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 Haven't posted in a while, in part because whatever writing steam I have has been diverted into finally starting another fanfic. I've enjoyed the Doctor/Companion dynamic in the most recent season of Doctor Who, enough to try writing around it. The Doctor and Bill aren't really the central characters in this story, just part of the ensemble/PoV, but then that's often how it works on the show. While I'm not really knowledgeable enough to write a convincing archeological expedition, let alone one taking place on another planet in the far future, I take some pride in their troubles not involving a curse.

As always, there are scenes I actually want to write, and then there are far more scenes that have to be written in order to get the characters to the place where the fun scenes can happen, but I've completed and posted four chapters so far -- serializing these things sometimes (not always) forces me to keep going until they reach a conclusion. And it's fun to write something for a popular fandom, because then people actually read it.
moon_custafer: (acme)
Yesterday, handful_ofdust's posts on Tumblr of Odilon Redon led me to look up and read the 1926 translation of A Rebours (I read the first couple of chapters in the original before deciding my French wasn't up to a, 1880s novel on deliberately arcane topics), AKA The Novel That Corrupted Dorian Gray, AKA How to be a Jaded Hipster (1880s edition). The protagonist, des Esseintes, is annoyed that his pleasure in Goya's prints has been ruined by the artist's work having, in recent years, become popular:

This diffusion of appreciation among the common herd was in fact one of the sorest trials of his life; unaccountable triumphs had for ever spoilt his enjoyment in pictures and books he had once held dear; the approbation of the general voice always ended by making him discover some hitherto imperceptible blemish, and he would repudiate them, asking himself if his taste was not getting blunted and untrustworthy.

In addition to being a proto-hipster, des Esseintes is a proto-MRA/PUA, and the kind of atheist who had a religious upbringing and therefore spends all his time obsessively arguing theology, and worrying that he might some day believe it, because then his teachers will have won. I'm not sure how much of this was intended as satire by the author -- I think the passages on decor are serious, as well as the lengthy descriptions of des Esseintes' library (part of the point of this novel seems to be to collect and summarize all the books the author likes, for the benefit of readers who can't get their hands on them), but I'm not sure des Esseintes himself is -- he has too many failures. His exotic plants all die of neglect, and his attempt to turn a working-class teenager to crime does not result in the lad's name showing up in the newspaper for having murdered anybody. His only happy chapter is when he decides to see England and gets as far as an English restaurant catering to travelers. To his delight, they all remind him of Dickens characters. Eventually he decides the real England would only disappoint him -- after all, the Netherlands turned to not be anything like a Bruegel painting in real life -- so he turns around and goes home satisfied until the following chapter when he has another nervous collapse. I think he probably gets laid more often than his modern-day successors, but that's because, as a wealthy 19th-century aristocrat, he can pretty much just pay for sex; one of the many things that annoy him about modern life is that brothels are gradually being replaced with taverns, where one has to flirt with the waitresses rather than just buy them:

Des Esseintes could not help exclaiming, what simpletons these fools must be who flutter round beer-halls, for, to say nothing of their ridiculous self-deception, they have positively brought themselves to ignore the danger they run from the low-class, highly suspicious quality of the goods supplied, to think nothing of the money spent in drinks, all priced beforehand by the landlady, to forget the time wasted in waiting for delivery of the commodity, — a delivery put off and put off continually in order to raise the price, frittered away in delays and postponements endlessly repeated, all to quicken and stimulate the liberality of the client.

In any case, based on his flashbacks, des Esseintes still ended up disappointed with his mistresses' non-resemblance to his fantasies; the big muscular circus acrobat turned out to not be kinky or dominant, and the ventriloquist dumped him when she got fed up with his insistence that she throw her voice when they were in bed together. So, yeah, basically, he's the That Guy of 19th-century French literature.
moon_custafer: (acme)
Had a SFnal story idea on the way home, and began typing after supper. Think I have a bit more than the skeleton of a 2000-2500-word story. Working title, "Arthouse."
moon_custafer: (acme)
I followed a link to to what turned out to be a review of The Quiet Ones with the headline Aren't You Sick of Possession Movies That Always Look Like This? While it seemed an even-handed review of the movie, so far as I can tell without having seen it, I'm more interested in thinking about how possession movies might be done differently; but find myself mostly recalling ghost stories.

Fullcircle, by John Buchan, and A Wicked Voice, by Vernon Lee -- do treat possession in a more subtle way -- perhaps because ghosts are different from demons. Both have stories in which someone's personal tastes are insidiously manipulated from what they were; both have the problem that the change does not necessarily seem all that bad -- in Fullcircle, the people who move into the old house first become more sociable and less hippy-granola-ish, and then, o horror, they convert to Catholicism. In A Wicked Voice, the narrator is compelled the spirit of a castrato to compose Italianate neo-Baroque operas instead of the grim Wagnerian-inspired stuff that he wants to do; and is even more appalled that audiences are fool enough to like them (if he were living in our century, he'd probably use the term "sheeple.") Subtle possession is a good trope that can easily be done in by values dissonance.

Lately I've come across the reverse -- a cache of transformation-themed fetish stories that can mostly be summed up as "in which I become the man of my dreams." I call these the reverse because they're clearly meant as wish-fulfillment even though the situations would be horror to anyone who didn't have that specific kink (admittedly, that's pretty much the definition of kink). The one that I rather liked, The Top Hat, was also the closest to the type of possession stories described above: a man buys a pre-WWI hat and finds himself, over the following weeks and months, physically coming to resemble the Teddy-Roosevelt-esque gent who originally owned it (imagine The Case of Charles Dexter Ward if it were gay bear kink with a happy time-paradox ending).
moon_custafer: (acme)
My story "Open the Doors, and See All the People" is supposed to go up on Fiction Vortex tomorrow.
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The thought crossed my mind that this had to be some kind of elaborate parody – but mailing out a beautifully-produced catalogue to random people seemed a lot of trouble to go to just to get a laugh. I picked up the Plein-air Entertainments catalogue again and studied the blasted heath beyond an artful grouping of whitewashed folding deck chairs. It didn’t look like a photoshop job. Someone had scouted this location and photographed the composition in deep focus.
Read more... )

New WiP

Jun. 7th, 2013 09:36 pm
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"Junque Mail"

As usual I'm not really sure where this is going. Credit to Don Hutton for the anecdote at the beginning.

It’s not as though I’m unaware of the trope of the Mysterious Little Curiosity Shop. Read more... )
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So, yesterday I finished reworking and polishing Nine, and sent it to Innsmouth Free Press with a caveat that it’s Weird, but not Lovecraftian per se (their guidelines page says they take both).

I think they pay one cent a word, which adjusted for inflation is much less than what Weird Tales paid its writers during the Depression. Oh well.
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In Trouble Is My Business, Marlowe finds himself (unwillingly) in the office of a gangster/politician who strokes a Persian cat as he sneers. It's a black Persian, not a white one, and behaves so realistically (she gets bored and biting her master, or wanders off to sit on his desk and wash one single toe on her left hind paw) that I figured Chandler must have had cats himself. Well: it seems his secretary was a cat; that is to say, his cat, Taki, liked to sleep on his manuscripts. So much so, apparently, that she found her way into one story.

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Dave Malki et al. are putting out a second Machine of Death anthology, and have posted three preview stories. It's impressive how wide a variety of things can be done with the anthology's basic premise of a machine that tells you how you will die (but not when) and is never wrong.

Sent off my entry to the Toronto Star's short-story contest, because I had a non-fantasy non-sf story that needed a venue. Analog returned 'The Emmet' because it wasn't quite SFnal enough, but they were very polite about it. Funny how this coincided with sovay's viewing of Phase IV.

I've been unsure for weeks how to introduce this, but French photographer Sacha Goldberger has been collaborating for several years with his grandmother Frederika, staging humorous photos, and eventually began focussing on a character called Super-Mamika, a grandmother superheroine. They just closed their third show of photographs featuring the character and other elderly superheroes/villains. Behind the humour, or alongside it, Goldberger is interested in the same territory explored in things like Watchmen -- what is a superhero's life like outside of the panels? -- and is also very much aware of the Jewish background to most of those characters. In other words, it's not coincidence that of his three models in the most recent show, one (Mamika) spent the war eluding the Nazis and helping other people do so; and one (Alexandre Halaunbrenner AKA Dark Papouka - he's Vader's grandpa) is a man who survived the camps as a child and spent much of his adult life tracking down Klaus Barbie.
moon_custafer: (bat country)
So I have about 400 more words left to punch up the ending before I hit the 5,000-word limit for this year's Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest.

I feel like this is the sort of scene where I need to dive in and not to be afraid to go word-salad if that's what it takes, but I'm still bracing myself and taking a deep breath.
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Begun on Saturday morning when i woke up.

"First, God came for the Fundies, and I did nothing, because they'd been praying for him to do
that for decades."

Read more... )
moon_custafer: (skiing)
There was a question -- two questions, really, in the interview yesterday: "What's your advice to writers" and "Did you do research for your story?" I woke up with my brain making further comments on the topic of research for fiction: do it, yes, but deploy the information you discover wisely. Awkward info-dumps are bad enough, but worse is characters who keep making clever remarks on aspects of their environment that should be beneath their notice.

The example that always jumps to my mind is Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford, a novel about the life of Christopher Marlowe that just can't get over the crazy lack of standardized spellings in Elizabethan England: every time characters are introduced, they'll spend several paragraphs talking to each other about how there are multiple ways to spell and pronounce their names. Not only did this completely yank me out of the story whenever it happened, it's now the only thing I can recall about the book.

Even if it were had just been Marlowe who did this (he at least has the excuse of being a writer*,) and everyone else rolled their eyes and muttered "he's on about it again," I think I could have accepted it as plausible; but, well, a modern-day equivalent would be a story set in the late 20th/early 21st century in which everyone chats about how the temperature of their tap water can be adjusted by turning the faucet handle; or wonders out loud who decided that chairs should be the height that they are; without this ever becoming an actual plot point.

It occurred to me last night that there's an opposite example in Cory Doctorow's Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town: in which the protagonist's name changes from paragraph to paragraph. He's usually called Alan, but it soon becomes evident he'll answer to any masculine name beginning with A, and when his younger brothers show up (by this time we know Arnold is one of the few members of his family able to pass as human), we realize they weren't actually named -- they were alphabetized.

This works, because none of it is ever directly commented on in the novel -- to Alan it's completely normal, and he's our PoV character. Whether regular humans notice Arthur's shifting nomenclature is left to the reader to judge, though I suspect they simply block out any incongruity. Only one person pointedly addresses him as Abdul shortly after meeting him to let him know she's spotted the phenomenon, but she's not exactly human either, as it turns out, and her perception is probably meant to foreshadow this.

* He also gets really annoyed if anyone addresses him as "thou," but at least he doesn't lecture them about how it's disrespectful to address anyone in the singular unless they're a close personal friend.
moon_custafer: (skiing)
Signed the contract for 'Noble Metals' to be in Tails of the Pack, and answered the questionnaire for Patricia Correll's blog.


Oct. 2nd, 2012 10:33 pm
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Linking with the permission of leahbobet -- please note that the site eventually took this article down, and also please respect Leah's wishes that we not turn this into a 'shitstorm' but:

Leah was asked for an author interview-by-questionnaire for a column called "The Rack." She was told it was "kind of brutal," but the questions seemed normal so she answered. Turns out the "interview" format is to portray the author's answers as information obtained by torture.

Let's just think about that for a bit.

As she puts it in a later comment:

The interviewer explained to me that he wants to counteract the kind of interview which fawns over the author, or is "overly respectful". I can see where that motive comes in; but I think the execution has overstepped into being disrespectful to the person who the author also is.

I repeat that she wants to take the high road here, and anyway I don't want to give the site any more google hits, so no dogpiling. I just wanted to let people know that this has been going on.
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Rushthatspeaks posted today about one of my favourite authors, Daniel Pinkwater, and in checking the internet for Mr. Pinkwater's latest doings I came across this odd news story from April, in which a standardized-testing company used an (altered) version of one of his short stories and utterly confused everyone who took the test. The story came originally from a collection of parody fables and had involved a race between a hare and an eggplant, which was changed to a pineapple for the test, along with an alteration to the story's moral. Either way, it must have been rather like including a Zen koan in a reading-comprehension exam.

Funnily, both versions of the story remind me of nothing so much as a scene in Frederic Brown's Dead Ringer which I also read this week; it's a scene that is not directly connected to the plot (murder's in a mid-century traveling carnival), but perhaps serves to illustrate character. Several carnies are playing cards in a trailer, and one challenges another, the show's magician, to a single hand of poker, for high stakes, with the magician dealing. They stare each other down for a while, and at last the magician, convinced the other guy must have some sort of angle or he wouldn't risk two hundred dollars trying to beat him at his own game, folds. His opponent collects the ante, which was what he was playing for all along (that and the pleasure of out-bluffing the magician). Everyone else is astonished that he'd risked two hundred to win six dollars, but he'd known exactly how to play the guy.
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Anyone know anything about Sky Warrior Books, other than that they seem to do e-books only? They accepted 'Noble Metals' for a werewolf anthology.


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