Hello! Remember me? No? Oh...
This is a long one - skip to the end if you're just here for the photos of Bruce.
If you’re confused why you’re getting this email: you signed up for it, possibly a long while ago, back in the distant past of 2019 when I was updating it regularly. I was going to keep doing so, and then…
By the end of 2019 I had just come off the back of 5 years working on WicDiv. I was exhausted, physically and mentally, in physiotherapy to work on the damage I’d done by working long hours with hypermobility. I figured I could take a few months to recover before really knuckling down to get to work on The Killing Horizon. I started to do so as 2020 rolled round, doing a lot of research, making notes, plotting, some sketches… but I certainly wasn’t working full time on it. That’s OK, I thought, I still need a little time to get over the burnout (and I really WAS burned out).
Around that time I was reading the experiences of a friend with ADHD, and some of it seemed quite familiar. But I wasn’t hyper, I wasn’t the kind of kid to get in trouble at school, and I didn’t fit a lot of the stereotypes of the condition. So, back to how I usually thought about myself - I guess I just suck at things I should find easy as an adult, and that’s the way I am.
Then I read this: A new life: being diagnosed with ADHD in my 40s has given me something quite magical. And holy shit. It was like I was reading an article I had somehow written myself and then forgotten about it. I read some more, realised that ADHD can present in different ways for different people, and I very clearly fit the bill. I made an appointment with my doctor, armed with checklists I had found online (a self-reporting questionnaire filled out by me, and a partner one filled out by Katie). She had me fill out another, and the next day called to confirm that I very likely do have ADHD. But she had bad news - mental health services are severely underfunded in the UK, and the waiting list to see a specialist who could assess and help me was over a year. Alright, I thought, I’ll just keep trying to work as best I can until then.
And then, the pandemic happened. Like many of you, I’ve lost people I loved. I’ve seen friends struck down for months with Long Covid. I’ve desperately missed the physical presence of friends and family. But, I reasoned, my day to day life hasn’t changed that much. I was working from home before. So why couldn’t I do anything? Now, I don’t think anyone will look at 2020 as a banner year for productivity. The constant, low-level anxiety infects everything. But I knew my ADHD was making it worse, and with no end to the pandemic in sight, I booked an appointment with a private ADHD specialist towards the end of the year. I couldn’t really afford it (and I’m aware I’m lucky enough to qualify that statement with a “really”), but I realised I would be losing more income by not doing anything.
With the diagnosis, my psychiatrist also explained ADHD brains only really convert thinking into doing through dopamine (“I really like doing this thing”) or stress. If it’s not sufficiently exciting or stressful, we just can’t get things done. Add to that the working memory problems, time blindness, impulsivity and rejection sensitivity dysphoria, and my whole life came crashing into focus. It’s an intense mix of emotions - relief and joy at knowing the reason for all these things I couldn’t explain about myself (I’m not lazy! I’m not a fuck-up! I’m not a terrible person for forgetting or not listening!) mixed with grief over a life I could have led if I had been diagnosed earlier.
So where am I at now? A diagnosis is not a magic fix - I’ve started medication, but the dosage has to be increased slowly to make sure it doesn’t affect me adversely, and it’s not at a level where it’s really working for me yet. I’ve begun to create the structure I need to function, which is starting to pay off. And there’s 40 years of beliefs about myself I have to undo. That shit is hard.
This is all a longwinded way of saying, hey, that’s why I’ve been quiet here, and that’s why I am very behind on everything. I’ve drawn, I think, 5 covers this year, and did the above costume design for the Spider-Man game on PS4 and PS5, and that’s maybe it. I’m behind on The Killing Horizon, I’m behind on commissions, I’m behind on other work. But now I know why, and now I can do something about it. My whole career so far has been working at the last minute, because the stress of deadlines and the threat of people being disappointed in me was the only way I could produce, and friends, let me tell you - that is no way to live. I’m going into 2021 with better purpose, understanding and mental health, and I’m excited. Please bear with me - I think it’ll be worth the wait.
In the meantime, I think this Alien variant cover for Captain Marvel is out this month as part of their linewide program. Alien is my favourite film, so I was delighted to be asked to work on this. Colours by Matt Wilson, as usual!
I’ve got a few more variants in the works that I’ll let you know about as soon as I can. Otherwise, work continues on TKH - it’s much stronger now as a result of my 2020, so in a way I am glad I’m behind where I intended to be on it. I’m drawing again - working on a short story that will be announced soon, and tackling commissions.
I didn’t listen to a lot of new music this year - our digital radio broke at the start of the year, and we didn’t replace it until recently, and I just didn’t have the capacity to make time to seek out new stuff. But my favourite album of 2020 was Petals for Armor by Hayley Williams, with single Cinnamon being one of the many standout tracks. It’s everything I would want and expect from an album by Williams, but more. Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? is second - a 70s/80s flavoured album of wall to wall dance classics.
I read some great new fiction in 2020. The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is about someone who works for a corporation that has mastered dimensional travel and employs people to jump between worlds to gain information they can use to grow their power. The twist: if you jump into a world where a version of you is alive, you’ll be severely injured and probably die. So the company employs people who come from poor, high risk backgrounds so the chances of that happening are low. It’s full of twists and action, but doesn’t let that get in the way of the things it has to say about privilege, poverty, class and relationships.
Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather is a novella about an order of nuns who traverse a star system in a living, snail-like spaceship. Sure, why not. Great stuff, with a lot of layers for something so short.
Aliette de Bodard returns to her Vietnamese-culture-inspired space opera Xuya universe with Seven of Infinities. I highly recommend any of the Xuya stories, with this being no exception. The Tea Master and the Detective is a favourite, if you haven’t read it yet - it’s Holmes and Watson, but Watson is a sentient spaceship.
Paradise Killer is a tremendous little game on Switch and PC. You play Lady Love Dies, released from her exile after three million days to find the killer of the rulers of the 24th attempt at Paradise. An open world investigative game where the bizarre backstory is revealed bit by bit as you make your way around the island, finding clues and interviewing suspects. A+++ visuals and soundtrack, too.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on PS4 is half visual novel, half tower defence game, where 13 lead characters(!) across various time periods struggle to figure out how they are all connected and why they sometimes wake up inside giant robots at the end of the world. Genuinely great at making you care about so many leads, and the way the story is played out through their experiences is top notch. At first it might seem like it’s pastiching or referencing a bit too much, but the game makes it apparent what it’s really doing before the end.
I hope you are doing as well as you can be, wherever you are. I’ll see you back here soon with more news about comics and all that.