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Just a note to observe I made a minor error in the last chapter, referring to Scholastica as being present in the Chamber of Oak and Holly. She isn’t. So I’ve deleted that reference.
You think you’ve got all the rust off, and then you realise no, it’s still a process.
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It often happens when I write a chapter — and this was an example — that I have what looks like a pretty solid structure, but as I write it out I become aware that something isn’t working. If the problem’s obvious, then I fix it. If not? I tend to find the best thing is to keep going, and see what happens. Usually what happens is that I hit a bit where things get back on track. So once I get near the end of a chapter I can go over the whole thing and work out how to make it better.
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A little note here about sf in the media: last weekend I saw the first episode of Lost in Space. I’d never seen a minute of the show before, I don’t think. It was interesting, in that my expectations had been well and truly lowered years ago — when I was growing up, it seemed that the only way people talked about that show was in sentences like: “Before Star Trek came along, the only outer-space shows on American TV were crap like Lost in Space.” So I wasn’t expecting much. And there were in fact problems with things like, say, gravity. And the dumbest robot ever. And characters doing things for the sake of plot.
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Just a note to say that I had a piece up last weekend at Black Gate, looking at Jonathan Lethem’s Amnesia Moon. I quite honestly enjoyed the book more than I thought I would; it was very much like an excellent minor work by Philip K. Dick.
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So I managed to get another chapter up last night, which makes two in a week. I’m hoping to continue to be able to continue with one chapter a week; it feels good. That is, above and beyond feeling good to be able to write fiction again, and feeling good because I’m moving the story forward, it feels like a good rate. We’ll see how that goes.
I’ll have a post up soon with commentary on the writing of the chapter. I like the idea of putting up notes about the process; as a reader I always love things like that from other authors, so why not? That’ll go up Sunday, I think. But there’s something I want to highlight here about the chapter I just posted, an edit I’m making to earlier chapters.
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Skulls with eye-sockets filled only by weird shadows, by presence and absence: six of them atop six clattering sets of backbones. Six skeletons held together by nothing. No nerve, flesh, brain. Bone touching bone, bones tapping on bone, grinding against bone, turning and swaying. Diccon watched the six skeletons dance their way down the hall after Gryslde and the others. He’d fallen behind all of them when he heard Hochelaga’s shrieks; straining his memory and thinking of the strange turns of the journey below, he hardly noticed the sobbing girl ahead.
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I’ve added a new chapter to the site. Effectively new; I fell sick when I was in the middle of Part 4, Chapter 17, so uploaded what I had and hoped to redraft it later when I was feeling better.
That took rather a while.
It’s been over a year and I half since I got sick. I’m not entirely sure how much healthier I am now. But I seem to be somewhat better. So I’ve decided to try to start posting again. The first task was to redraft and complete the fragment I had up before. That’s done.
Where do we go from here? I don’t want to make any promises. But my aim is to have another chapter up in one week, and keep posting at a rate of one a week.
Here’s the link to the redrafted chapter.
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I’ve got a new post up at Black Gate, looking at Salman Rushdie’s first novel, Grimus. I note at the start that the book was in the running for a sf prize before the publishers pulled it, wanting to avoid Rushdie being branded (in both sense of the word) as a science fiction writer. Brian Aldiss, one of the judges, points out how differently Rushdie’s career could have gone. I wonder, though, how different science fiction itself would have been. Would Midnight’s Children have won awards in the genre field as it did in the wider world? What sort of conversations would be going on in the field now? Would Rushdie be widely recognised, or a critical darling? Or is his approach to storytelling too inherently subversive of the very concept of ‘genre’ to fit comfortably in sf?
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I’ve got a piece in the just-released Speculative Fiction 2012 anthology. Subtitled “The best online reviews, essays and commentary” (mostly to do with science fiction and fantasy), it’s available in paperback or as an ebook. You can find it on Amazon here, or Amazon.co.uk here. Proceeds go to support Room to Read, an international charity promoting literacy and education.
My piece was an article from Black Gate about Tolkien and Attila the Hun. I think the editors have put together quite a strong line-up for the book, and I’m pleased to be a part of it.
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I’m old enough now that in my adult life I’ve seen new things come into the language, for better or worse or both. One of the things I’ve seen, and so have you if you’ve been paying attention, is the use of the phrase “tasked with” to mean “ordered to do.” It’s not a usage I like much. There’s a good look at it here, tracking its movement from military jargon through legal and consultant doublespeak and into general use.
I don’t care for it because it sounds like bureaucracyspeak, because it fills no particular linguistic gap — it adds nothing to the language — and for some reason many writers seem to think the phrase has been around forever and put it into the mouths of characters from previous eras. Maybe that’s a function of the Star Trek/Moby Dick quote which uses “tasks” in a different way (take a look at the comments of the linked article above). It’s also a symptom perhaps of the militarisation of society and language; military jargon entering civilian use. I wonder if people might also like to use it because “tasks” sounds vaguely archaic and mythic (like Hercules!), while “ordered to do something” is a reminder of the individual’s powerlessness. At any rate: not a phrase I like.