The other day I read this article on Gawker about bad reviews, and smarm. It was inspired, to a degree, by a notice in the new books section on Buzzfeed saying they would not publish bad reviews.
I thought it was interesting, but sadly, nothing terribly new. For as long as I can remember, people have been caught in a debate about if its right to be negative or not. Some people believe that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say it. Despite the reference to Bambi that is tossed around – let me assure you that referencing Bambi doesn’t give you any authority in this matter – there is some merit to the thought. If you know the authors involved, you won’t upset them. If you are part of the industry, you won’t burn any bridges. And, sometimes, yes, sometimes, careers can be halted by a particularly bad review, or opinion that forms online (and off) about the work. Nice people get burned in real world ways when that happens. Still, others think otherwise. For some people, reviews ought to kick out, take no prisoners, be both good and bad, and push up the symbol of art, celebrate the superb and challenge weak craft. Some people even enjoy a good take down.
For myself, I have always been part of the latter group. The reason I do is not because I enjoy a good take down – though I do, just as I enjoy well argued praise – but because I recognise that reviews and criticism do not have anything to do with me, either as a person, or an artist. Whenever I see the Bambi line given, I always think that it is in response to a desire not to upset the artist, and the machine that is behind him or her. It is as if the review has stopped being about the work, and has instead become a tool to help advertise – part of the promotional machinery that speaks not to readers, but to this insider group that exists around the book. But a review or criticism is not about communicating with the author or publisher, or at least it shouldn’t be. It is about communicating with the reviewer’s own readers, about beginning a conversation that is born out of the interaction of the individual and the work.
What is often overlooked, I feel, is that a review is an independent piece of work, existing beside the – in this case – fiction that it rose from. It is not the property of the novelist, or the publisher, but rather the property of the novel, and the novel, once it is published, is no longer the property of one individual. It is a communal object, and as a communal object, it will be used in discussions, arguments, essays and whatever – and sometimes, they’re going to be positive, and sometimes they’re going to be bad. Whatever the outcome, the critical work of a novel, I feel, has more in common with film adaptions, cosplay, fan fiction, and whatever else a novel can give birth too, than the novelist and their relationship with the novel.
There’s a whole lot of things in criticism to unpack. You can argue if it is right for a reviewer to cultivate an audience, you can point out the inevitable personal relationships that come from interlinked scenes, and so on and so forth, until you have exhausted each avenue, and found even that some parts contradict others. But for me, I think there is more to be gained by putting aside the Bambi line, which is bad for children, anyway, since it promotes silence over honesty, and just encourage people say what they will say and to say it well.
Once, years ago, I had a website under the web address of my name. German students came to it after their HSC to tell me that Black Sheep, my first novel, had appeared in one of their final exams. It was about the most interesting thing that ever happened to that website, beside being hacked and turned into a porn site, briefly, and then left to the cyber wasteland as I neglected it due to my inability to redesign it. Shortly after, I let it lapse, and let the domain name lapse, and now, I imagine, it sells something vaguely Japanese and pornographic to elderly men. Which is my way of saying, ‘That was the old site, and this is the new site, free of all the friendly pornography the Japanese create.’
For most of my online life, I have kept a blog at livejournal, and that has served as my low fi webspace. It started as place for me to talk about my doctorate, then became a self promotion tool, then became somewhat of a way to keep track of this long, twisted road of being an author. Years ago, an anonymous person purchased me a permanent account, and for better or worse through livejournals decline, I have kept it there. I made over three thousand entries. I know this because when Nikilyn Nevins made this site (I still have no web design skills) she transferred over all the entries to here. I began it on February 22nd, 2002, and a decade and a bit of entries are now here, vaguely shiny, with comments, more or less. It may be a bit twitchy, here and there.
Assuming everything is working properly, this will feed into the old blog, which I intend to keep. It will also feed into twitter and into facebook, and possibly wherever else it should, eventually.
I am using the url I am because, a long time ago, I made a psychogeography zine about Sydney under the same title, and gave it out for free, anonymously. It was a shocking amount of work – Naomi Hatchman designed it and made it look pretty and Daniel Cassar helped take disposable photos and went in for printing costs with me – and we managed an amazing two issues of it. But in a way, it was a place where I finally began to understand what sort of artist I was, to understand how I functioned and how I did not. The relationship I was in at that time ended poorly, as they all inevitably did back then, but the zine and what it was always remained important to me. You’ll never find one now, and perhaps rightly so, but I feel particular to the name and the title, and I am pleased it exists, again.
At any rate, welcome to the new site. Hopefully you dig it. The images that scroll across the top are Nik’s, and the words are mine, and everything else is somewhere inbetween.
It is about this time that a book begins to look like a book. It is not the physical object, not yet, but it has moved beyond being a document file, a mix of elements, and is now like the image of an embryo on a monitor. I was pretty pleased by what I saw - naturally I am the most impartial of viewers - and I think it will be neat book when it is out in the world. In a way, it was strange to read it in this format, as if a mirror had been held up in an angle you don't usually see yourself. I tend to think of myself as intellectually lazy, easy going, and mostly cynically amused by the world I live in, but I don't think anyone who reads the book will think that (well, perhaps the first: there's always someone willing to jump onto the negative descriptions you've got of yourself). But I thought the book was a dark, weird thing, with a lot of variety and nuance to it. I thought, as I have thought since I wrote it, that the novella, 'Octavia E. Butler' was one of my finest pieces. I fully expect people not to agree with me on, for people not to like it, or to find it obscure, but I will maintain my stance. But truthfully, I thought all the stories stood up well, which you know, being impartial and all, means I am the person to listen too. Still, I don't think that about a lot of my work in hindsight (I think Black Sheep is a mess, for example) and I left a lot of short fiction out of the book because of that.
Anyhow, here's the sweet cover, again:
You can pre-order it, as well.
I turned in the edits for Immolation last week and I expect the proofs for Dead Americans this week. That doesn't even include the teaching, restarting work on Innocence,* and general life. At times, I feel as if the majority of my headspace is filled with it all and all my girlfriend hears is an endless conversation about it, but I'm adjusting to all of that and learning to spare her.
I went into the edits on Immolation at about the halfway point of Innocence, give or take, and there were a few changes that I will have to take back into the second book and alter it with, which isn't terribly surprising. It was a strange thing, really, to get the edits back and to realise every stone of your world had been turned over, and parts of it shaken. You are pleased by the bits that stood up, embarrassed by the moments they flopped - it's a bit like creating a huge puppet show and debuting it, hoping that nothing happens to your papier mache environment to turn it soggy and unappealing. When it does, of course, you're just back to rebuilding the wire beneath it. The work that was done to the book during the editing has made it a much stronger book, I think, but of course, only time will tell if everyone agrees with me.
In the meantime, do you know that my last original work that appeared was in 2011?
One was the flip book Above/Below from Twelfth Planet Press and the other was the short story, 'Sirius', in Clarkesworld.
Since then, I've had one reprint ('Possession' in Ann Vandermeer's Steampunk Revolution) but for the most part, it has been very, very quiet. At one stage--a decade ago, maybe--I thought to myself I had to be careful not to fall out of print for a year, or two, and I'd use that fear to keep me moving. 'Terrible things would happen,' I would say to myself, if I did fall out of print--a term that means curiously different things to different people, because of course, I fell out of print all the time, or was never in print at all.
Indeed, it's odd to compare my life now to what it was, a year ago. In November of 2012, I had no idea what was going to happen to the novel I had finished. I was getting people to read it, or they had just finished reading it, and I was beginning to dread that idea of looking for an agent and publisher, again. My days were busy, but I had time to mess around, if I felt like it. I was doing lectures at schools, and had spent the year building up a business I wanted the money from to keep writing, and I spent a lot more time in the car. I don't miss that, I can tell you. The car, the flyers, the calling, the damage I did to my voice before I learned to drink water while talking, use mikes, and exercise it. It may come as a shock to realise that while writing I don't suddenly project my voice as I did when in a school hall. My email moves a little more steadily than it once did in relation to publishers. I have deadlines to hit. I have promotion to vaguely plan for. I have fiction paid for (that's perhaps the strangest thing of all, to think that I have two more books already paid for).
And in 2014, I will have two new books and a new short story out.
It still doesn't quite feel like it will be a real year.
Anyhow: back to work.
* All titles are subject to change, not that I know what that change will be.
Andrew Macrae is a Melbourne based author, musician, and occasional cover artist. A quiet, artistic and intelligent man, I have known him for around a decade, and have seen his change and evolution in all these categories, and to support the release of his first novel, Trucksong, I have broken out the vague interview practice I have, in which I ask a lot of questions and then throw it together.
Andrew is a busy guy at the moment. His long awaited project, the dystopian novel Trucksong, was just released by Twelfth Planet Press, while weeks before that, his band, the Television Sky, saw the release of their second album. If that’s not enough, Andrew recorded himself a soundtrack for his novel, which you can download on his site, along with a second version of the novel, and the first short stories it was inspired from.
Trucksong, your first novel, has just been released by Twelfth Planet Press. How has the whole experience been?
It's been a long, drawn-out, compressed, painful, joyful, depressing, rewarding process getting the book to this stage, from when I started on the novel proper in 2007. I produced it as part of a PhD project, which was its own peculiar torture.
‘A peculiar torture’. I like that to describe a PhD.
Though, that said, I found mine to be a rare experience. It allowed me a lot of space and time that I mightn't have had before, and a lot of scope. How’d that work for you?
The time and space to focus on the work was great. It was the whole having to produce a thesis that will stand up to scholarly scrutiny that I found painful. I've done a fair bit of time in academia – I did honours and masters before a PhD – so I knew what I was in for, but the full reality was pretty tough. I'm just not a scholar.
The other thing I found hard was combining critical and creative dimensions in one project. To me, they are kind of antithetical processes. Each contains elements of the other, but trying to mash them both together into one piece of work was hard for me.
The critical and creative might, perhaps, but you’ve managed to combine being a musician and an author well. Indeed, you made a soundtrack to go along with Trucksong. How do you find the two different creative forms mesh for you?
They're complementary. I find that if I'm flagging with a writing project, I'll pick up the guitar and something new will occur to me, and visa versa when the well of music runs dry, the writing has had time to fill up again. I like the idea of creative crop rotation and fallow time. You have to let the field rest a while so the nitrogen can built up in the soil again.
The risk of having too many fields, though, is that you wind up not being able to spend enough time in any one of them to really take it to a level of excellence. Rationally, I think I'd probably be better off quitting music to just focus on the writing, since I'm a pretty average musician. But yah, I've never had a terribly rational approach to life, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of the guitar, the physicality of it. Making the air move, that tenuous feedback loop between strings and pickup and speaker, where the sound just starts to break up. You can surf it like a wave. I love that shit, and especially playing with my band The Television Sky, where we know each others' playing inside out and we can crank it up and really lock in together and it's like you just disappear. It's the purest form of release I've ever experienced.
The release I get from writing is different. To paraphrase Cronenberg, writing is more of a Kafka high. You feel like a bug.
Although come to think of it I have had a few moments of pure release while writing, but I find it's easier to conjure with a valve amplifier.
I’d have to disagree about the different fields. My belief is that a lot of artists would be better creatively if they had other artistic fields they did professional as well, you know? I know that a lot do: they paint, or carve, but few do it on the professional levels that you do, and to me I think the benefits from it must be enormous. The music would have been a huge help with the voice of the narrator, for example.
One thing that I'm really conscious of when writing is the musicality of the text. Rhythm is really important to me, and a sense of dynamics. I think being involved with music helps to hone your sensitivity to that. It gives you an appreciation for pacing and getting down into the grain of the language and manipulating the flow for specific effects. Again, it's that weird phenomenon where marks on a page can generate the illusion of a human voice. Writing is a kind of phantom sound.
Publication, Publisher, and Australia.
Trucksong has been released by what is, arguably, Australia’s most professional and successful independent speculative fiction press, Twelfth Planet Press. Alisa Krasnostein is pretty good at taking a risk on interesting and diverse projects—she has done the 12 Planets chapbooks, the flip books, the Lydia Day crime novel—and now your novel. It must have been rewarding that she would show such faith in the work.
I was delighted that Twelfth Planet were up for taking a risk on this project, and I think they will give it a really good home. It's a piece of work that is unashamedly and idiomatically Australian, so I was keen for an Australian press to take it.
Yeah, I think it is a very Australian book, from the landscape, to the trucks. To me, it was especially found in the language. It's not often that you see a vocabulary that will make use of that very specific, older Australian slang. What drew you to it?
Just listening to Australian voices on the television, hearing them on the radio. I deliberately put in some elements of archaic Aussie slang, but for the most part it's just what I hear around me. You don't have to travel very far from the multicultural megapolises on the coastal fringe before you start to hear it.
I really wanted to try to capture that sound and inflection, and overlay it on a completely fantastical world.
How was it, working with Twelfth Planet Press in the publication of Trucksong?
You think that writing is all about the time you spend alone with the manuscript, but it's not. It's about all the collaboration you do with other people to produce the finished product.
All the people who read and commented on different versions of the story, and the editors and proofreaders at Twelfth Planet, are just the beginning. I really enjoyed working with Kenkichi Tai on the cover and website as well as Amanda Rainey who did the internal page design. The great thing about working with an independent publisher is that there's so much more scope to be creative, and to treat the whole effort as a partnership.
Yeah, I loved what Rainey did for Above/Below. I think she’ll go a lot of places, really, and Tai’s cover of Trucksong was sweet as.
Did it surprise you by just how much of a collaboration the book was by the end?
Yes and no. I've worked on a few indie creative projects in my time, so I sort of know how it goes. And with a book, obviously there's a lot of solo time in front of the manuscript, but there's also a lot of negotiation and consultation as well once a production schedule is locked in. And I was lucky enough that I had a bunch of cool, talented people around me to help bring this thing into the world, with its own website and music and a graphic identity, as well as a nicely polished manuscript.
Yeah, a lot of people in this scene will probably forget that, before the novel, before the music, you edited c0ck with Keith Stevenson and had an early hand in the formation of the Cour de Lion Press (one of Australia’s other fine presses known for taking risks). It must have left you with an appreciation of both sides, one perhaps deepened by your own freelance work?
I edited and published the c0ck anthology with Keith and together we started up Coeur de Lion back in 2006, and then my life imploded and CDL was one of the things I dropped. I'm really glad Keith has kept it going though. He's published some amazing stuff. X6 is a great collection, and Adam Browne's debut novel Pyrotechnicon as well. Some really cutting edge stuff.
I did a stint working in-house at an education publisher and I've run my own freelance writing and editing business since 2007, so I guess that gives me a bit of perspective from a few different sides of the table. It's funny the perceptions that people have of writing and publishing as this glamourous and mysterious activity but the reality, at my level anyway, is pretty grim. As a creative person, you get used to rejection and varying responses to your work. I'll never get accustomed to indifference, though. That is the worst.
Yeah, I completely agree with that. The worse thing is silence.
It’s why I have always been drawn to that idea of mutiple streams you talk about. I've always been terrible at maintaining it, myself – I get lost in individual projects – but you do it well, and its benefit is not just for finances, either, but for the creative bit of the soul. It combats that indifference that can come from some freelance work?
That has been my mantra as a freelancer – multiple streams. If you sink too much of yourself into any one endeavour, you're stuck if it goes nowhere. It's an insurance policy against indifference. It's funny the things that people respond to and the things they don't. Like with the typewriter art, that was something I did as a lark because it felt good, and then all of a sudden I'm getting reblogged on Boing Boing and 10,000 hits on my site in 24 hours and beating out Sean Tan to win a Ditmar Award for the cover art of your book /Twenty-six lies/! I mean, there's just no way you can predict that kind of thing.
And then on the other side of that, there's stuff that I do that important to me that I slave over for years and it just sinks.
So the trick is to have lots of things on the go, I think.
Would that be your recommendation to new artists attempting to go it alone?
Do lots of different things. Cultivate lots of different relationships because you never know when one is going to pay off. Say yes to everything that comes your way, no matter how scary. Be prepared for the constant tension between artistic integrity and paying the bills, and accept that sometimes paying the bills is more important.
Publication wise, the genesis of the book appears to be a long one, with the first print traces of it being 'Truckdreamin'' in Cat Sparks' Agog Ripping Reads in 2005. Was there much life before that?
There was one version of the story before that, the 13,000 word novellla-length one that you critiqued for me way back in 2004. I remember you and Deb Biancotti being particularly amused at the image of the trucks 'daisychaining' in the lee of a hill! You'll be pleased to know the trucks have gone on to have a very fulfilling sex life.
Deb and I were always on the cutting edge of new pornography. I was pleased to see that the truck sex stayed in the book – what gave inspiration for that?
I totally ripped that off Rudy Rucker. I always loved the dimension of artificial life he brought to the conversation about artificial intelligence – his robots are looking for ways to reproduce and evolve, as well as learn and grow. In Software, they reproduce in a quasi sexual manner, with an element of random mutation thrown in. And as soon as you have sexual reproduction in the mix, there's a whole whacky range of freaky fun to be had!
So I just played with that idea and it was pretty evident that intelligent autonomous trucks are going to want to find ways to be self-reproducing and self-repairing.
What about the writing of the book itself, how did that take place?
I wrote that original version on a manual typewriter in a white-hot burst of uncharacteristic productivity over just a couple of days. Then Cat made me sand off all the rough edges and cut 5,000 words. Not that I'm bitter.
I loved the typewriter in the book, by the way, and I loved how the frame of the whole book. It took me back to your particular love of typewriters and, as we talked about a bit earlier, the typewriter art you produced.
Yeah I don't use the typewriters as much as I used to, mostly because I'm lazy and computers are just way easier for editing text. But I love the romance of the typing machine, there's something very seductive about the feel of a manual typewriter, like the machines in Cronenberg's Naked Lunch. They are these glorious mechanical bugs that enter text almost with a mind of their own, a kind of automatic writing. And then in that film there's one particularly startling scene where the typewriter reveals it has an anus and rectum underneath its carapace, from which it starts talking.
That's how I feel about typewriters anyway.
Well, we got Cronenberg, Rudy Rucker, who else forms the influences of the book?
Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker was a huge influence, which you'll see if you download the experimental cut of the novel from the extras section of the website. That book, the way Hoban uses language, just lifted the roof off my highly impressionable 22-year-old skull when I encountered it. I kept going back to it, and I wanted to write an Australian version of it, with a post-apocalyptic scenario that is both high tech and fallen, and where the artefacts of technological society have ontological problems of their own.
As far as the language goes, I was also really influenced by Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting and Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang. I just love that idiomatic approach to first-person writing, the way that marks on a page can generate the effect of a voice in your head. I have a thing for specialised grapholects – written dialects, non-standard spellings – that are hard to grasp at first, but that really speak to you once you decipher the patterns.
It's a first novel, and I worked on it for a long time, so basically everything I ever read and dug is in there. Jeff Noon's Vurt is in there, particularly in the truck battle scene in the middle of the book. He's another writer with a very musical approach to text. Terry Dowling's Rynosseros. There's some utopian stuff in there by way of Kim Stanley Robinson and Le Guin and Delaney. There's some Philip K Dick. There's some Cordwainer Smith. There's Ballard and Burroughs.
Yeah, I can see a lot of those there - though oddly, I hadn't thought of Dowling's Rynosseros stuff.
I was actually pretty interested in the language influences. Hoban's book, for example, is new to me, but the others I saw to a greater and lesser degree in different versions of the book. What I enjoyed about reading both (and for everyone out there, I recommend both), was the way that the central voice of your narrator remained, even though the feel of the novel altered slightly. The experimental felt a little less Australian than the released version, but I thought that it countered by having a stronger dystopic air. How was it, writing the two, and what were the concerns you wanted to keep?
Well that's funny because I was initially quite resistant to comprising my original vision for the book, when Alisa was considering it and asked if I would tone down the experimental language.
The trouble with the experimental version, which you can download off my site is that unless you're really into that specific kind of linguistic play, it can be really hard to read.
Like every writer, I wanted my work to reach as many people as possible, so I agreed to rewrite it in standard spelling. And I think actually it is a better book for me having done that.
It's funny that you say the published version sounds more Australian – the amazing to me was how the rewrite actually had very little effect on the tone of my protagonist's voice. That still came through really strongly. In the end they were relatively simple changes on the surface of the text.
I think one of the things I was concerned about was losing some of the doubled meanings that you get with the distorted language. In the original version, for example, the word /transmission/ was rendered as /trance mission/, which has this nice layering effect in the context of the book. So I did keep some of the misspellings, like /lie bury/ for /library/, and I think in the end I was able to strike a good balance between play and readability.
And that brings us to the end. Be sure to pick up a copy of the book, then read both versions, and come back and talk to me about it.
Covers for Immolation: Your Opinion
I finished the first round of big edits on it the other day, and Julie Crisp (the editorial director of Tor UK and collector of heads in jars, please send her some) and I are discussing the cover for the book, provided by Alejandro Colucci. In case you've missed the description of what the book is about, here it is:
Immolation is set fifteen thousand years after the War of the Gods. The bodies of the gods now lie across the world, slowly dying as men and women awake with strange powers that are derived from their bodies. Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice, is attacked and discovers she cannot be harmed by fire. Her new power makes her a target for an army that is marching on her home.
With the help of the immortal Zaifyr, she is taught the awful history of ‘cursed’ men and women, coming to grips with her new powers and the enemies they make. Meanwhile, the saboteur Bueralan infiltrates the army that is approaching her home to learn its terrible secret.
Split between the three points of view, Immolation’s narrative reaches its conclusion during an epic siege, where Ayae, Zaifyr and Bueralan are forced not just into conflict with those invading, but with those inside the city who wish to do them harm.
Early on in the process, it was decided that the cover would feature one of the main characters. There are three in the book, so the idea is that, three books, one character on the front of each cover, beginning with the character, Ayae. Julie explains here:
So my brief was, there are three books and three characters. Let’s try and get one of the characters on each of the books starting with Ayae because – well – because she’s really cool!! And she sets her sword on fire. And she’s a woman. And I like her. That was pretty much my thinking. And we’ve come up with a direction that everyone likes but we can’t actually decide on which one works best! Now, before I show you, let me reiterate that these are what we call visual roughs. There’s still a fair amount of work to be done on them. But I want your opinion on the crop, pose and figure – and hell, the title while you’re at it! :-)
You can read Julie's full post here, and leave comments there, or here, as it goes.
Now, the truth is, we have arguments for both. Julie prefers the cropped face, but I tend to think that the full face is better. It is a question of ideology and aesthetics, when you get down to it: the cropped image looks more modern, and would hold the full faced image on the back, ideally (if one happens but not the other, don't quote me, since everything can change between here and now). I agree with that, actually, but I tend to believe if you have the image of a non-white woman on the cover, you should show it. Julie agrees with that, as well. We've been debating it back and forth for the last, I dunno, month, I think. Ayae is based on a Southeast Asian appearance, and my first concern has been that--I am sure I have been cursed by both Alejandro Colucci and Julie for trying to impart what's in my head to both--but after that is achieved, well, then we come to crop and design, and so forth.
It's been pretty fun, actually. Generally, I'm not really the first person you go to for opinions on covers, because I tend to only like odd, abstract things, and this has made me stretch my general ideas and thoughts on them. I've had a good time discussing, and in truth, could go on about it for ages to come, and perhaps I will, because we're putting it up for everyone to have a say on now. I reckon that's pretty cool, because I am genuinely curious to see what you all think is best and more interesting.
You'll also note that Julie makes a comment about the title at the bottom, and yes, that's up for a change as well, probably. If you read this blog while I was writing Immolation, you'll know I went through a few titles until I settled on this and the other two (Innocence and Incarnation). I like them well enough, but I'm not wedded to them, and if a better one came along, I'd be pretty happy with that. To be clear, this is not that uncommon a thing to happen. Titles change all the time. The downside is, at least for me, that I can't think of anything that even remotely resembles a good title. The girl and I stuck up a whiteboard to write alternatives down and, yeah, they've all sucked. Not just a little but a lot. So much so that I refuse to even share our cesspool of titles, except to say that we once quoted a bad teen horror film from the nineties for inspiration. It is not going well, as you can see.
Anyhow: have a look, let me know your opinion, here or on facebook, twitter, or Julie's original post. This is not one of those, maybe baby kind of things, I actually do what your opinion, and the more the better, so, have at it!
I mean, it's not like we live beneath the hole in the Ozone, and that we have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
No, not that.
Besides, it's October and the Blue Mountains are on fire.
The smoke is drifting into the city, and last night, my girlfriend got up and closed all the windows and doors, because it had gotten so bad she couldn't sleep, I was coughing in my sleep, and the cat was sneezing. On Thursday last week the world turned yellow, like it was the inside of an old bruise, and the moon turned red, like a bad horror film. The fire reports have a serious man on it who says, "We're planning risky, dangerous back burning operations," and the like, which, if you've ever lived through a few of the Australian bushfire seasons, is a bit rare to hear said. Everyone is calm and contained, however. The Police Commissioner said, "If you're caught looting, Police will deal with you very harshly, and then they will book you," which seemed to send a clear and concise message about the situation for looters. Reports are some kids were caught starting a fire, and turning on the TV sees various scientists and commentators talking about the state of children in the world before they move on to the reports from fires in 2009 and the clear link to climate change, which someone inevitably argues against, because, you know, people are like that.
It's going to be a long summer.
It would be nice to believe that the current government (the new government, even) would take all this as a warning about the serious nature of climate change, but I think we can safely assume it won't. It has already shut down the climate commission, already plans to replace the carbon tax with an even less successful alternative, and is busy now planning a legal battle against the ACT, who made same sex marriage legal yesterday. They're still calling asylum seekers illegal, also. Seems an odd list of things to connect to bush fires and climate change, but it takes a real and concerted effort to deny reality to this extent, to push your world view upon others without care of evidence, support, or common sense. I don't actually feel angry about that, more resigned, really, and a part of me wonders about what kind of world we'll all be living in, eventually. Given that I write books with worlds that lie in disarray, with the environment radically altered, you might assume that the subconscious part of my mind thinks it won't be positive.
I don't know where it gets its ideas from, really.
Mostly, it is because last week, during the high winds that have been kicking up in NSW, a very large part of a much larger gum tree broke away and fell onto the power lines of our place, ripping out the power, the gutters, a bit of the roof, and so forth. It left a mess of live wires and repairs and insurance, and while it really could have been much worse, it has soaked up our time and head space. We're unsure if the remains of the tree can be saved--a lot of people think not--but we've got someone who knows their stuff coming out to check it out in a couple of weeks, and with any luck, we will. The saddest image of the whole day was the young magpie who had been living in the part of the tree that fell, hopping around its remains, looking distraught, and unsure what to do with itself.
In other news, edits have started to come through for Immolation and I'll be working on those, soon, I reckon. The next book moves along at about the right pace, though the fall of the tree has interrupted that, as it's a bit hard to write when construction and chainsaws are going on around you--but the whole net feel is of books moving forward, towards publication, to having people read them, and all of that goodness.
Anyhow, back to things before people arrive again to start the noise.
Actually, I should clarify that. One of my pet hates is when an author says, 'Oh, such and such is so plot based,' as if, in any book, there is no plot. All novels have a plot, just not the same one, or the same kind. Narration dictated by action is one, but so is internal narration, symbolic ones, and so on and so forth. A non-linear novel that relies upon repetition to create a sense of opening and closure is engaging in plot. Plot is, at least in my mind, the exo-skeleton of the novel, by which actions and meanings and events and such hang off. So when people sit up and say that something has no plot, or has too much plot, I usually just sigh and, lets be honest, attempt to bring them to my way of thinking. It would be nice to say I sighed and let them have their opinion, and I try, but I think the world would be a better place if they had my tastes.
Either way you stand on this, I used to think I was mostly a structure kind of writer. I worried about form, perhaps more than anything else, though I often tried (and try) to be a nice stylist of my prose, as well. One of the strange things about the Children series is I came up with the form early on--an ensemble cast structured in a series of chapters building similarly to the way the new series form of television shows (Breaking Bad, Deadwood, etc) to climaxes and reveals--and that meant I largely had my structure down for three books. For a large scale project of three years, it has become a foundation from which everything else is built. What that has mostly meant is endless scheming on my part, as political machinations blend with personal ones, history mashes with current events, and a cast of main and minor characters find themselves spread out, each serving their own agenda. Whether or not it is successful and intricate or not people will have to decide for themselves when the book is released, but the more I write the books, the more and more I am surprised by how much of that dense event plotting occupies my headspace. Often, I go back to correct small sentences, to alter motivations, plant clues, give important plot swings more emphasis, and so on and so forth. Some people call that pantsing, but I've always thought that's an ugly word. I just call it editing.
I find it a strange experience as I sit here editing and writing. In hindsight, I think I started this shift with 'Below' in Above/Below. The structural conceit of that book was come up with very early (the flip book, alternate narrators bit) and I always thought the story was a touch out of character for me for that. It is a kind of political driven science fiction thriller and the base structure really just provides a platform for the rest. That book will really prefigure the Children series, I suspect, in the body of my work, and should it be a large enough body, a new strand will have begun there, though it will have very little in common with it content wise (except, possibly, a man with a metal leg--that appears in both).
Anyhow, back to work.