The value of rage: RIP Sir Terry Pratchett.

pratchett_rats

Publicity shot from ‘The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents”.

Morbid? Yes, it is. Bandwagon-jumping? Absolutely. The sort of thing PTerry himself would probably despise? I doubt it not. However there are people looking at this blog apparently in the expectation that I’ll have said something about such a momentous event in fantasy as the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett, and far be it from me to disappoint my future readers.

I’ve got a when-I-met-Pterry anecdote I’ll come to later, but the best article I’ve ever read about the man is this one, written by Neil Gaiman: “Do not underestimate this anger. This anger was the engine that powered Good Omens.”  It talks about Terry having a deep sense of justice, and anyone who’s read Pratchett can appreciate the near-perfect balance he struck between acute social awareness, blackest irony, and an infallible sense of petty, stupid humanity and all its attendant farce. Continue reading

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Brass neck: Felix and the steampunks

I’ve just come home from my second trip to Steampunk at the Asylum, an annual steampunk convention held in the lovely city of Lincoln.  It’s a marvellous occasion stuffed with eccentrics in the grandest British tradition: dressing up like characters from a Victorian science fiction novel, obsessing about tea and politeness, and parading round town confusing the locals with glee.

It’s also a subculture which is increasingly fascinating me as a phenomenon in its own right. I discovered the Asylum online in time to attend last year’s event, and instantly loved it simply for the costuming angle – I’m an inveterate thesp and sartorial eccentric, and have loved dressing up since I was a child. The more I discover about the culture that’s evolving out of it, though, the more I think it’s doing something genuinely unique.

Continue reading

Picspam: congrats to Anne Lyle!

Just a drive-by picture post to say many congratulations to Anne Lyle on the publication and launch of her first novel, The Alchemist of Souls.  I was lucky enough to critique a very early draft of the book – indeed, part of the printout I wrote all over is still here beside me on the sofa, covered in scribbled notes from my latest foray back into Uru Live – so seeing it in the flesh was fantastic to say the least. Well done Anne!

Happy readers with their copies of Alchemist of Souls.

L-R: Rob Pearce (now available in Web 1.0), Valerie Vancollie and John Ayliff at the book launch. All my pics of Anne herself came out blurred!

NaNoWriMo 2011 (or not, as the case may be)

After some thought I’ve decided not to commit to doing NaNoWriMo this year. I have John Ayliff to thank for the conversation that set me thinking – and for keeping me company in the NaNo conscientious objectors’ corner too…

The pros and cons of NaNo are many and various. A month-long furore of writing would have left me with a comfortable bulk of words on my next project (whose working title is Bone Mare, incidentally) and a good idea of how the thing was coming together. But past experience tells me that doing NaNo when you haven’t had the luxury of time to plan in detail and get your imagination well-fuelled is a good way to run out of steam six pages into Chapter Two. And it has to be said that I lost most of October to one thing and another. Flu, changing my working hours and general background stress have left me with only the vaguest outline for a book.

Then there’s the time and energy involved in writing 1800 words a day. I’ll admit that this year has not been one of my best – I have some very demanding things going on in my personal life and getting the Topside Press story out of the door was about my limit, I think. But I’m also enough of a perfectionist in writing that I don’t want to spend time on producing 1800 words of completely unredeemable rubbish. First-draft rubbish, maybe, peppered with my stalwart companions “FIXME” and “________”, but that’s different to disposable words.  I enjoy craftsmanship – I like to take time, think about my vocabulary choices, polish and construct.  The NaNo trick of gaming the system for word count – using tricks like removing hyphenation and expanding contractions, for example – has always been alien to my understanding of writing; I see it as a process of exploring my own creative response and teasing out the story that wants to be told, not a contest directed at beating some external goal. Deadlines get me motivated, but the more I think about NaNo the more I think it’s actually aimed at providing a kind of writing support I don’t need.

If I were the kind of writer who freezes up in front of a blank page and needs the pressure to perform taken off, then I think NaNo would help a lot. However, I’m actually a more meditative, internally-motivated person, on top of which performing is what I love best. I have and rejoice in high standards for my own writing, but NaNo effectively asks me to compromise those for the sake of “having fun”. Contradiction explained. Do I need a prompt to get me started, hell yes – I’m as lazy as the next wannabe – but is NaNo the right one for me this time? Perhaps not.