A Kiwi Traction City

It's always nice when someone goes to the trouble of building their own traction city (like this, or this.)  Here's a model based on London in Mortal Engines, constructed by Meg, Vanessa and Sarah who are in Year 7 at St Margaret's College, 'Quakey' Christchurch, New Zealand.

Poskitt vs McIntyre!

Look!  Two of my favourite people in one photograph!  More on Sarah's blog here.

Duplo Dystopias

When I was in Brighton last week I picked up one of these Duplo firemen sets for Brian Mitchell's lovely little boy Henry.  It's a nice set, and the suspension on Duplo vehicles has certainly improved since Sam was a toddler.  But both Brian and I were struck by the same thought: this fireman has no hose or fire-extinguisher, and in fact carries some fire with him.  Therefore, he is clearly meant to be one of the book-burning firemen from the great Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (or perhaps from François Truffaut's movie version), arriving by quad-bike to set fire to a box of books, and grinning happily while they burn.  What a great way to introduce kiddies to classic sci-fi and the films of the nouvelle vague!

Naturally it got us thinking about other  '60s and '70s dystopias around which Lego and Duplo could base their sets.  Lego Logan's Run?  Lego THX1138? Duplo Soylent Green?  Personally, I'm looking forward to building the giant floaty head from Lego Zardoz.

What I Did On My Summer Holidays

Not much blogging lately, partly because I'm between books and have nothing much to blog about, and partly because I've been busy with summertime things - going for walks and to beaches with Sam and Sarah, and trying to curb the garden's ambition to turn into a jungle.  Last week we headed over to Brighton to catch up with old friends.

Here's Sam with the illustrator Jo Moore, whom I met when we were both on the Foundation course at Brighton Art College back in 1984, and with whom I shared a flat for a few years.  It was lovely to catch up with her again, and we spent a happy hour or so going through Jo's massive archive of old photographs and wondering at how we ever looked that young.  In the evening I met an even older friend: Justin Hill, who I've known since we started together at St Luke's Primary School, aged 5.  We've both changed quite a bit since then...

 Justin lives in Thailand now, but is back in Blighty for a while, drawing Christmas cards for his Zazzle shop.  After we'd eaten we wandered back along the sea-front, past the huge anchor of the cargo ship Athena B, which we went to gawp at when it ran aground on Brighton beach back in 1980.  Justin was such an important part of my formative years that he deserves a whole blog post to himself, and I'll try do one very soon.

I also caught up with not one but two former co-writers.  Leon Robinson, the co-creator of many a comedy show and no-budget action movie during my Brighton years, now lives in Scotland, and it was a total surprise to meet him at Jo's flat.  Brian Mitchell, whose plays (written with Joseph Nixon) I've sometimes mentioned here, was in good form too when we met him, his wife Lou and their son Henry at the park.  (Brian and Joseph's play Those Magnificent Men is currently attracting some excellent reviews for its Edinburgh Festival run).

On Thursday we went our separate ways, with Sarah and Sam heading off to meet some friends at the Sea Life Centre (verdict; pricey) while I went up to London to meet Sarah McIntyre (who is such a regular feature of this blog that she probably needs no introduction, but here's a link to her website just in case).  We walked around Greenwich together, past some of the huge, Arthur Rackham-y chestnut trees which Sarah sometimes draws, and peeked at the remains of the Cutty Sark, where she was once Illustrator-in-Residence.  I stopped the night with Sarah and her husband Stuart - golly, they know how to flambĂ© a steak, it's a wonder they have an eyebrow left between them - and on Friday Sam and my Sarah arrived and we went to Sarah's studio - that's Sarah McIntyre's studio, The Fleece Station - where we met comics artist Ellen Lindner, knitting supremo Lauren O'Farrell, and Gary Northfield who wrote and drew the Derek the Sheep strip for the Beano.  (We got to peek at the pencil roughs of Gary's new project; I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about it yet, so I won't, but it looks fantastic, and May Contain Dinosaurs.)  Then Ho! for the nearby Horniman Museum (well, nearby-ish.  Sam was very impressed that London is so big you can take two trains and still be in London).  There we encountered an overstuffed walrus, Reeve's Pheasant, a room so full of musical instruments that it looks like the Hoots homeworld on The Clangers, and some welcome ice-creams, which we ate in the afternoon sunshine on the lawn outside the Horniman's fantastic Victorian glasshouse.

Oh, and on the way home via Shoreham and Charmouth we finally persuaded Sam to do some proper swimming in the actual sea.

Crikey, it was cold.

Dark Futures

I've written a short piece for School Library Journal on the current trend for dystopian futures in Young Adult fiction, which you can find here.

On the whole, I like a bit of a dystopia, but it's become so prevalent in books for older children and young adults that I can't help feeling that this is what we authors are saying to them:

Cartoon by Dan Piraro, via  I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters