Nov 8, 2012

Places I Used to Write, and Sometimes Still Do

Thinking of all kinds of places I used to write, in loose and sometimes overlapping order...

  • Drake's and Brown Jug and Monkey Bar and Amer's and Espresso Royale and Continental Diner and Bill's Coffee Cup (Ann Arbor)
  • Penny Lane and Trident and Aristocrat Diner and Sundown Saloon (Boulder)
  • Dom Bakeries and Mudd House and Ugly Mug (Ypsi)
  • Pat's (Orono)
  • Stella's and Cosmic Crossings and Pete's and Mercury Cafe (Denver)
  • South St. Diner (Boston)
  • Ruski's and JavaNet (Portland)
  • Atlas and Roebling Tea Room (Brooklyn)
  • Broken Cup and Yaffa and Cafe Pick Me Up (Manhattan)

I miss little things about each and every one of those places, the way they used to be when I worked there. Now it's Coffee by Design and Hilltop in Portland. Dipping a toe into Local Sprouts. Also, of course, home.

I know I'm forgetting some place. An internal tour of your past is never really complete. Interesting to remember how I felt as a writer, where my horizons of expectation were, when I was spending time at each of those places.

Nov 5, 2012

Coast City Comic-Con Schedule

The big show is this weekend! If you're going to be there, here's where you'll find me:

Saturday 11am -- The Good (and Bad) Old Days: Jeff Kline, who’s produced shows like Jackie Chan Adventures, and G.I. Joe: Renegades, joins Alex Irvine (Avengers Alliance, Daredevil Noir) and Coast City’s own Tristan Gallagher to talk about the most remarkable and the most forgettable series, characters and franchises from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Saturday 3pm -- Writing in a Multimedia World: Jeff Kline, Alex Irvine and Mort Todd offer insight into writing for various media, TV, film, comics, novels and news publications — what’s required of you, and what the differences between each storytelling format are.  
Sunday 12pm -- Video Games #$@&ing Rule!: Eric Holmes (lead designer, Prototype, Gears of War 3), Daniel Way (writer, Deadpool video game), AlĂ© Garza (lead character artist, DC Universe Online), and Alex Irvine (writer, Avengers Alliance) join up to talk about their respective video game projects. What does it take to get into their given jobs? What’s in store for the future? What are their favorite games? 

In addition to the abovementioned parties, you'll be able to catch up a rogues' gallery of cool comics/pop culture types (Becky Cloonan, Fred Van Lente, JK Woodward, Bob Camp, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, Mort Todd, Sean Murphy, et al.). The whole schedule is here. Also, I'll be hanging around my table. See you there!

Apr 5, 2012

Now You Can Read Mare Ultima

Mare Ultima, my most recent novella from PS Publishing, is out! If you're a reader of epic fantasy or a reader of books that poke under the tropes of epic fantasy to see what's there, this is both. So you won't want to miss it.

If you've read "Wizard's Six" or "Dragon's Teeth" in F&SF, you've gotten part of the story. But only part of it.

(And speaking of F&SF, I've got a new story coming there sometime fairly soon...)

Apr 3, 2012

Roundhouse at SPACE

An Experiment In Idea Exchange
Saturday, April 14th | Doors 7:00pm | Event 7:30pm | FREE

SPACE Gallery | 538 Congress St. | Portland, ME 04101 | 

Three writers from across the bridge talk about blood feuds, games, personality, plasticity, and play. Not your usual author talk. Three writers share their topics, look  for common threads, then open it to audience participation.
Alex Irvine has written maybe twenty books, as well as a couple of games, a number of comics and a whole bunch of articles. In previous lives he was a professor at the University of Maine and a staff writer for the Phoenix.
Science writer Hannah Holmesmost recent book is QUIRK, a study of personality in mouse and man. She contributes to National Geographic and other magazines, and blogs at
Writer Michael Erard's most recent book is Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners. He is a contributing writer for The Morning News and also blogs at Psychology Today.
Longfellow Books will have works by each of our writers available for purchase at the event.

Mar 22, 2012

A Little Gift from History

If you've ever tried to write historical fiction, you know how frustrating it can be when history stubbornly refuses to conform to the desired shape of your narrative. Faced with this problem, you can either bend history or bend your story. Usually you do a little bit of both, but I try to keep my historical pieces firmly grounded in existing history unless I've set out to do an alternate history from the beginning.

Thinking about this today because one of the things I'm working on is a novel among whose elements are HG Wells and the Partition of India. So imagine my glee when I discovered that Wells was cremated on the same day as the first large-scale (pre-)Partition riot: August 16, 1946.

I love it when a story comes together.

Mar 13, 2012

Mystery Hill, Free on the Kindle Store

Go get it!

Stuff on Comixology

I've been busy getting other people's stuff on Comixology, but here's a list of my stuff you can get there. (Still waiting to see Daredevil Noir and Hellstorm, Son of Satan: Equinox.)

Iron Man: Rapture, in which Tony Stark decides he's going to build himself a new heart...and then doesn't stop there. Covers by Tim Bradstreet, art by Lan Medina.

Dark Sun: Ianto's Tomb, in which a runaway gladiator and the slave hunter sent to find him team up for an exploration of the catacombs beneath the city of Tyr. Covers by Andy Brase, John Watson, Michael Stribling; art by Peter Bergting.

The Murder of King Tut, an adaptation of James Patterson's "nonfiction thriller." Recent developments in forensic science aside, it's a cool story of skullduggery in ancient Egypt. Covers by Darwyn Cooke, art by Chris Mitten and Ron Randall.

Mar 9, 2012

Mystery Hill for the Kindle

The Kindle Store experiment continues with the addition of my novella Mystery Hill. Here's a review from the Guardian to whet your appetite:
Everything about this novella is delightful: its breezy telling, the touching relationship between Ken and Fara, the deadpan humour, the casually fatalistic denouement. Wonderful.
How can you resist that?

Also, if you'd rather have the print version, here's the link to its catalog listing at PS Publishing.

Mar 8, 2012

A Cool Million

Avengers Alliance hit a million users on Monday, I hear. Salut to the dev team at Playdom! And cue all kinds of thrills on this end...a million people reading stuff I wrote. Agent Irvine is, of course, one of those million. He's Level 24 and kicking ass.

Each and every one of those (now more than a) million people is warmly encouraged to go read something else that Agent Irvine wrote. Set up some long Flight Deck missions and settle in with a good book or comic.

Here's to more millions!

Mar 7, 2012

Dream Curator & Others, Free in the Kindle Store

Today through Friday, get my collection The Dream Curator and Other Stories free in the Kindle Store. There's something for everyone in these eleven stories, which are all over the genre map: SF, fantasy, crime, sometimes more than one at the same time. Read and enjoy!

Also, I'm working a story that has cows in it, so Gordon Van Gelder sent me this video. You should watch it.

Mar 3, 2012

Theme Song for the Personhood Movement

Because it's Saturday night, and on Saturday nights one must either watch Withnail & I or consider the loony prescience of Monty Python. Today, provoked by a Facebook comment from Jennifer Stevenson, I choose the latter.

Mar 1, 2012

Making of Avengers Alliance Video

...part 1 of 4...

Variety on Avengers Alliance

Some interesting stuff here in this article by Marc Glaser. Note especially the bit about the storyline unfolding over "two or three years."

There's been nothing like this on Facebook so far. If you've just started playing it, you're in for a treat.

Send me some SHIELD points!

Feb 29, 2012

No Mo' Nomi

As you may have read in the announcement on the Star Wars Books Facebook page, my Nomi (and Vima) Sunrider book will not appear "due to changes in direction and concepts in the overall publishing plans."

Feb 27, 2012

Avengers Alliance Art

Check out these cityscapes from the game (there are more here). Evil lurks within...and you'll be able to fight it real, real soon.

New Stuff for the Kindle

Trying out this newfangled electronic publishing thing, I put together a Kindle-only collection called The Dream Curator and Other Stories. It contains the following stories, all of which are also available individually:

Read 'em! Review 'em! (And while you're at it, review all my other stuff on Amazon too!)

Over the course of this year I'm going to be developing some stuff exclusively for the Kindle store, just to see how it works. Until then, check these stories out. They were published in lots of different places with different readerships, so even if you've read some of them, I'm betting you haven't read them all.

Feb 6, 2012

An Avengers Alliance Wiki Is Born

And here's the link. Join up and generate some content!

In other Avengers-related news, I thought it was cool that the movie Hawkeye is left-handed. Southpaws assemble!

Feb 3, 2012

Read A Scattering of Jades for Free

It's been out of print for a while now, but I like this book a lot. It was my first try at writing a novel, and all things considered I think it turned out pretty well. I'd like more people to read it, so I PDFed it and I'm making it available to anyone who cares to click this link or the image at left.

If you're unfamiliar with A Scattering of Jades, it won the Locus, Crawford, and International Horror Guild first-novel awards when it came out in 2002. Here's the flap copy:

The great fire of 1835 burned most of New York City's wooden downtown. Like many people, Archie Prescott thought he had lost everything. His home was a smoldering ruin, his dead wife's body at his feet. And next to her is a child's corpse he assumes was his daughter. It seems like the end of everything.

But it is only the beginning.

Goaded into action by New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett, Archie runs afoul of one of P. T. Barnum's former sideshow workers, Riley Steen. With the help of an ancient book translated by Aaron Burr, Steen has resurrected a chacmool. This ageless Mesoamerican avatar plans to use the blood of Archie's still-living daughter to bring about the end of humanity.

At the same time, Stephen Bishop guides tourists through the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Stephen, a slave, wants nothing more than a world where the color of his skin doesn't deny his humanity. His fateful first meeting with the chacmool leads him to believe that the promise it offers may bring him to such a world.

In the midst of ancient magic and murderous conspiracies, Archie finds himself with the power to save the world or drown it in sacrificial blood . . . but first he has to stop mourning his daughter and undertake a grim cross-country journey to save her.

Read or download it here. (There's a Kindle edition too, but I've never seen a dime from it, so you might as well read for free!)

And if you like it, of course, there's One King and The Narrows and Buyout...

Feb 2, 2012

Review Copies of Mare Ultima

If you are a reviewer and/or blogger and want a PDF of my novella Mare Ultima, drop me a line at alexirvine at alexanderirvine dot net (or through FB, or Twitter, or however). The book comes out this month from PS Publishing.

Feb 1, 2012

Buyout in the World

Yesterday a friend (thanks, Johnny Rog!) alerted me to this story from Ohio, where last fall the state sold one of its prisons to a private operator and turned over the operations of two more prisons to private contractors. This, of course, is one of the processes in the backstory of my novel Buyout, and it's a weird feeling to write a novel set 30ish years in the future and then see some of its elements beginning to appear in the real world. Not that I can claim any particular prescience; I wrote the book wanting to explore the consequences of what I saw as troubling cultural trends toward relating justice and profit, as well as to figure out what I thought about capital punishment. Science fiction, as everyone knows, is lousy at actually predicting things in any sort of rigorous way.

Anyway, I thought this was Ohio story was of interest because of the way it fits together with other events I became aware of after writing Buyout, including:

Taken together, these stories make for a worrying trend, and all of them in one way or another fit right in with the imagined backstory of Buyout. (News of the kickback scheme in Pennsylvania, in fact, broke right around the time the book came out. The judge in question got 17 years.)

I've had an interest in prison-related issues for a long time, all the way back to when I was an undergrad researching recidivism for a criminology class. The seeds of Buyout started to germinate then, while I was touring Jackson Prison in Michigan with an assistant warden named Ernie, but it took 20 years for the book to come together...not least because I hadn't started to think of myself as a writer yet, and wouldn't for several years.

Now that I do think of myself that way, I would be remiss if I didn't suggest that you go read the book and see for yourself what you think...

Jan 31, 2012

Dear Newt Gingrich

Here are two children created through in-vitro fertilization. Their names are Emma and Ian. Are you going to look them in the eye and tell them it should have been harder for them to exist? Is this what you mean by pro-life?


Jan 30, 2012

Mare Ultima

My novella Mare Ultima is now listed on the PS Publishing web site. It started with the stories "Wizard's Six" and "Dragon's Teeth," both from F&SF, but even if you've read both of those, you don't have the whole story yet...

And while you're browsing the PS catalog, don't forget about Mystery Hill...not to mention all of the other great stuff there. (Including that Bag of Books sale!)

Cover illo by Ben Baldwin.

Jan 25, 2012

Captain Insano State Legislator Hall of Fame

Today, this guy made it on the CISL HoF ballot on his first try, introducing a bill to prevent the use of aborted fetuses in food or food additives.

Really. Read the story. Ralph Shortey, I salute your utter lunacy.

The CISL HoF does not yet exist, but with your help it will. Add your own loony state legislators in the comments. Please! In these dark times, we could all use the laugh. But only add true kooks. We must set the bar very high. 

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature

Those of you with any kind of scholarly interest in the literatures of the fantastic should grab this book as soon as possible. It's out next month, and as you can see from the TOC below, it's got a terrific lineup of essays. I can't wait to get my copies. My own contribution is on urban fantasy. Among other things, it's a quiet attempt to reclaim that term from its unfortunate diffusion to include every book with a tough woman in leather pants on the cover, but it's also an exploration of the relationship between ideas of the urban and ideas of the fantastic.

Here's the full listing on the Cambridge University Press web site. If you're an academic, encourage your library to order this book. Or get one yourself! This is the Amazon link, but of course you should buy local if you can.

Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn
Part I. Histories:
1. Fantasy from Dryden to Dunsany Gary K. Wolfe
2. Gothic and horror fiction Adam Roberts
3. American fantasy, 1820–1950 Paul Kincaid
4. The development of children's fantasy Maria Nikolajeva
5. Tolkien, Lewis, and the explosion of genre fantasy Edward James
Part II. Ways of Reading:
6. Structuralism Brian Attebery
7. Psychoanalysis Andrew M. Butler
8. Political readings Mark Bould and Sherryl Vint
9. Modernism and postmodernism Jim Casey
10. Thematic criticism Farah Mendlesohn
11. The languages of the fantastic Greer Gilman
12. Reading the fantasy series Kari Maund
13. Reading the slipstream Gregory Frost
Part III. Clusters:
14. Magical realism Sharon Sieber
15. Writers of colour Nnedi Okorafor
16. Quest fantasies W. A. Senior
17. Urban fantasy Alexander C. Irvine
18. Dark fantasy and paranormal romance Roz Kaveney
19. Modern children's fantasy Charlie Butler
20. Historical fantasy Veronica Schanoes
21. Fantasies of history and religion Graham Sleight

Jan 23, 2012

Talking Avengers Alliance with Mediabistro

Follow this link to an audio interview I did with Mediabistro's Jason Boog for their Morning Media Menu podcast feature. We talk Avengers Alliance, and speculate a little on what new spaces are emerging in the borders between social and RPG-style gaming. (There is much more to be said on that latter topic, by the way. It's a pretty exciting time to be looking at the evolution of gaming.)

The interview is excerpted here, along with links to the Alliance trailer and a recent GalleyCat story on video-game writing.

Jan 22, 2012

An Open Letter to the Fathers of Cub Scouts

Yesterday I got up at 3:45am and drove from Maine down to Massachusetts for the fifth and final Pinewood Derby of my older son Ian's Cub Scout career. I have been saving these sentiments up since Ian's first Derby, and this last one--combined with the irritation of having to drive back through a snowstorm--really set me off.

Here's why. There were three cars in Ian's Webelos heats at yesterday's Pinewood Derby that looked like they had come out of a concept lab at GM (or, more accurately representing their style, Ferrari). It was absolutely clear to everyone in the school cafeteria where the race was taking place that the kids whose names were on those cars had hardly ever touched them. I'm not talking about cases where the kid and dad collaborated; more about that in a minute. I'm talking about cars clearly shaped (and shaped perfectly) using saws that no 10-year-old kid in the developed world is allowed to use. I'm talking about millimeter-perfect engineering in all kinds of shapes that 10-year-olds can often envision but rarely create so symmetrically. I'm talking about paint jobs that looked like they came out of a professional garage.

Now, I am aware that the experience of building a Pinewood Derby car is shared. This year, for example, my dad and Ian roughed out the shape of his car. Ian sanded it for days and painted it. He and I glued on weights and made sure the wheels were even. Ian lubricated the wheels. My wife painted the flourishes on the car and gave it the personality Ian wanted. This all happened over the course of a month or so. Then, yesterday morning, Ian got the car to weight by prying off some of the little lead pieces we'd glued to the bottom. Before weighing it in, he ran off to show his car to his friends. It was a cool-looking car, deep red, with the legend The Mad Monster across the top and cartoony bared teeth painted across its conical front.

But when the races started, there was never any doubt who was going to win.


It was ever thus, or words to that effect, said a friend of mine when I was ranting at him about this last night. Maybe so. But I've got a real problem with it, and the Cub Scouts need to do something.


That's the Cub Scout motto, right? Not






No. The motto is DO YOUR BEST.

I mean, yesterday I saw a father repeatedly pushing his son away while he worked on the son's car.


Those three cars I mentioned finished 1-2-3 in their division, well ahead of the rest. Ian's car won one heat, finished last in his other three heats, and didn't make the next round. Sour grapes? No. Twice in five years, Ian's car went on to the elimination rounds. We've done all right before, and I'm proud of how he learned a bit more each year about how to put the car together.

You know what else I'm proud of? That I can honestly look at each of those cars, from Green Lightning to Mad Monster, and say that he made them and he did his best.

And that's what brings me to the open-letter part of this screed:

Fathers of Cub Scouts.

When you bring a car to the Pinewood Derby and it's obvious that you made it with only minimal input from your son, the basic unfairness is reprehensible, but that's not even the worst of it. The worst of it is the message your actions transmit to your kids and everyone else in the pack.

You are teaching your son that it's okay to take credit for things he didn't do, and you are teaching my son that his honest effort will always be trumped by the people who are willing to cheat. And on top of that, you are teaching every kid there that the whole Cub Scout motto is, like so many other mottos adults teach to children, lip service to an ideal that adults don't really believe in. You might as well hold up two fingers and cross the fingers of your other hand behind your back.

The Pinewood Derby isn't about you, dads. It's about your sons and their fellow Scouts. It's about them doing their best, not you making sure they win. My son deserves better, and so does yours.

Cut it out. Give the Pinewood Derby back.


A Proud and Angry Father of a Son Who Did His Best

Jan 19, 2012

Etymological Musing on Poe's 203rd Birthday

As a critic in the 1830s, Edgar Allan Poe was referred to as the Tomahawk Man. I got curious about this and looked up the origins of the phrase "hatchet job." Turns out (he said, after an entire three minutes of research) that "hatchet man," as someone who does unpleasant tasks, dates (probably) from the mid-18th century, but "hatchet job" as a harsh attack on someone doesn't become common until (probably) after the Civil War. So, one wonders if Poe's nickname played a role in the development of that phrase from one meaning to another. If so, that's one more originary role for the guy who gave us the detective story. Dale Peck and all other critics who take pride in the sharpness of their literary invective should now claim Poe as a literary ancestor, if they haven't already.

Jan 15, 2012

Avengers Alliance News Aggregate

Here, for your delectation, is a delicious stack of articles about Marvel: Avengers Alliance...

...also, I'll be glad to not hear about Tim Tebow for a while. Maybe one of these days he'll be a good quarterback. Tonight's despair along the Front Range might be hard to take, but Broncos fans should always remember to blame Pat Bowlen. Just for the "predominantly orange" remark if nothing else.

...also also, I wish the Tigers would sign Matt Garza.

Jan 9, 2012

Marvel: Avengers Alliance Trailer






Marvel: Avengers Alliance

A quick note bringing some (to me) exciting news: this USA Today article announces Marvel: Avengers Alliance, the game I've been writing for the last year or so. If you like social games, you're going to love this one. And if you like Marvel, you'll dig the story. It's a much richer storyline than most social games have, and it's going to tie into some other as-yet-unannounced projects down the road...

Jan 5, 2012

Coming in 2012 (So Far)

Because a goalkeeper scored in the Premier League this week, it must be time for a blog post. (See what I did there?) So, forthwith:


An awesome project I still can't talk about even though it's about to happen.


Two books this month. One will be my first Star Wars novel, which is about Nomi and Vima Sunrider. No title yet, but there should be soon (after some--ahem--false starts).

The other will be my first ebook original, a Dungeons & Dragons book called Demon Weave. You like the drow? You'll like this book.


My novella Mare Ultima will arrive at some point this year too, from PS Publishing. If you read either of the F&SF novelettes "Wizard's Six" and "Dragon's Teeth," you'll know part of this story. But if you want all of Paulus' story, this is where you'll find it.

That makes three books and some nebulous awesomeness, plus other things I didn't mention because I'm not done with them yet and I don't know when they're coming out. And it's only January 5th. Who knows what else will happen? I will try to post more often than EPL keepers score from here on out.

And here's the video, because you really should see it: