Helen McCarthy has had a busy year.
The Anime Encyclopedia, her epic work with Jonathan Clements, had its third edition in 2015. It’s now over a thousand pages long with over 1,100,000 words. For the new edition alone, she and Clements each wrote the equivalent of an average fantasy trilogy – about 300,000 words – in revisions, updates and new entries. She’s still pitching fiction but her next book is How To Draw Manga, out from Flame Tree Books in April 2015, with another Flame Tree art book coming in July 2015. That makes four books since July 2014, when A Brief History of Manga appeared.
Helen first encountered Japanese popular culture in Europe in 1981. There was no book on anime in English, so she set out to write one. She’s had twelve non-fiction books published in six languages, including Japanese, and has lectured and led workshops about anime, manga and Japan on three of the seven continents. As her years advance she also makes mini-Long Walks to the Cursed Earth of Britain’s small towns, taking the Law of Anime and Manga to places most Americans have never heard of, like Scunthorpe.
Helen loves conventions. 2014 was her fortieth year of congoing since the first British Star Trek Convention in 1974. Her first American convention was Boskone in 1977. Her first anime convention was ANIME DAY, Britain’s first anime convention in 1991, and her first U.S. anime conventions were Anime America and Anime Expo in California in 1994.
During that time she’s designed, made and worn both historical and SFF costume, appeared in numerous Star Trek and SF masquerades and created art and fiction for fanzines and conventions. Her convention presentations have been described as “a fire hose of information” – bring body armour, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Encouraged by her mother and grandmother to make art, fiction and poetry, and taught to draw by radical feminist nuns, Helen became addicted to mashing media together, eventually leading to her book and workshops on Manga Cross-Stitch. She makes haiga – haiku combined with pictures – in both print and embroidery, and produces art from a mixture of needlework, inkjet printing, collage, found objects and icons of British, American and Japanese pop culture. She collaborates on embroidery design with her partner, the illustrator Steve Kyte. She also reads haiku to passers-by at random moments.
So if you spot someone small, loud and British around the convention, stop her and say hello. You will survive the experience, but you will never look at little old ladies in quite the same way again.