Gary Budden (editor of An Unreliable Guide to London) is a writer, editor and the co-founder of Influx Press. Hollow Shores was published earlier in 2017, and his dark fiction novella, Judderman (as D.A. Northwood) is published in 2018. His short story ‘Greenteeth’ was adapted into a short film by the filmmaker Adam Scovell. His work has been published widely, including Black Static, Structo, Elsewhere, Unthology, The Lonely Crowd, Gorse, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction.

Tade Thompson (The Murders of Molly Southbourne) is a writer of Yoruba descent who lives and works in the United Kingdom. He is the author of The Murders of Molly Southbourne, Rosewater and Making Wolf. His work has won the Kitschies and the Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction. He has been also been a finalist for both the BSFA and John W. Campbell awards.

The evening is hosted by English PEN's Robert Sharp (author of The Good Shabti).

About the Shirley Jackson Awards

In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. 

Bradford: Frankenstein & (Other) Murder Ballads

I'm chairing two sessions at this year's Bradford Literature Festival - tickets are on sale now:

In the Pines: Graphic Novels and Murder Ballads (30 June, 1.15 pm)

“Bloody, wistful and strange,” is how Canongate have described In The Pines, the stunningly illustrated graphic novel by Erik Kriek. A retelling of five murder ballads; grisly tales of murder reminiscent of the music of Nick Cave and Gillian Welch.

With roots in traditional oral storytelling, murder ballads have fascinated readers since the mid 17th century, telling eerie tales of love, death and betrayal with a distinct darkness and lack of rescue or redemption.

In this compelling event, author and illustrator Erik Kriek is joined by Dr. Jonathan Brockbank and Jared Shurin to discuss this fascinating graphic novel, and the history, stories and music that inspired it. (Details)

Inspired by Frankenstein (30 June, 2.45 pm)

Ever since Mary Shelley moulded Frankenstein’s monster on the pages of her debut novel, literature lovers have been fascinated by her creation and the ideas behind it. Gender, religion, science and family are just a few of the themes covered in the classic work.

In the 21st century, it’s clear that Shelley’s prophetic masterpiece has influenced everything from sci-fi to satire. For this event, we welcome Akram Khan, Selma Dimitrijevic, Joanna Verran and Chris Priestley, whose work crosses a variety of respective fields, all of which bear the mark of Frankenstein’s incredible legacy. (Details)

There are over 400 events over the 10-day festival: you can download the full programme here.

Tall, dark and deeply disturbing

Edward Gorey is an odd inclusion in the Author Appreciation series as ‘author’ is, in many ways, his least significant role. Primarily known as an artist - and largely remembered for his charmingly gloomy monochromatic pen & ink style - Gorey was also an art director, designer, author, playwright, and man of a thousand eccentric hats.

He’s immensely important as an influence - artistic and industry - and we’ll talk about that. But Gorey’s work is simply wonderful in its own right, and well worth reading for anyone that appreciates joy, schadenfreude, dark humor, wordplay and ingenuity.

An 'Author Appreciation' of Edward Gorey over on r/fantasy.

ComicCon: Grimdark and Urban Fantasy

On Saturday, two panels have been given into my care at London ComicCon: one on Grimdark, one on Urban Fantasy.

They are both big panels, with folks like Scott Lynch, Claire North, Richard Morgan, and many more. Given the size and the crowd, the moderation will be taking an interesting format... come along and watch the mayhem. (Details)

To Grim or not to Grim (26 May, 3 pm) 

Grimdark is one of the many sub-genres within fantasy fiction, having enjoyed a massive surge in popularity over the last two decades, thanks in no part to works from authors like George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie.  It’s a genre that’s bold, brash and bloody, and it’s got legions of fans.  But, like any good sub-genre, it’s also got its detractors.  Join fantasy authors Richard K Morgan (The Steel Remains) Scott Lynch (The Gentleman Bastard series) Jen Williams (The Copper Cat Trilogy) Lucy Hounsom (Worldmaker Trilogy) Peter Newman (The Vagrant) and Mark De Jager (Infernal) as they debut the pros and cons of “going dark”. Grimdark, that is.

Fantastically Urban (26 May, 6 pm)

Urban Fantasy has been tearing up the fiction charts for some time now, and its popularity has been felt throughout pop culture; from fiction to television to film and video games.  But what makes a good Urban Fantasy?  For that matter, what makes a bad one?  Listen as authors MR Carey (The Boy on the Bridge) Claire North (84K) Tade Thompson (Rosewater) Laure Eve (The Graces) and Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid series) chat through the tropes of the urban fantasy and the challenges of keeping things fresh.

Also - earlier in May, I talked podcasts with Miranda Sawyer, Liv Siddall and Emma Gannon at the Photographer's Gallery for Margaret London. It was a terrific event, and - fittingly - recorded, so there should be audio forthcoming. 

Between a Rock and a Locus

Who knew awards season could be so much fun?!

The Djinn Falls in Love is a finalist for both the Locus Awards (Best Anthology) and the Shirley Jackson Awards (Best Edited Anthology).

We're very proud to see Djinn contributors Nnedi Okorafor and JY Yang recognised elsewhere on the Locus shortlist - as well as long-time Jurassic London artist Jeffrey Alan Love.

Two Jurassic titles - The Book of the Dead and Robert Sharp's The Good Shabti (illustrated by Love) - have been finalists for the Shirley Jackson Awards in previous years. The prize's penchant for quirky, literary, cross-genre selections makes it one of our very favourites. That, and they give all the finalists a stone, in tribute to the author after which it named. Best trophy in literature.

Very best wishes to all the finalists - we're very pleased to be among you!