When I Grow Up…



Goody, we’re doing this again.

An article by Jonathan Myerson (from City University’s creative writing program) has popped up on the Guardian comment blog to proclaim that ‘Children’s fiction is not Great Literature’, and to castigate the University of Kent for retracting the statement on their website saying the same.

Okay, so I’m pretty dumb, I put the remote control in the fridge about 3 times a week, but I’m not so dumb that I don’t know when I’m being baited. I’m like Roger Rabbit listening to ‘shave and a haircut’ being tapped out on the radiator next to my secret compartment, it’s just so *hard* not burst forth and fill in my bit of the song.

Still, rather than dwelling on the manifold and manifest aspects of the article’s wrongheadedness, I want to ask a question: why do we get pieces like this so eye-bleedingly often?

The more I think about this, the more I’m convinced it’s not because the people who write this stuff lack respect for kid’s literature, it’s because they lack respect for kids. Not that they don’t like kids, you understand, they just fundamentally underestimate what it takes to be one. Even the ways in which they cede ground to children’s writing are veiled digs at its readership: ‘ the best children’s books are better structured and written than many adult works’, Myerson admits. Am I crazy, or is he implying that they have to be, because otherwise the fickle infants will get bored and switch to Angry Birds?

Charitably, we might characterize their argument like this: kids are still growing, they’ve only been around for a handful of years, they don’t have the experience, either as readers or human beings, to fully grasp the things adults can. As Myerson puts it, he would not have wanted his own children ‘at 11, 12 or 13 – to confront the complexity and banality of evil’.

On the surface, this looks reasonable, because after all, kids are still growing. But look at it another way, kids are still growing. They’re learning more and faster than adults do, and what they think and who they are is changing at a terrifying rate. Stories speak to who we are, and kids writers have to find a way to be relevant to identities that are constantly in flux. It’s like trying to crack a safe that’s constantly spinning its own tumblers.

And maybe eleven and twelve and thirteen year olds are ready to learn about the complexity and banality of evil, and maybe they aren’t. But here’s the thing, evil is just going to keep being complex and banal, whether they’re ready for it or not, and kids are going to see that evil on the news and in the playground, and if they’re unlucky they’ll see it in their own damn homes. Great children’s stories, the kind written by Ness and Hardinge and Peet, don’t try and hide that from their readers, they just offer to hold their hands while they face it, and let them know they aren’t alone.

The irony is that there’s a children’s series that’s explicitly about all this: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. (It’s also a series where questions of good and evil, freedom and safety and control are far from black and white.)

What Pullman and all the best writers of children’s literature know, is that kids aren’t just adults in training, they aren’t waiting to become people when they grow up, they’re people right now.

Won’t somebody please think of the children…

So there’s another ‘won’t somebody please think of the children’ blog up, this time at The Millions. It’s, at minimum, the tenth I’ve seen this year, all based on the same premise: YA fiction is too dark, it’s morally bankrupt, it’s vacuous, it’s harmful to it’s readers, especially the teenaged girls who consume it in their millions. Oh for the halcyon days when romantic fiction portrayed a more positive message about teens, like… Romeo and Juliet.

Oh wait.

The sacred bovinity of old Bill Shakespeare’s double-suicide blockbuster notwithstanding, what these pieces have in common, is their apparent lack of interest in what the readers who love Twilight and The Hunger Games see in those books. In her piece, Ms Mallonee acknowledges that Katniss Everdeen and Bella Swan are influential, and loved by millions, but at no point in more than 3,000 words does she stop to ask why? Which is kinda weird, since her piece seems to be all about how dangerous these books are, you’d have thought that question would be pretty key to her endeavour.

Instead she asks David Levithan, and a some film critics and a bunch of reviewers, all of whom I’d guess are over twenty-five, and none of whom have anything nice to say about Bella Swan. Personally, I can’t say I blame them, I’m not wild about Twilight either. But Twilight isn’t for me. I daresay it’s not for Ms Mallonee either, but if she wanted to know what the people who it is for love about it, there are about a hundred and fifty million of them she could have put the question to.

It’s hard not to believe that the reason she, and everyone else I’ve seen make this argument over the last few months, don’t ask is simply that they don’t care. They’ve made up their minds. They don’t think there are any valid reasons to love these books. Stripped of the sermonizing concern, their argument boils down to: I don’t like Bella Swan, so any reasons you might have to like her must be wrong.

This looks like a statement about the books, but really it’s a statement about their readers. They don’t believe teens (and teen girls in particular) are capable of having an informed and engaged opinion about the books they love, purely because that opinion is one with which they disagree. And that’s nonsense.

Over and over, the article frames the value of teen books in terms of what they can teach us:

“Fantasies can be valuable testaments to the power of literature, allowing readers to work out real-world problems in a metaphorical context and encouraging creativity, courage, and self-sacrifice.”

I’m not convinced that this is the only value to be found in stories – Frances Hardinge says “Books are there, when no one else is”, which I think is a beautiful way of putting it – but its certainly true books can teach us things, things that are worth learning, and things that aren’t.

Who gets to decide which lessons go into which box, though, is a tricky question.

People need to learn, whether they’re sixteen or sixty. It’s axiomatic: living things grow, and conscious living things grow mentally and mental growth is learning, and stories help us do that. Not just for teenagers, all of us. And maybe you think there are some troubling lessons in some of the books we love. Maybe you’re even right, I mean have you read The Lord of the Rings recently?

But have at least enough empathy and respect to ask the opinion of the people you’re trying to save from themselves. You might find that the teenaged girls you’re talking too know all about those problems already, and love Twilight in spite of them. You might find that these girls are smart, articulate, engaged people. You might even find their reasons persuade you. Who knows until you ask?









When I was nine, I had a chest of drawers in my room. It was a massive squat thing,  missing handles on three of its four drawers, the white paint had peeled off in big piebald patches, and the front right leg had sheared away so that it so that tilted forward, bowing to you with a kind of rickety courtesy.

My Dad had dragged it out of an attic somewhere and had been going to smash it up for fire wood, but I insisted I wanted it instead. I think he only let me keep it because it was the sole object in the known universe that could get me to put my clothes away.

My parents urged me to let them get rid of it. It was ugly and termite-chewed and it gave off a faint smell of damp loam that soaked into my socks. My Mum and Dad kept offering to buy me a new chest of drawers, but I wouldn’t let them, because this one was mine in a way a new one could never be.  I had claimed it. I was a kid, and I had no money and no power, the only things I could really possess were the things no one else valued, so I determined to build my kingdom from them.

By virtue of no one else wanting it, the old chest of drawers had passed out of their world, and into mine. It was subject to my imagination.

My fantasy for the chest was straightforward. I wanted to be kind to it, to treat it with the dignity befitting it’s former majesty. I brought my Thundercats t-shirts to it like bearing tribute to an old king, fallen on hard times, huddled around a trash-can fire under Southwark Bridge.

I wish I could remember what had happened to that chest of drawers, but it has passed out of even my world now. Maybe it went to a dump, and maybe some other kid salvaged it from that place and gave it a few more weeks of love and reverence. Most likely my Dad did it into firewood in the end.  But even if that chest of drawers is no longer subject to me, I’m still subject to it, because I’m still doing what it taught me.

I write a lot about discarded things. My fancies for them now are a little more elaborate: empty eggshell eyes and broken mirror doorways, landfill palaces and demolition-site killing fields, but at heart it’s the same thing. I just make a little space in my world for the furniture no one else wants in theirs: patch up its paintwork and stick a book under it’s broken leg, and then bring it tribute for a while.

Brie, Banquets and Badass Sex.

Tis the season to titter prudishly, as with the repetitive tediousness of an absent minded cock slapping, the bad sex award shortlist has come round again. I usually ignore the BS award, as I would urge you to – nothing is more worthy of your inattention. This year, however, one of the books on the shortlist surprised me:











The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood.

Why was I surprised? Because Jonathan Grimwood is the all-but-impenetrable secret identity of Jon Courtenay Grimwood – cyber-noir writer extraordinaire.

Full disclosure, I’m a big JCG fan, and some of the sex scenes in his earlier books are hotter than the volcanic core of a fresh-out-of-the-toaster poptart. He excels at writing about the pleasures (and pains) of the flesh, so when I saw his name on the list, I thought ‘JCG, what on earth went wrong?’

Well, reader, I read The Last Banquet, and guess what: nothing went wrong. The sex is fantastic.

The BS award website quotes the following short extract for our dairy delectation:

“Reaching behind me, I found the Brie and broke off a fragment, sucking her nipple through it. She tasted almost as she had the day I took the drop of milk on my finger.”

See? Fantastic.

I say that not because I’m overly turned on by the thought of sucking a nipple through a fragment of brie (though if you do happen to be a pappilactophile, more power to your cheese-covered arm), but because the sex scenes in TLB, and there are many, are some of the best in-character writing I’ve read this year.

A couple of days back I asked Twitter to recommend good sex writing. I got a wild variety of responses, including a lot of fanfic, and several shout-outs to Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts. In addition, a good few people asked:

‘Isn’t what would count for you as good sex writing, too personal for us to judge?’

Well… yes and no.

If my unimpeachably scientific experiment with social media proves anything, it’s that what tickles the naughty centres in our brains is deeply personal* and subjective. Hardly an earth-shaking conclusion, I know. Except that if this is true for real people, it’s just as true for characters, which makes a sex scene one of the most telling things you can write to delineate and illuminate the people in your story.

That’s where TLB excels. Protagonist Jean-Marie D’Aumout’s bedroom antics are simultaneously analytical and joyous. He’s a scientist who loves to get his hands dirty. His natural taxonomic eye (and tongue) don’t distance him from the world, they bring him closer, and always, always everything comes back to his one true obsession: taste.

Grimwood gives you all that, from one two-line sex scene. Plus he works in the phrase ‘a secret known only to him, and to the chief condom-maker to the Ottoman Sultan.’ And if that’s not a phrase to conjure with, then you can just go ahead and paddle me, because I don’t know what to say to you.

And that’s why, for all that teh hawtness is subjective and personal (like all art), there is such a thing as good sex writing that we can recognize and recommend. The point of it though, isn’t necessarily to turn you on, but to tell the story, to let you get to know the characters in their most intimate space. That’s why reading a sex scene out of context will tell you pretty much nothing, and also why the Bad Sex award is full of B.S.

P.S To anyone about to tell me not to take the BSA so seriously, let me assure you that there is nothing on our lovely verdant planet I take less seriously than the Bad Sex Award. For all that, I think it’s become a form of mild censure via embarrassment that’s at best pointless and at worst slightly unhelpful. Exponentially more importantly though, I wanted to say ‘chief condom-maker to the Ottoman Sultan.’




The latest email from the WFC organizers includes the following:

World Fantasy Convention 2013 also does not operate on a gender “quota” or “parity” system for programming. Instead, our aim has been to match the best people available to us to the most appropriate panel topics, thereby creating an informed and enlightening discussion for your entertainment.”

I’m not having a pop at the people running WFC. Some of them are my friends, and they’re all doing a very difficult job that I personally wouldn’t touch with a tractor beam, and yet am very glad is being done. They’re doing it for no money, and they’re doing it mostly very well. I will buy them a pint in Brighton.

Still, their email contains a false opposition, and it’s not the only place I’ve heard it. So here’s my two cents:

There is no trade off between gender parity and ‘having the best people’. It’s not one or the other. The point of having a parity policy is in service of getting the best people on the most appropriate panel topics.

This is mostly because the ways in which people build profile in the industry, including reviews, awards nomination and previous convention panels, systematically over represent dudes. This in turn would lead you to believe that the ‘best person’ is a dude, far more often than the best person is actually a dude.

Parity is supposed to encourage programmers to dig a little deeper into who ‘the best person’ is, as much as it help address the bias in the first place.

The parity policy which I signed up for last year is this: If I get asked to be on a panel at a convention with more than 50% blokes* I’ll try to help the con runners find someone who was not a bloke who is ‘as, or more qualified than me.’ This would never lead to a panel that was less informed or enlightening than that initially planned.

Repeat after me, in Darth Vader voice: There is. No. Conflict. No trade off. No quality sacrificed.

Also, this policy doesn’t ask con-runners to do anything other than to let me step aside and help them look for someone else. Rather, the responsibility is pitched wider, at the participant. Personally, I think this a feature rather than a bug, since when you’re dealing with any systematic societal problem, it’s good to have as many people as possible acting to deal with it.

(Aside: this is one reason why I don’t think merely aiming at parity across the whole convention, rather than panel by panel, works. Convention-wide programming isn’t something most people can influence, so it lets us shrug and bounce responsibility back onto the con-runners. Another bigger reason is that it tends to lead to what my wife calls ‘Women in genre, aren’t they weird?’ panels. For more on this: Jess Haines.)

I know there’s a lot of points of view on this. A lot of people I respect disagree with me. I don’t expect everyone to immediately take a parity pledge. I don’t expect every convention to have one (although Nine Worlds recently showed you can have an ace con if you do). But actively trying for better representation on panels doesn’t have to come at a cost of them being ‘informing’ or ‘enlightening’, and we should stop pretending it does.

*With an even number of panellists, not counting moderators. Two out of three, or three out of five is ok.

UPDATE – Foz Meadows has crunched the numbers and found the following:

“Of 306 panellists (not individuals): 197M, 109F. 295 white (190M, 105F), and just 11 POC (7 MOC, 4 WOC).”

Taken with the email above, this suggests that the WFC organizers believe that ‘the best person’ out of those attending, is about twice as likely to be a man as a woman for any given panel topic, and around 30 times as likely to be white. I wonder if they’d make of that.


Drive-by Worldbuilding: Estrangement and Orthogonality

And yes, I did make one of those words up.

I was chatting to a friend last night and it got me thinking about estrangement.*

So, estrangement: if you read or write any kind of urban fantasy, the odds are this is a business you’re in – bringing oddness to the everyday, making your hometown feel vast and cool and unsympathetic, making it so to speak, feel like there’s something strange in the neighbourhood. Vampires in the attic, Garuda behind the till at Sainsbury’s, magic on the 137 bus, whatever you fancy. The Germans call it unheimlich -  ‘unhomeliness’, because they’re really good at naming things.

What’s currently baking my noodle is how this works in the context of a series. Because while your Vampire/ghast/scaffwolf/Mushroomkraken might have been super weird and freaky in the first book, before you can blink the reader’s subconscious will have processed it, packaged it, chewed and swallowed it, and be like: ‘Ok so you gave me like, a giant crane-fingered demolition god, but what have you done for me lately ?’

kraken small



Of course, a lot fantasy writers make a virtue out of this. Think Harry Potter. The world becomes internally consistent, known and comfortable, but still awesome, right? And it reveals itself a little bit more at a time, and it becomes a really lovely place to spend some time, sink a few more butterbeers than is probably good for you and wind up drunk and in charge of a broomstick.

Fine. Splendid, but what if that’s not the game you’re in? What if you still crave the jolt of weird electricity you got when you read or wrote the first one? What can you do?

A couple of tactics spring to mind – first, in a technique technically known as MOARNOVUMZ you can just do more of the same: deluge the reader in new instances of the same kind of strangeness you were doing in the first volume. But diminishing returns sets in fast, and the initial crispness, the snap you got at beginning, might not be there for long.

Or you could try the ancient an honourable art of WEIRDANOVUMZ where, in an attempt to overcome early-onset jadedness you make each magical element exponentially more bonkers than the one before. “My new villain farts cobras”or “You liked Octopusman? Try *Dodecahedrapusman*” etc. This can work, only you risk losing the initial connection to reality, the delicious poise between the sacred and the mundane that made that initial unheimlich really sing.

The third way, and the one I’ve kind of been wrestling with, is orthogonality. You build the world of book one at right-angles to reality and you accept the fact that the reader will grow accustomed to your weirdness, in fact you rely on it. As of book two, book one is the status-quo, it is reality, and you build book two’s universe at right-angles to that, book three goes in at right-angles to book two (so at, er… right-angles to right-angles to right-angles to reality…) and so on.

In Our Lady of the Streets, the third Skyscraper Throne novel, there are Fever Streets that flash-heat to 1000 degrees, brick-glaucomas that seal up windows and doors trapping people inside their homes, and giant ophidian Serpent-terraces. I’m hoping they feel like a natural extension of, and twist and estrangement of, the logic that came in the series before.

We’ll have to wait and see if it works, but there are a couple of reasons the  principle appeals to me. Firstly it shows a certain amount of respect for the reader’s ability to keep up, and readers are always at least 1.5 times smarter than we are. But what I really like about it is this: in treating your made-up world like the real one, in distorting it and beating it up, you lend it credence, you make it feel big, and strange and robust and fascinating and impossible to fully grasp – just like the world we live in every day.

*not from the friend, we aren’t estranged at all.

On Authors in Tents

Big circus tents.

Way I see it it’s like this:

The imagination of a reader is a stage. As the author you write the script, but the producers who pay for it, the director who stages it, the actors, set designers and the audience are all the reader.

You can make the stage directions as descriptive and proscriptive as you like, you can get all Shaffer on their ass, or you can leave them with barely more than the dialogue and a whole lot of space to play, but in the end, they own the building, they’re paying the rent and what goes on within it’s walls is their business and their call. They’re the ones reading the lines and sweating on the ropes.

Reading is work. Reading is magic. In fact reading is necromancy: exhuming that brief imagined experience that writers inter in our words and breathing new life into them. And hey, so what if the reanimated story doesn’t look to us so much like the one whose bones we so reverently laid in the ground? That story led a good life, had a good innings, maybe we shed a few tears over it’s passing, maybe not. But this is a whole new thing, made new by the little bit of themselves the necromancer put in to make it breathe – so let’s see what the new kid can do.

We all say we get into this because we love stories right? So the more different ways a book’s interpreted the more stories there are. Everyone wins.






He’s Got The Whole Wo-orld, in his hands…



Indulging in a touch of Terragenesis in your spare time? Here are five things I personally like in world building as a reader, that not everyone agrees with me on.


Sink or swim – nothing’s as immersive as, well, immersion. Shove my head under the waters of your imaginary world and hold it there until I stop thrashing. Let me hear it, smell it, breathe it. ‘Show don’t tell’ is as irritating a vacuity as ever gets passed off as writing advice, managing somehow to miss the fact that, as words written on paper, it’s all telling, but even so, nothing takes the magic out of magic like explaining your magic system. I want to see the fireballs fly and intuit she needs a ceramic-skin potion, not read up on it like it’s a fourth grade physics text book. Unless you’re actually writing a fourth grade science text book for your imaginary world, which y’know, would be kinda awesome, but I want a a friendly streetwise bright red dragon called Crispy to explain basic thaumaturgy to me please.

Less is more – A gap in a map does not mean your world is crap. Terra incognita and unexplored spaces (a) leave space for the reader to play with their own imagination in your own world, which is only polite and (b) makes your world feel more real, not less. What is true here in physical space goes a gazillion fold for conceptual space. If you have science, there should be uncertainties with it, people should be wrong about things. Also, 99 times out of a hundred it is better to avoid having a single character do all of the exposition on your world, as it makes it seem like Captain Exposition here has read all there is to know about your universe off a laminated beer mat over his morning cornflakes. Uncertainty is a feature of the real world and you should cleave as closely to the real world as possible.

More is More – Get as far away from the real world as possible! Seriously, go nuts. Dragons? Fine. Robots? Cool! A Vampiric Dragon Robot as your protagonist? Bring it. Wanna make a Killer Tomato her housemate? Now I’m listening. Their adversaries are the deadly and ancient order of the Teaspoon-throwing Ninja donkey Cavalry? HAVE AT ME YOU SEXY FIEND. The point is this: you can make it as big or small as you like, but it’s only ink and paper and there are no limitations, so it would be a crying shame not to use the full-scale potential for pantsless crazy if you were so inclined.

Don’t just import real-world prejudices and injustice into your world without thinking about it. – It’s lazy, and boring and depressing, and finally:

Have fun. If the five chapter description of the whiskey-glass painting ceremony genuinely excites you, by all means tell it to me. If, by any chance, you’re pulling your own teeth out in boredom while you’re writing it, but you’re including it anyway because you’re under the impression that more detail = better world building, skip to something else. It is impossible to itemize an entire universe* on a page, and any universe will contain countless things of legendary awesomeness. Give me the fun stuff.

N.B. This shit is all really hard, and while I look for it as reader, and strive for it as a writer, that doesn’t mean I succeed. Them’s the breaks.

*Except like this: Item 1. – a universe.


Of Badgers and Big Blue Boxes…









Let me go on record and say, I think Peter Capaldi’s going to make a fantastic Doctor.  He’s a fine, versatile actor, and I’m excited to be seeing him on the show as a regular. There’s just one part I think he’d be better suited for:



Companion? Companion to whom, you ask. If I had my pick, it would probably be Olivia Colman, because she’s basically the spirit of acting made flesh and I’d cast her as anyone in anything.  Alternatively, Harriet Walter and Anna Chancellor could also do the sprightly, Mary-Poppins-with-a-very-big-spiky-stick-in-her-bag-just-in-case thing I have in mind.

Imagine it with me: Colman’s Doctor, full of brightly smiling energy and restless adventure, but constantly battling the terrifying alien distance that must afflict any nigh- immortal character faced with the problems of ordinary folk;  balanced by Capaldi – maybe as a battle-hardened Chemistry teacher- all hilarious grouchiness, waspish wit and the experienced, empathic heart that understands what the people they have to help really need.

*Drifts off to daydream about all the possible Colman-Capaldi Capers.*

It would be sooooo good.

If the above sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a close analogue to the dynamic between Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes and Lucy Liu’s Watson in the American Sherlock Holmes update Elementary, and I imagine it would bear a pretty much the same relationship to the Doctor Who we’re likely to get next season as Elementary does to  Stephen Moffatt’s other big project, Sherlock.

 Now, broadly speaking I enjoy Sherlock, despite its problems. I think Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Mark Gatiss are all great in their roles, and the show has some cracking dialogue and some very clever moments. But for me, Elementary has the edge, and here’s why: Elementary understands that the real heart of any drama comes not from hero-worshipping your hero, but from developing the relationship between your heroes, plural*.  Elementary gets that Watson is as critical to the story as Holmes is.

In other words, Elementary gives good sidekick.

I’m a Hufflepuff, a proud member of the house of Badger.  Naturally, therefore, I think a crucial test of any writer is how they treat their sidekicks. Are they fleshed out, made human, given meaningful, moving story arcs, and allowed to surprise the audience every now and then, the way any good character should? Or are they left on the side like the pointless bit of ketchup-smeared lettuce they garnish pub burgers with for no readily apparent reason?

You can write the smartest, hottest, most charismatic lead on TV, good luck to them. May their ego’s gravity well entrap all of the millions of pairs of underwear thrown their way into a sexy Egyptian cotton asteroid belt.  If you want real magic, though? Butch-and-Sundance magic, Toby-and-Sam magic, Buffy-and-willow magic? You need to write the ever-loving-gravy out of both your hero and your sidekick, then put them on screen and watch them make sweet music out of saving the world.

That’s where I think the Colman and Capaldi Capers (CCC ©)  could have taken away our collective breath, shattered our collective hearts and reglued the pieces together to make THE MOST AWESOME SCULPTURE OF A MOTHERF*CKING PHOENIX RISING FROM THE ASHES OF OUR MISERY EVER FORGED FROM HUMAN CARDIAC TISSUE. But alas, I guess we’ll never know.


*I had such high hopes for Sherlock, too. That bit at the end of the first episode where they’re walking towards the camera while Mycroft goes ‘Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson’ while the triumphant music plays? A. MAZE. BALLS. Sadly, the initial promise was broken by the later treatment of Watson as a buffoon who needs to be constantly rescued and gets no snacky pops. I guess that’s the bind Moffatt put himself in when he decided to include 4 genius level characters (Both Holmes boys, Moriarty and Adler), so anyone without an I.Q. of 9,567,312 had to be written like a oaf to make them look good. Man, I hate it when screenwriters do their characters bullying for them.



And on the eight day of summer, my true love gave to me….




Yep the brand new geek convention phenomenon known as 9 worlds is coming to an airport hotel near you*. And I’m doing some stuff.



Snorri Kristjansson and I have a little shindig to celebrate the release of our new books. There will be drinks, vikings, sewer dragons and terrible puns.



Good line up for this one, Cory Doctorow, Catherine Banner, Liz De Jager and I let our inner teenagers out to party. Mine will be likely be liberally decked out in eyeliner.




10:00 – 11:30 MAKING MONSTERS

I’m teaching a few simple techniques to give you and all your loved ones years of nightmares and high therapy bills. Come play Doc Frank to my Igor, you know you want to.


What it says on the tin. It does it. Oh yes.  (Worth coming to, btw, if only to display the extraordinary range of facial hair that Kim, Will and I are currently sporting between us.)

Have a bonus video of big cats in boxes, because you deserve it.