Book launch, audiobook news and more

Hey all, here’s a quick rundown of When the Sparrow Falls news and events for the rest of the month (honestly, this is as much a reminder for me as it is for you):

New Review

Dan Smith over at FanFIaddict gave Sparrow a very kind 10/10 review and you can read it HERE.

Audiobook News!

If, like me, you do most of your reading with your ears while doing the dishes that never stop coming no matter how many you wash, When the Sparrow Falls will be getting an audiobook read by Jake Fairbrother and produced by Penguin Audio.

23rd June: Read the Room

I’ll be taking part in a virtual panel for Tom Doherty Associates at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 23rd.

Moderated by Ada Palmer (Perhaps the Stars), Django Wexler (Hard Reboot), Bethany C. Morrow (A Chorus Rises) Aggie Blum Thompson (I Don’t Forgive You) and myself will be discussing Surfing’ the Web: Techno-Summer Reads.

It should be a fun time and you can join in HERE.

27th June: Wrath of the Iotians Podcast Interview

I had a great chat with Ron and Jake over at the Wrath of the Iotians sci-fi podcast and that will be going up 27th June. In the meantime, you can check out the rest of their stuff HERE.

29th June: BOOK LAUNCH!

Fountain Bookstore in Virginia have very graciously agreed to host the online virtual launch of When the Sparrow Falls! Join me at 6pm Eastern Time as my 300 page baby finally takes its first steps into the real world. Admission is free and you can book your tickets HERE.

Felix the Cat (1988)

Here we go again. Every so often I’ll have a moment where I’ll go “Have I really been blogging about animation for X number of years without covering Y?” and this one’s a doozy.

So, ahem.

Have I really been blogging about animation for nine years without covering Felix the Cat? Because Felix the Cat is a pretty damn big deal in the history of animation.

Not the first cartoon character, but the first cartoon star, the first cartoon character able to draw a crowd on name recognition alone. The character was created in 1919 by Australian animator Pat Sullivan.

Or, as is now accepted by a majority of animation historians, by one of Sullivan’s animators Otto Messmer.

Honestly, researching this post taught me that Pat Sullivan was what people think Walt Disney was; a talentless credit-stealer and a nasty racist to boot. Anyway. Sullivan’s studio produced a rake of silent Felix shorts in the late teens and throughout the twenties and Felix was, for a time, a full on pop culture phenomenon. And you know what? With good cause. While simple, these shorts have a real charm and wit and I honestly think they hold up a lot better than a lot of later cartoons by Disney and Warner Bros from the early talkie era.

These shorts were also hugely influential on the field of animation in general, with the basic precepts of Felix’s design going on to influence American and Japanese animation right up to the present day, setting the template for characters as diverse as Mickey Mouse and Sonic the Hedgehog. And some people didn’t even bother with being “influenced” and just straight up fucking stole it.

Pictured: Julius the Cat, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks’ TOTALLY ORIGINAL CHARACTER.

But, by the end of the twenties a sinister new threat had emerged to challenge Felix’s place as the world’s preminent cartoon character: SYNCHRONISED SOUND.

Hear my dark melody, Cat. I whistle your doom.

Sullivan resisted the switch to sound for as long as he could, but eventually caved and started producing sound Felix cartoons. Unfortunately, these cartoons did not use synchronised sound and instead were pre-animated with music, dialogue and sound effects being added in post-production, which results in what animation aficionados call “really crap cartoons”. The new series of sound Felix cartoons were cancelled, the studio shuttered and Pat Sullivan spiralled into an alcoholic depression brought on by the death of his wife and died in his forties Jesus Christ that got so bad so fast.

A brief, utterly Disnified run of cartoons by Van Beuren studios in the thirties notwithstanding, Felix was seemingly a defunct property. Having failed to transition to the sound era, Felix disappeared from public view, presumably to a rambling mansion on Sunset Boulevard where he could brood and slip into obsession and madness.

“I know you! You’re Felix the Cat! You used to be big!”
“I am big. It’s the cartoons that got small.”

Fast forward to the 1950s and Joe Oriolo, an animator and artist who’d worked with Otto Messmer on the Felix the Cat comic strip, created the Felix the Cat TV Show. This show was arguably the most influential and famous iteration of the character, introducing a host of concepts and characters that are now inextricably linked to Felix like the magic bag, the Professor and Poindexter. And if you love this cartoon…you do you. Personally I can’t stand it but then I’m pretty non-plussed by mid-century American TV animation as a general rule. But yeah, this series gave Felix his second bite of the super-stardom pie and also launched him to Spinal Tap levels of popularity in Japan.

So why did it take so long for Felix to make the leap to feature length animation? Well Pat Sullivan’s death had left Felix in legal limbo but Joe Oriolo was finally able to get full ownership of the character in 1970, probably because Joe Oriolo was an absolute snack.

“Hey doll, how about you give me the rights to YOUR pussycat?”

Oriolo pére passed away in 1985 but his son Don carried on the Felix legacy, finally bringing a full length Felix the Cat animated feature to movie screen in 1988.

Sorry, sorry, my mistake. The movie was completed in 1988 (using Hungarian animation) but only released in the United States in 1991. Very briefly. Before going straight to video.

Oh, and, fun bit of trivia. Researching for this post I first came across the phrase “abandoned movie”. Felix the Cat has been “abandoned” in the United States. What this means is that Felix the Cat DVDs are no longer sold in America. If you’re in America and you want a DVD of this movie you either have to buy it from overseas or get one of the original run of discs from the nineties which will cost you an arm and a leg.

And I know what you’re thinking!: “Mouse, this film that was animated in a second world totalitarian Communist state whose release was delayed by two years before getting a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical run and then being consigned to home video hell before being full on abandoned at the side of the road in the new millenium sounds like a really good movie!”

Which is what I love about you, reader. Your unflagging optimism. But I’m afraid I have to crush your hopes with the greatest violence possible. How bad is this movie?

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Conventional Wisdom

I tell ya, by the end of this month I’ll be like Johnny Depp in the Pirates Movies, everywhere and beloved by all.

Tor are holding their annual TorCon convention next week and I’ll be taking part in the Chaotic Storytelling panel with Christopher Buehlman, JS Dewes, Andrea Hairston, Jenn Lyons and Drew Broussard where we will try to improvise a new science fiction story on the fly.

Check out the guide to the Con HERE where you can sign up to this event and many others featuring some of the greatest Science Fiction/Fantasy authors currently working.

The Quill to Live Review

Huge thanks to the good people at The Quill to Live for an absolute beauty of a review for When the Sparrow Falls:

When the Sparrow Falls, by Neil Sharpson, is a great novel. The writing is excellent, the plot is thrilling, it’s extremely emotional, the characters are great, and the themes provide smart and insightful commentary on our current political landscape. It does all of this in a relatively small package of about 300 pages. It is probably the best thing I have read this year so far and it is a shoo-in for our best-of list at the end of the year.”

Didn’t even have to pay them or nuffin’!

Read the Room

Hi all! I’ll be taking part in a virtual panel for Tom Doherty Associates at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 23rd.

Moderated by Ada Palmer (Perhaps the Stars), Django Wexler (Hard Reboot), Bethany C. Morrow (A Chorus Rises) Aggie Blum Thompson (I Don’t Forgive You) and myself will be discussing Surfing’ the Web: Techno-Summer Reads.

It should be a fun time and you can join in HERE.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the phrase “Techno Summer” has given me a craving that can only be satisfied with some 2 Unlimited.

Peace out.

Mouse.

F*ck it, I’m doing all the animé.

Ah animé, my manic-depressive, intermittently abusive spouse of an art form. When you are good, you are very, very good. When you are bad, you are horrid. And when you are weird…well, you’re never not weird so that’s an exercise in redundancy.

Here in the Mouse House animé has actually been having a bit of a moment. Ms Mouse has been binging the Ace Attorney animé as an accompaniment to re-visiting the games on Switch, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Cells at Work. That said, and despite having reviewed well over a dozen animé movies and TV shows by this point, I wouldn’t call myself an animé fan (much, much less an authority). Partly that’s because there’s just so damn much of it, and I find it impossible to have a single unified opinion on all of it. It’s like saying “I like food”. Some food is awesome. Some food is made by force-feeding geese. I don’t feel comfortable offering a blanket endorsement.

Oh but hey, do you know who does love animé? You beautiful people. In fact, I got so many requests for specific episodes of various animé shows that I’ve decided to just blitz them all in one post and actually make some progress on that damned list that haunts my every waking moment like Banquo’s ghost.

“Mouse, Moooouse, you said you’d review the Xena and Hercules cartoon all the way back in 2017!”
“Do not shake thy gorey locks at me! It’s not streaming anywhere and it’s $100 on Ebay! FOR A VHS!!”

So these are going to be light, snacky little reviews. I’m not doing any in depth research, I am going in cold, watching these episodes, and telling you if liked them or if I did not, in fact, like them. I’m not going to be doing in depth analysis. I’m not going to be giving you background on their creation. None of that, no sir. In and out and over with in a few minutes which is the most satisfying way to do anything, I have been assured.

Internet reviewing like Momma used to blog. Let’s do this. Garcon? Could you please bring out the appetiser?

“At once monsieur.”

Flip Flappers: Episode 6- Pure Play

Ahem? Garcon?

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Watch me do the Instagram

We are 13 hours and counting away from when those mad fools at Tor actually give me control of their Instagram feed despite the fact that I still think MySpace is pretty fetch.

I’ll be in conversation with celebrated sci-fi author Max Gladstone, we will be going live at 7 pm and it will be an absolute car-crash.

You should so... totally... come. - GIF on Imgur

The link is here and I would love to see as many of you lovely folks there as can make it.