comics and podcasts and worldcons oh my

Some news:

First thing: The next meeting of Laydeez Do Comics Dublin will be on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at the Odessa Club at 7 PM. If you like or do comics, zines, illustrations, or just enjoy interesting and engaging talks, please join us!

Second thing: Maura McHugh and I were interviewed about Laydeez Do Comics by Liam Geraghty of The Comics Podcast. There are lots of other interesting topics discussed there as well including the documentary Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines, which I saw last month here in Dublin and highly recommend even if you are not a Wonder Woman or superhero(ine) fan (I am neither).

Third thing: Always wanted to visit Ireland? Here’s your chance. How does a pre-bid announcement to hold the World Science Fiction convention in Dublin in 2019 sound?

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a trip to the North

Last weekend, I made a brief trip across the border to Northern Ireland for the 2D Northern Ireland Comic Festival in Derry, stopping off in Belfast along the way for a bit of (what else?) bookstore browsing.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the North. How long? Last time I was there, the streets of Belfast and Derry were full of British soldiers; in Belfast, you had to pass through police checkpoints just to travel around the city. I’d become friends with another American girl in Dublin and together we spent a few weeks hitchhiking round the Republic and the North. When we got ready to return to Dublin from Belfast, we decided to splurge and take the train. Except that we ended up not getting the train, we had to take the bus, because the IRA had called in a bomb threat on the track.

We never felt in any danger in the North, and in fact it was still quite a safe place for tourists to visit. We met lovely people and sometimes drank with them in pubs and chatted to them about various things — including politics, actually. Still, it was a relief to get back to the Republic where there weren’t soldiers everywhere.

I didn’t know a great deal about the Troubles at that stage beyond a broad outline of the situation. I know far more about all of it now, and I know and have talked to and am friends and acquaintances with Irish people who are all across the spectrum as regards the politics of it all. Ultimately, my position is that I am not Irish and thus, well, I don’t have a position. Only a general one, which applies more or less across the board to all situations: killing innocent civilians is a pretty bad thing to do whether it’s state-sponsored or not. Colonizing other countries is also bad. Undoing colonization can be easier said than done when the effects of said colonization are entrenched in a culture and economy. When people are made to feel powerless and marginalized from a social and economic standpoint, it’s more likely that they will ally themselves with an organization that makes them feel as though they belong to something. People often have the same reasons for joining their country’s military as others do for engaging in guerrilla warfare and terrorist activities, whether it’s the aforementioned marginalization or notions about honor and justice. Most people think they are doing the right thing, whatever it is they are doing; people also do right things for wrong reasons and wrong things for right reasons. A few people are sociopaths who will take advantage of any breakdown in the social order or any institutionalized opportunity for violence to act out their sociopathy. Ireland has a complicated history and if you are not Irish (and by that I mean Irish-Irish not “Irish American”) and you think you understand it you probably don’t.

All this is by way of saying, it was lovely to return to a de-militarized, as it were, North.

This is an excellent used bookstore I visited in Belfast. I could have easily spent hundreds of pounds in this store if I’d had it. All my favorite sections — general fiction, classics, science fiction, fantasy, and travel — were bursting with books I want to read. It’s a small shop, but whoever does the buying is only selecting the best stuff.

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I don’t have a photo of the shop next door, Atomic Collectibles, where for just a couple of pounds I scored these two paperbacks:

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Now my secret is out: yes, I have a weakness for Dennis Wheatley novels. Yes, it’s a guilty pleasure.

And I never pass up a chance to read a new-to-me John Wyndham novel, and that’s one I’d never heard of before.

Onwards to Derry. The soldiers have left the streets in the North, but the Union Jack still flies to mark Unionist areas while paint on road signs obscures the “London” part of “Londonderry.”

Derry was the site for the awful massacre of innocent civilians by British troops in 1972 known as Bloody Sunday. Conditions for the Catholic residents at the time were appalling, and nationalists had established an area known as “Free Derry.”

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Today, murals tell the story of the events in Derry at the time. These are just a few.

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The Museum of Free Derry is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about these events, and I’d highly recommend a visit to anyone stopping off in the town.

It would be naive to simply say all that it is in the past now. The dead are far from forgotten.

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Tensions remain. Signs and graffiti reference “POWs” and demand their release. You’ll need to click on the photo below to enlarge it and read the graffiti that says “RIP DOLOURS PRICE IRA.”

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But Derry, and the North in general, is still a very different place now.

And the 2D Festival is a lovely one, across three excellent venues, friendly and fun — that’s the report from the Forbidden Planet blog. And Maura McHugh’s report is here. Here was no politics, no tragedy, no broken divided city, just kids and grown-ups, comics readers and artists and writers and creators mingling (like the legendary Herb Trimpe! who I did not know was legendary as I chattered away to him and his lovely wife in Sandino’s Bar on Friday night!). As someone who prefers my conventions small and homey and focused on literature, whose idea of hell is attending a massive media extravaganza like the San Diego Comicon, 2D with its mix of independents and big names, Irish and international titles, is the perfect size and atmosphere.

I feel like I should have a moral to wrap all this up at the end here, but the only things I can think of sound simplistic and patronizing. So: Time doesn’t heal all wounds, and people and places don’t always change, but sometimes they do. And it does give one hope.

Laydeez Doing Comics in Dublin

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The inaugural meeting of Laydeez Do Comics Dublin, which I announced a couple of weeks ago, was on Wednesday night and it was a roaring success! You can see photos and read a report of the event here and Róisín Curé drew throughout the evening to produce this charming illustrated account.

Thanks to engaging presentations by Sarah McIntyre, Alan Nolan, and Maeve Clancy, this also turned out to be a really well-rounded event that had something to offer not just people interested in working in comics but fans of the form as well as creatives in most professions. We were also fortunate to have a delightful audience and a great venue, the fabulous Odessa Club. And C.E. Murphy brought the most amazing ginger snap cookies I’ve ever had the good fortune to taste, so really, what more could we have asked for?

We’ll be arranging another meeting in a few months’ time, probably in September, so watch the skies! Well, and the internet.

Laydeez Do Comics Dublin

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My fellow writer Maura McHugh and I have been working on a project I’m very happy to announce at last–the establishment of a branch of Laydeez Do Comics in Dublin.

Laydeez Do Comics began as a forum in London in 2009 and has become a network of meetings across the US and UK in such cities as San Francisco, Glasgow, Brighton and more. It is not women-only, though it is led by women.

Our first meeting will be on Wednesday, May 22 from 7 to 9:30 PM in the Rooftop Bar on the top floor of the Odessa Club, 13 Dame Ct., Dublin 2, and our first guests will be Sarah McIntyre, Alan Nolan, and Maeve Clancy.

The event itself is free. We’ll be asking for a donation of 3-5 euros just to cover costs.

I’m really excited about this, and if you live in Dublin and are an artist or writer and/or have an interest in comics in any way, I hope to meet you there!

guesting at comics buzz

I’m a guest blogger over at Comics Buzz today, reviewing Womanthology, an all-women-written and -produced anthology of comic art and writing. That there up above is a preview by project manager Renae de Liz which will help you to get an idea of its general breadth and awesomeness. “Embarrassment of riches” comes to mind; seriously, this book is packed with stuff, and if you like comics and especially if you are interested in indie comics and work by up-and-coming artists and writers, this will be worth your while. (You’ll also find experienced and well-known artists and writers within; I just think this might be of particular interest to anyone who’s curious about some of the newcomers whose names they may start seeing in their local comics shop in the future.)

dc doing dastardly deeds

I’m still intending to finish writing up my women in horror project here, but in the meantime, some comic book goodness, or badness, as the case may be: In issue #309 of the Hugo-award-winning fanzine The Drink Tank, I write a short piece about my feelings toward the new, contentious Watchman prequel. A number of people speak and write therein with a range of opinions. Spoiler alert: I strongly disapprove of the prequels. (Well, I would champion creators’ rights over those of The Man, wouldn’t I?) You know, I’m getting hot under the collar all over again just thinking about it. Buy me a drink and I’ll give you a much less measured earful than I contributed to the pages of The Drink Tank.