Philip Reeve's Blog

July 19, 2017

 


Concept art from the movie


I’ve lost the will to blog lately, and don’t see it returning any time soon, but I thought it was worth marking the completion of photography on Mortal Engines. This doesn’t mean the movie is finished – post production starts now, and presumably goes on until pretty close to the release date, 14th December 2018. But it does mean that the live action has all been shot, and the cast are heading home.



I was lucky enough to be invited down to Wellington back in May to visit Stone Street Studios, where the production was based. I’ll post a full account of the trip once the movie is actually out, but I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets if I say that it was all looking very good. London was only just starting to be built when I was there, but I walked around the streets of Airhaven and Batmunkh Gompa, sat in the gondola of the Jenny Haniver, and peeked inside Mr Shrike’s house. Most of it looked very much as I’d imagined, except for the bits which looked better.


The actors were just as impressive – watching , , and some of the other cast members at work made me realise that when actors complain that, ‘it’s SUCH hard work, dahling,’ they have a point: acting in a film like Mortal Engines means long hours and heroic feats of concentration – it can’t be easy, believably portraying intense emotions in the midst of what’s basically a busy factory, but they make it look easy. So did the director, , who has the daunting job of orchestrating it all. I didnt hear any complaints, though – the cast and crew all seemed to be having a good time, which must bode well. During most of my visit a posse of aviators were busy doing their stuff in Airhaven’s top nighspot the Gasbag and Gondola. I think Anna Fang (Jihae), Captain Khora (Rege-Jean Page) and co. have a little bit more to do in the movie than they did in the book, and frankly they deserve their own spin-off movie, they’re all great.


Meanwhile, what lurked in this mysterious box in the corner of the studio? I didn’t dare to look…


Photo by Shrike (AKA Stephen Lang)


 

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Published on July 19, 2017 10:33 • 112 views

March 30, 2017

Robert Sheehan in The Misfits


The actor Robert Sheehan is playing the part of Tom Natsworthy in the Mortal Engines movie at this moment (well, it’s happening in New Zealand so I hope he’s tucked up in bed while I write this, but you know what I’m driving at). Anyway, the lovely people who run his online fan community The Sheehab got in touch with some questions which I’ve answered here. (I don’t know much about the film, and couldnt discuss it even if I did, so we mainly concentrated on the books.) They’re good questions! I hope I’ll be able to do more with the Sheehab as the movie’s 2018 release date draws nearer…

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Published on March 30, 2017 07:01 • 93 views


Now that Railhead is on the shortlist for the Carnegie Medal pupils in schools all over the country will be reading it as part of the Carnegie Shadowing scheme (and probably going ‘this is SO BORING’, but hopefully it’s winning a few new fans). Anyway, here’s an interview which I recorded for the Carnegie/Kate Greenaway website. It was shot outside my house a few weeks ago, and the curious creatures in the background are Alfie and Iggy, the alpacas.



Here’s a companion video in which I put my glasses on and read an excerpt from early on in the book…



You can find another version of that reading, complete with music and visuals, here.



And if you’re reading Railhead and would like to know more, don’t forget the Railhead A-Z; twenty-six short entries about the world of the book and some of the things which inspired it.  Here’s Part One (A-E), Part Two (F-L), Part Three (M-R) and Part Four (S-Z).


And here’s the official soundtrack!



And here’s the unofficial soundtrack (put together by Jake Hayes for his Tygertales blog)!

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Published on March 30, 2017 06:47 • 64 views

March 16, 2017


I’m very pleased to learn that Railhead has made it onto the shortlist for this year’s Carnegie Medal!


The Carnegie is one of the most prestigious UK prizes for children’s books, awarded by CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals). It’s a great honour, and a very strong shortlist. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on xx June, but whatever happens it’s lovely to be on the shortlist again, (I was previously shortlisted for Fever Crumb, and foe Here Lies Arthur, which went on to win). Congratulations to all the other shortlists! I’m very grateful to all the librarians who have supported Railhead.



Meanwhile, the UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) has also shortlisted Railhead for its 2017 award – and Pugs of the Frozen North, the third of my collaborations with Sarah McIntyre, is also shortlisted in the younger category!



As with the Carnegie, the UKLA shortlist is very strong (it’s been a good year for children’s books) and you can see it here.



Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Science Fiction Writers of America have been drawing up the shortlists for their famous Nebula Awards, and they’ve nominated Railhead for an André Norton Award (a prize for books aimed at children or young adults, and named after an author whose space stories I used to read when I was at school – very good they were too). The shortlist also includes Frances Hardinge’s superb The Lie Tree, and you can find it here.


Needless to say, I don’t hold out high hopes of winning all (or any) of these awards in the face of such stiff competition, but fingers crossed. And it’s nice to know that Railhead is good enough to get on shortlists. I hope this will draw it to the attention of some new readers, and that some of them will go on to read the sequel, Black Light Express.


Now I’m off to do some more work on Railhead 3


Photo: Sarah McIntyre

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Published on March 16, 2017 12:45 • 29 views

March 15, 2017

 


At the Etihad Museum


It’s difficult to blog about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai because there’s so much of it. When I go to Hay or Edinburgh or Cheltenham I’m usually only there for a day or two, and only actually in the festival for a few hours. In Dubai I got to live in the hotel where the festival was being held for almost a week.


It’s a very fine hotel, with huge conference rooms, which sits at the hub of a complex called Festival City on the banks of Dubai Creek. A little further along the waterfront was a huge fountain which looked liked like an unlikely submarine surfacing. It remained moribund until about 2pm each afternoon, when it would spring to life, blaring pop music and squirting jets of water into the air in a not particularly interesting way. But it turned out that this was just its warm-up act. On the last evening of the festival I wandered outside after a long signing session just in time to see the fountain do its thing. There was dramatic orchestral music, dancing water jets, laser beams slashing lines of red and green and lilac light through the spray, and – the designers having realised in a stroke of deranged genius that what most fountains lack is fire – actual flamethrowers. For five or ten minutes the peaceful creekside vista was transformed into one of the livelier bits of Apocalypse Now. It was very Dubai.



When I first went to the festival three years ago it was this sci-fi atmosphere which stuck in my mind afterwards (some of it found its way into Railhead). Dubai is a strange mixture of brash bling and deep conservatism, where giant portraits of the ruling sheikhs gaze down from the walls of skyscrapers on gorgeous cyberpunk metro stations and flame-throwing fountains, while weird megastructures loom through the haze in a Simon Stålenhag sort of way. This time I didn’t see much of the city, as I had far more events to do, both on my own and in my capacity as sidekick and straight man to international show-off Sarah McIntyre. (There’s a video here of some of the stuff we got up to.) We took a trip down to Jumeria Beach one evening with fellow UK author Smriti Prasadam-Halls, but mostly we stayed in Festival City, so this year’s memories are much more about the people we met there.


They aren’t joking when they call it an international festival of literature. The Brit contingent included Piers Torday, Abi Elphinstone, Frances Hardinge, Patrick Gale, Michael Foreman, Andy Miller, Tanya Landman and Candy Gourlay (who lives in London but comes originally from the Philippines and was greeted with wild excitement by Dubai’s large Filipino population).  But we were surrounded by writers and artists from all over the Arab world and from India, the U.S.A and the Caribbean. I don’t think I’ve ever found myself in such cosmopolitan company, and it was brilliant. I particularly enjoyed talking to the Egyptian author and journalist Ibrahim Farghali (I’ve brought home an English translation of his novel The Smiles of the Saints) Emirati children’s author Asma Kalban, and Jamaican poet and academic Kei Miller – no, it’s too dangerous to start listing everybody, since I’m bound to forget someone, and there were some people whose names I never even learned, but it was good to be among their conversations, and hear news and views from places far from poor old Brexit-blighted Britain.


Sarah McIntyre and Ibrahim Farghali


The audiences are just as mixed. Dubai has a huge ex-pat community so there were lots of Britons, Americans and Australians at our events, but lots of local Emiratis too. One group of boys from a school in Fujeira drove for three hours to see Sarah McIntyre and Emirati writer/illustrator Maitha Al Khayat doing a wild and wonderful English/Arabic pirate comics jam. (I missed that event as I was doing one of my own. I missed almost all the other events for a similar reason – if I wasn’t doing an event I was preparing for one, or signing, or knackered – but word reached me of wonderful things going on in other rooms – a brilliant poetry reading, a great session on travel writing, and a picture book event where Smriti Prasadam-Halls managed to move the adults in the audience to tears with an account of how her relationship with her sister had inspired one of her books.)


Maitha Al Khayat, McIntyre, and fans.


All the kids were great audiences – enthusiastic and keen to join in without getting too rowdy, and full of intelligent questions. We heard again and again how much they look forward to the festival and the chance it gives them to meet authors. Eleven-year-old Viraaj and his sister Vritti came to nearly all my events, and after the last one Viraaj gave me, Sarah, Piers and Candy copies of this bookmark he had made for us.



I hadn’t planned to return to Dubai – I had a great time on my first trip, but I hate travelling, don’t like hot weather, and seldom get much sleep in hotels*. Then, last year, the festival was targeted by campaigners who want writers to boycott it because of the Emirati government’s human rights record and the fact that the festival is sponsored by an airline. I’m broadly in favour of airlines, so the second argument was never likely to move me. I’m not at all in favour of human rights abuses, but the idea that boycotting a litfest will generate anything more positive than a cosy glow of righteousness in the breast of the boycotter seems absurd. The spectacle of British writers attempting to improve another country by trying to shut down its main cross-cultural arts event convinced me that I ought to go back and support the festival. I’m very glad I did.



Many thanks to Isobel Abulhoul, Yvette Judge, Mary Ann Miranda, and all the dedicated, patient, unflappable, book-loving volunteers who run the festival.



All the pictures in this post were taken by Sarah McIntyre, or at least on her phone. WordPress assures me that they are all aligned centrally (WordPress is the main reason why I don’t blog much nowadays). I’ll update this post in the next few days with links to festival blogs by Sarah and some of the other visiting authors.


With Nonny and Tarini, who introduced our Reeve&McIntyre events


*For once, tired out by all the events, I slept perfectly well!


 

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Published on March 15, 2017 08:05 • 16 views

March 5, 2017

A while back I mentioned the Emirates Flight Time Stories competition which Sarah McIntyre and I have been involved with.  There were loads of entries, and lots of them were brilliant, but the overall winner was a story called Monkey Goes On A Plane by 4-year-old Maddison Penney, and Sarah and I have used it as the inspiration for a picture book. Since 99% of the work is Sarah’s, I hope I can say that it’s lovely without sounding big-headed. Here’s the cover – I love the impact of that big red arrow!



You can read Sarah’s blog about it (and see some more of her pictures) here.


And you can read an online version of the book here.


I’ll be monkeying about on a plane myself tomorrow as I’m off to the Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai. I’ll be doing a lot of schools and family events with Sarah, a solo Railhead event, and a panel with Frances Hardinge and the Egyptian author Ibrahim Farghali. There’s a schedule of my events here.


 

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Published on March 05, 2017 08:50 • 32 views

January 1, 2017

2016


 


2017

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Published on January 01, 2017 02:12 • 52 views

December 15, 2016

It’s that time of year again when I feel the need to remind anyone looking for last-minute gifts that my books fit neatly into XL Christmas stockings and also look nice wrapped up under the tree. So, what’s on the literary smorgasbord this year?


My latest is Black Light Express, the sequel to Railhead (which is now out in paperback). Both shown here with covers by the brilliant IanMcQue, and both just the thing for fans of science fiction, fantasy, and tales of daring adventure (I hope). I’m busy with the third book in the series at the moment. (They are published in the UK by Oxford University Press, Switch Press publish Railhead in the US, and it’s translated as Capolinea per le Stelle by Giunti in Italy.


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This autumn also saw the publication of Jinks and O’Hare Funfair Repair, the fourth book I’ve created with Sarah McIntyre. It’s hard to believe we’ve been working together for four years, and I’m very proud of our little Reeve&McIntyre Library. Here they all, with Sarah’s serving suggestion:


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The new one features high jinks (and O’Hares, and Emilys) among the swings and roundabouts of an alien funfair, all illustrated with hundreds of lovely pictures, as usual. (And all published by Oxford University Press here, and Random House in the US, although Jinks and O’Hare isn’t out until February over there (when it will have a new title: ‘Carnival in a Fix‘. Me neither.)) The first three books have already been translated into a surprising number of foreign languages, so if you’re in Europe, Japan, China, or Korea it’s worth asking your bookshop about them!


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When Sarah isn’t working on books with me she illustrates (and sometimes writes) some excellent picture books. I can wholeheartedly recommend all of these…


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The latest is The Prince of Pants, a dazzlingly bright and very funny story which should keep the younger element happy. It even features glow in the dark pants! WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT FROM A BOOK?


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Published on December 15, 2016 06:35 • 40 views

November 7, 2016

I met so many interesting people at Lucca Comics and Games last week that they wouldn’t all fit in one blog post. One of those who I should have mentioned is the fantasy illustrator Paolo Barbieri. Many years ago Paolo did a cover for the Italian edition of Predator’s Gold (then trading as Freya della Lande di Ghiacco), and although Freya looks a bit too skinny to be Freya it’s one of my favourite covers and captures just the sense of pulp adventure I was after.


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So it was great to meet Paolo at last, and between signing books for his huge queue of fans he took time to draw this sketch of London on the move in Mortal Engines!


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There has been a lot of interest in Mortal Engines since Peter Jackson’s big announcement last week, and a couple of people, astutely noticing the existence of prequels, have asked in what order the books should be tackled. It’s up to you, of course, but I’ve always thought they’re best read in the order they were written. So start with Mortal Engines, then go on to Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain. That’s the original Mortal Engines quartet, and it covers the final years of the Traction Era, the far-future age of mobile cities which I dreamed up in the 1990s.


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Then, if you have an appetite for more, you could go on to read the Fever Crumb trilogy, (Fever Crumb, A Web of Air and Scrivener’s Moon) which goes back to the very beginnings of the Mortal Engines world. It’s a different setting in many ways – there are, for instance, no airships and no mobile cities. I think the books have a slightly different tone, too – the heroes of the Mortal Engines quartet are always zooming across continents and oceans, but Fever Crumb’s adventures all take place in London or in the island city of Mayda, until Scrivener’s Moon, when Municipal Darwinism finally begins to take off and there is a certain amount of charging about on ramshackle motorised fortresses.


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And if you still want more… tough, ‘cos that’s all there is*.


But in my latest novels, Railhead and Black Light Express, I’ve tried to take everything I learned about writing and world-building from the Mortal Engines books and tell a new story on the same scale, but set in a very different future world.


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(All the books mentioned above should be available from UK booksellers, and there are US editions of everything except Black Light Express, which will be published there by Switch Press next year. In the UK, the Mortal Engines and Fever Crumb books rate published by Scholastic, Railhead and Black Light Express by Oxford University Press.)


(*There is actually a 10,000 word World Book Day novella from a few years back, Traction City, about the young Anna Fang, and also a sort of encyclopaedia called The Traction Codex (written with Jeremy Levett) but they are only patchily available – I’ll let you know if that changes!)

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Published on November 07, 2016 04:59 • 110 views

November 3, 2016

 


I’ve been in Italy, mixing with people like this…


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Photo: Sarah Reeve


Lucca is an ancient city in Tuscany, its central grid of mediaeval streets crammed with churches and towers and ringed by an impressive defensive wall. But last weekend it was invaded! Huge pavilions were pitched beneath the ramparts, and comics and games fans from all over Italy crowded in through the city gates, many wearing bizarre and/or elaborate costumes. I don’t know the names of this chic Dalek/TARDIS pair, but I kept seeing them all over town and they always looked wonderful! Here they are posing for my wife Sarah’s photograph.


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(There were lots of Star Wars cosplayers too, but unfortunately none of them had dressed up as Sandpeople, so I never got to use my ‘Tuscan Raiders’ joke. UNTIL NOW.)


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I was in Lucca as a guest of the festival, thanks to my Italian publisher Guinti Editore, who have just published Railhead in Italy (where it goes by the name Capolinea Per Le Stelle). Here I am signing copies at the Giunti booth…


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The festival spread all through Lucca, with big comics and film-themed tents in many of the public squares, events at the Teatro Comunale, and a big exhibition in the Palazzo Ducale featuring some of the attending illustrators and comics artists. Wandering around the streets, I couldn’t help marvelling at the number of shops selling comics, geeky t-shirts and strange Japanese toys – but it turns out that many of them were pop-ups, renting space from other shops for the week of the festival. They all seemed to be doing a brisk trade. Outside the walls, in the biggest marquee I’ve ever seen, hundreds of fans were busy playing tabletop games, buying rulebooks, cards and miniatures, and admiring the work of visiting illustrators. I took this partial panorama on the first morning, when people were still setting up – it got a LOT busier later (on one day they sold 80,000 tickets!)


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I was delighted to find out that one of the visiting artists was Karl Kopinski, whose work I have been following on Facebook for years. He started out as an illustrator for Games Workshop, but as well as fantasy and SF he does a lot of military history and some great paintings of cyclists. He can really draw, and it turned out that one of the things he had been drawing was this portrait of Nova from Railhead/Capolinea Per Le Stelle!


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Photo: Duccio Locatelli


This was a collaboration with the Italian artist No Curves, whose medium is adhesive tape. (Check out his website – he’s amazing!) I got to watch while he and Karl collaborated on two more Railhead portraits – of Zen and Flex – and it was fascinating. Karl would begin the drawing, then No Curves would accentuate it with carefully placed strips and blocks of different coloured tape, then Karl would draw some more on top of the tape… Karl’s style is quite traditional and No Curves is more avant grade street art, but they clearly enjoy working together and the results are brilliant; Karl’s faces were full of character and the streaks of tape suggest the speed and light of passing trains…


 


 


Karl...

Karl…


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No Curves…


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…the finished image.


Two other people who enjoy working together despite very different styles are me and that Sarah McIntyre, so it was great to meet the team from our Italian publisher, Editrice Il Castoro, who also had a booth in the Games Pavilion. Oliver and the Seawigs is the only Reeve&McIntyre Production to reach Italy so far (where it’s called Oliver E Les Isolas Vagabonde) but fingers crossed that they’ll translate the others, too! And I was pleased to see that they also publish Gary Northfield’s fantastic Julius Zebra… Here are Chiara, Paola and Laurie, who are all lovely (and not at all blurred in real life).


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Of course, there’s no way I could have found my way through this maze of strangeness without help, and luckily the festival organisers provided it. Duccio Locatelli was my guest-sitter for my time in Lucca, and knew all the ways of the festival as well as all the short-cuts and all the best restaurants. Here he is with my editor from Giunti, the wonderful Fiametti Giorgi.


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Fiametta is the editor who first brought Mortal Engines to Italy (as Macchine Mortali.) Copies are in short supply there at the moment (I’m hoping the news about the forthcoming movie will change that) but it does have some devoted readers who brought their copies along to be signed. Here’s Fulvia, who made me a Macchine Mortali keyring!


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One of the illustrators exhibiting in the Palazzo Ducale was Tony DeTerlizzi, who I knew mainly from his work with Holly Black on the Spiderwick Chronicles. It turns out he also has a long association with gaming, having done all sorts of work for Dungeons and Dragons, etc. Here he is doing some live drawing in the artists’ ‘performance area’.


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Tony started out much as I did, copying Brian Froud pictures at the dawn of the 1980s, but unlike me he went on to develop a mature style of his own, drawing on the tradition of Rackham and Froud but adding to it too.


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It was great to get a chance to see Tony’s original paintings, and I pushed my baggage allowance to its limit by bringing home a huge book of his art, Realms. I really enjoyed the time we spent with Tony and his family. We did a panel event together one morning, and I could happily have gone on talking with him for hours. (The images I’ve used here all come from diterlizzi.com)


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I also did a larger panel event with some very big name fantasy writers – Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erickson, Terry Brooks and our own Joshua Khan. I’m not a big fan of epic fantasy, but I have read some of Steven’s Malazan series, which have immensely impressive world building and a nice sense of mystery, and I remember reading Terry Brooks The Sword of Shannara when I was about thirteen. It’s a very Tolkienesque quest saga set in a very Tolkienesque world, the twist being that it’s actually our own world ages after some devastating war – I wonder if that’s one of the seeds from which the world of Mortal Engines sprouted. Nowadays there are loads of Shannara books and it’s been turned into a Netflix series which is actually weirdly watchable despite being possibly the campest thing currently on TV. Mr Brooks was charming, anyway: here are Josh and myself paying our respects.


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Among the costumes crammed into the streets of Lucca some of the most detailed and impressive were the Steampunk creations. I’m always a bit bewildered by the popularity of Steampunk, but thanks to Mortal Engines my name seems to be linked with it forever, and I was called upon to judge the Steampunk Cosplay Competition. This took place on a massive stage on one of the bastions on the city walls. Once, huge cannons occupied this strongpoint; now it housed two considerably louder presenters, whose banter seemed to go on for hours while the Steampunkers queued up behind the scenes.


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Eventually they introduced me and I ran out onstage under the gaze of about 10,000 people who all went, “Philip who?” Luckily I wasn’t the only judge: I was accompanied by the President of Steampunk Italia, Antonio Vulcano Salvi, who was so splendidly costumed that he came with his own standard bearer.


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Also on judging duty was Benny Bao, a top prop-maker who I think designed the Iron Man suit for the Marvel films, but I may have misunderstood – there was a bit of a language barrier in the judge’s enclave. So I was extra glad of the fourth judge, Gianluca AKA Lord Ashram (below), without whose English translation I’d have looked even more bewildered…


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The standard of entries was superb, and there were a couple of groups who looked magnificent, but I was awarding the prize for best costume to individuals and duos, and I chose these two – mainly because of the intricacy of their mechanical face masks, and the way they had cheekily incorporated Star Wars stormtrooper masks into their shoulder armour – neither of which you can really see in Sarah’s photo, but it does show the impressive detail of their outfits…


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…and here are the masks, in a poor-quality snap taken on my phone while we waited to go on.


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Most of the time, of course, Lucca Comics and games provided me with an official interpreter, so thank you Laura, Lucy, Anna and Chiara for making me understood! And thank you Silvia, Andrea, Nicola and everyone else for organising things and me and my family feel so welcome! I should have got photos of everyone, but either I forgot or there wasn’t time or the light was no good. I did get this snap of Chiara yesterday, having coffee with us before we left for the airport, and showing off a page from her own beautiful sketchbook…


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And I haven’t even had a chance to show you the city, or the Tower With The Trees On Top, or tell you about the Mutant Goats, so more Lucca-related bloggery soon!


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Published on November 03, 2016 10:57 • 55 views