The Past | The Previous

2006 (2005 Was Work, Books I Liked, Things I Published, & A Moment With Quantum Leap)

It's 2006. Say hi.

I've always liked the click over of the new year. It's the fresh slate, you know? A new me for a new year. Well, maybe not, but still, fresh starts and all that. Time to build the year anew. I was thinking about that (and the future and past) yesterday when I caught an episode of Quantum Leap. It's an old show from the end of the eighties that I watched off and on as a kid, but which always struck me as one of those shows that had the perfect high concept: a man lost in time, jumping from body to body, always looking like the new person to those around him, and then being forced to figure out the mystery of that person's life (or the people around them), helping them, and moving on once some sort of karmic balance is adjusted. The concept allows for the main character, played by Scott Bakula, to be dumped in any number of situations, and I'll always remember the one where he ended up in the body of Lee Harvey Oswald before the JKF assassination. I actually don't remember how the episode ends (I think the show suggests Oswald was the shooter but I could be wrong) but it's just a neat idea, something that allows you to play with history and time and situations in a huge variety. The JFK episode is probably pretty hoaky to watch again, a bit of a tired thing, but however old I was when it played, I totally got into that premise. The show itself didn't always pick up on this, and it's largely uneven, but there are good moments--moments that withstand the run of time, such as the episode I caught yesterday, where Bakula was dropped into the body of a murderer who was holding a mother and her daughter hostage. Right before he plans to let them go, he learns that the cops have surrounded the house, and that they plan to blow the fuck outta him should he step outside the door. He's got an hour and a half to figure it all out before he dies.

In the future, however, the killer arrives in the waiting room with a gun, and escapes... but he escapes into the futuristic world of 1995.

Made me laugh, that.

But rolling around to the new year makes me think that I've hit a new slate, especially in publishing, where the year's achievements disappear the moment a new year begins. Fiction wise, I had an okay 2005. 'The Dreaming City' was reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, which meant that the story would find an Australian audience, which I was very pleased with. A lot of the reviews of the story were positive on it, and that helped the writing of A Year in the City throughout the year. The story will be reprinted again this year in The Best of Leviathan, which is also very cool, and when Jeff VanderMeer puts up the table of contents for the book, I'll post it here. In addition to that, I published four short stories: The first was the first part in my three part sword and sorcery serial, 'The Elephant's Glass Prison', which appeared in the anthology Magistria, Volume 1, edited by G. W. Thomas (the second, 'The Wooden Sparrow's Labyrinth' will be out in volume two this year). My science fiction revenge story, 'Dream of a Russian Princess', appeared on Ticonderoga Online. 'An Examination into the Chinese Made Roman Toga', a religious comedy of sorts, was in Full Unit Hookup, #7 (which was even listed in andyhat's Recommended Reading of 2005, thus ensuring that someone read it and liked it). And 'Johnny Cash (a tale in questionnaire results)' appeared on Shadowed Realms, and it proved to be quite popular (well, popular in that strangers would actually tell me they liked it, stopping by the blog, emailing me, and in one case, actually saying to me in person, 'You're the guy who wrote Johnny Cash!') It'll be reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror this year, which is also real nice.

In addition to that short fiction, I also got to step into the weird side of fiction at a different angle by writing and, I guess, self publishing the Dialogues through this blog. They got a lot of nice feedback from everyone here, which was very pleasing, and I figured that it wouldn't be a bad idea to find an Artist and make a chapbook and make the Dialogues a semi regular (actual time frame to be decided) project that I could do. An Artist has been found, and she dismantles and rebuilds and talks to me about dead babies, as you do, and it proceeds at a good pace.

I sold my novel, Black Sheep, to Prime, which was quite cool, and it'll be interesting to see how that goes in the world once it's released, since I think it's going to be a like it or hate it kind of book. That's what dystopian novels are, really. I like the idea of using negative reviews from One Nation and The KKK for blurbs, myself. Heh. But, who knows? I'm just happy to have gotten a step onto the novel footpath. Likewise, selling Black Sheep helped with the writing of A Year in the City, which is about thirty, thirty five percent away from being complete as I type this. I have picked up a bit of RSI in the last couple of weeks, so I slowed down, did the exercises, all that shit. I've got to keep writing at a full pace until the end of March, most likely, and it does no good to cripple myself in December. On A Year in the City still, the dissertation part came back from my supervisor, and while things need to be done (as I knew they would) she said it was all looking good and didn't need any strenuous structural changes, which, y'know, thank fucking everything.

2005 was also the year of blog growth. For reasons unknown to me, the audience jumped something fierce here. It's nothing huge in the way the blogs can be, but for a guy writing in the small press, and without huge exposure, it's a strange thing to experience. As Cat Sparks said to me once, 'Your blog gets more readers than the books I publish.' (You should buy the books she publishes, by the way. Her Agog! series is going to be reprinted through Prime this year and that means you will be able to read 'Scratches in the Sky' in Agog! Fantastic Fiction and 'R' in Agog1 Smashing Stories again, as they are out of print now, I believe.) So as the audience grew here I got a crash course in what it's like to have an audience. I also got to watch this blog piss people off and make other people happy. The big thing done here, local scene wise, was the 2005 Snapshot done in April. I'm still not quite sure how that all came together so quickly, and how it didn't end up as a huge mess all over the net, but like all good performers, I'm not repeating this trick again.

And that was the year, in a way. Doesn't seem like a lot, really, but it feels like I was busy.

Books

I didn't read much this year for pleasure. I read a ton of books, and I read them quickly, I read only chapters, and I read portions and then tossed them aside for, while interesting, they were not what I wanted. Such is the research pattern that I use when doing my research for this phd. That said, I did read some such things for pleasure, and here's a rundown of what has stuck with me. It's nowhere near complete and doesn't deal with much published in 2005, but for what it is worth, this is it.

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami.

Murakami's new novel is not his best and, in truth, I think it falls apart at the end. That said, the first half of it is excellent, and Murakami at his strongest. The book feels like a transitional book to me, with Murakami moving into new areas, but I'm told that his next one, The Dark (?), is even more transitional. As I can't read Japanese, I just have to take M's word, but she has a good feel for Murakami, and I'd believe that. Still, whatever its faults, Kafka on the Shore is worth reading, tho despite this link going to the US Amazon, you should buy a British edition, which has yen instead of dollars in the translation.

Final Girl, Daphne Gottlieb (postmaudlin).

Published in 2003, it was one of my favourites in 2005. Final Girl is a book of poetry exploring the representation of females in horror films. There's more to it, of course, but as a one line breakdown, that's probably a fair description. Gottlieb uses a wide range of techniques and demonstrates a wide range as her ability as a poet. There's not much bad I can say about it--some pieces work better than others, as it always is with any kind of collection, but it's always good stuff.

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov.

I can't remember if I read this early this year or late last year, but who cares. Pale Fire is all goodness. Describing it doesn't do it justice--you just want a copy, if you haven't read it.

Lord of the Silver Bow, David Gemmell.

Yes, from Nabokov to David Gemmell. This is the type of guy I am. Gemmell's latest book is, actually, a structural departure from him, as he divides each chapter into three different view points on the events that are happening. It actually succeeds in making the main character, Helikaon, for the first half of the book, somewhat of a mystery. Still, the book is a return to history for Gemmell, as he mines ancient Greece to tell the story of Troy from the point of view of Aeneas (Helikaon). The first book is all set up for Troy, building Hektor, Odysseus, love triangles, and so forth. The writing is, as always with Gemmell, nothing special, but the battles are strong, as always, and I actually really dug this.

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, Cormac McCarthy.

A strange book, a kind of huge prose poem about the violence in frontier America. Beautifully written, tremendously violent, and with some of the finest imagery I've ever come across. It's not a book that is for everyone, but if you haven't read it, it's absolutely worth the attempt.

And, I think, with such a long post to open 2006, I'll end it there. Below is my resolution for the year.

In the year 2006 I resolve to:

Make more enemies than friends.



Get your resolution here


Comments

( 24 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )
mastadge
Jan. 1st, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
I look forward to Black Sheep. Prime very rarely disappoints me, and I've enjoyed what I've read of yours to date -- which is, admittedly, not much -- so I'll keep an eye out for it.
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 02:54 am (UTC)
cool. i'm hoping folk will dig it, naturally. there'll be pimpage through this blog, so it won't be hard to remember to buy it ;)
kazzibee
Jan. 1st, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)
hi.

you said to say hi.

do i win something?
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 05:57 am (UTC)
i'll give you a prize if you make the heat go away.
kazzibee
Jan. 1st, 2006 06:19 am (UTC)
Go hang out in an aircon shopping centre that has a cinema, like Broadway or something.

now do i win something?
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 06:25 am (UTC)
not bloody likely. i want the heat gone and me sitting on the front lawn under a nice rain.
kazzibee
Jan. 1st, 2006 06:27 am (UTC)
you could always break the water restriction and make a big fountain in the front yard. make some bucks letting people in!
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 06:31 am (UTC)
you're such a piker. i ask for one thing, and you can't give it.
kazzibee
Jan. 1st, 2006 06:36 am (UTC)
yeah i know, useless old me.

best solution i've used today is a big bathtub full of tepid water. very cooling, but alas does not seem to make the hotstinkingweather go away.
sonanova
Jan. 1st, 2006 09:19 am (UTC)
My resolution had me riding a mechanical bull in drag. While I plan on the drag part, I think I have to pass on the bull.
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 11:36 am (UTC)
tsk. you're just no fun ;)

you ever rode a mechanical bull? i've never even seen one. i think i'd have to try one if i came across it.
sonanova
Jan. 1st, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
Wow...you know, you're right. I bet they don't even make those things anymore. Someone would get sued.

Putting a wasted drunk individual on a ride intended to throw you off in the first place...

I am kinda thinking of looking up the history of those things and I wonder now if I would even recognise it for what it is unless I saw someone riding one.
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 10:25 pm (UTC)
i think the mechanical bull'd be much more american than australian, so i think i'd just be shocked to see one here. (like this place called lone star here where all the waiters and waitresses are forced to line dance during the night--i always think of that as american, but could very well be australian. not, er, that i go to lone star often. or, in fact, more than that one time.)
sonanova
Jan. 1st, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
I have never been line dancing. Just so you know.

It's a southern thing, really, though I guess they do have a place around here...still, no mechanical bulls, though.
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
i think i've been line dancing. heh. i don't remember when and where (i think we might've gotten taught in primary school) but i know i've line danced before.

maybe australia is just the miniature southern america.
black13
Jan. 1st, 2006 10:01 am (UTC)
I clicked on the resolution thingie and got one I can't apply, because it describes an attitude I've already held since I was a teenager.
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 11:37 am (UTC)
should've gone for another one, man. that's what i did.
bodhichitta0
Jan. 1st, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
Happy New Year, Ben.

What's RSI? Your hands/wrists hurting?
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC)
yeah, wrists and hands. too much time typing, i guess.
future_conduit
Jan. 1st, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)
my housemate and i have been having quantum leap moments too. we actually hired the whole first series and watched them over the course of a few days.

merry happy everything and stuff, by the way
benpeek
Jan. 1st, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
happy new year and such to you, too. how has the first season of quantum leap stood the test of time? i thought the episode i caught was pretty well written, myself, and it got me wandering about the lot which i've always considered patchy.
future_conduit
Jan. 2nd, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)
the first two eppisodes each were an hour long, the rest were standard 1/2 hour. they were suprisingly well written, i thought - not mind blowingly brilliant, but enjoyable. only one or two actually made me cringe at the kornyness of it. at any rate it appeased my inner 13 year old. there was a lot of sexual innuendo on the behalf of Al the hologram that i totally missed the first time around. sure the eppisodes were all fairly formulted, but they weren't too bad - especially when you consider some of the unimaginative tripe that has been aired over the last few years.

formulae as follows:

1) finds himself in strange situation (eg: holding a pig; in bed with some gorgeouse woman; in the seat of a fighter jet; in a boxing ring, etc.)
2) Al appears rambling about some woman called Tina, he pulls out his calculator to relay what karmic event ziggy the computer has calculated must be resolved.
3) He gets busted Talking to Al the hologram, but it somehow fits the conversation he's having with the "real" person anyway
4) there is a mention of a real historical event during that era. this gets explored to a greater or lesser extent.
5) the ziggy-calculated karmic event isn't actually the one that must be resolved in order to leap.
6)everything is eventually made to be fine and dandy.
7) leaps into next bizzare scenario.

benpeek
Jan. 2nd, 2006 10:22 am (UTC)
yeah, the formula was pretty much there as a stamp for each episode, but it could have been worse, i suppose. i might check out the season when i get a bit of time. better than watching whatever else is on the telly at the moment.

(though not south park. i love that show.)
future_conduit
Jan. 2nd, 2006 10:45 am (UTC)
yeah, could have been a lot worse.

southpark kicks arse. i don't have a TV at this house (thank fuck) but southpark is the only thing i actually miss watching.
( 24 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )