David Stevens

Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

In praise of the idiosyncratic …

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2015 at 12:57 am

All writing is genre writing, literary fiction is just another genre. And genre is just a way of working out where to put the damn thing on the right shelf in the book store. One day, I keep promising myself, I’ll write a series of posts on comfort food, the books I have come back to time and again. When I was young I thought my tastes obscure, yet when I look at those books, they are 70s blockbusters and old genre favourites and things easily found in second hand bookshops. My taste isn’t special, its just that at school, there were only two of us who read books, and in my adult life, that figure has not increased very much.

But of course I get sick of the ‘same-same’, and look for bright shiny things. There is little chance I will find that novelty amongst the self published and independently published, because I like to haunt book shops, and I no longer have the time nor patience to hunt things down. I need them to be shoved into my face.

In his review of ‘Black Wolf’ by Steph Shangraw in the most recent ‘Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’, Charles de Lint writes of books independently or self published, rather than traditionally published, that

… sometimes, like the book in hand, it’s simply that it’s not the kind of book a legacy publisher would be interested in. The pacing doesn’t match that of titles currently doing well in the marketplace. There might be too much description, or the plot moves in odd directions, lacking the strong forward momentum that’s come to be expected in pretty much every genre.

If an editor did work on a book like this, they’d probably cut a lot of what some might consider unnecessary description, subplots, and backstory. They’d rearrange the plot elements into a more linear narrative, with more forward drive.

Which makes me glad there’s now a ready outlet for authors with a more idiosyncratic way of telling a story.

The key word here is idiosyncratic. Steph Shangraw’s … prose is lovely in parts, she’s good at bringing her characters to life, and her dialogue is excellent. But she has her own way of telling a story.

…I enjoyed it from start to finish—though first I had to accept that it was going to be told at Shangraw’s own pace. Would a legacy editor’s hand have made this a better book? Possibly… Mostly it would have made it a different book.

From the subject matter described by de Lint, this is probably not a book for me. However, I relish de Lint’s emphasis that Shangraw has her own way of telling a story. There are only so many plots, and alleged originality in idea can be soooo undergraduate. Isn’t that what we crave, new approaches, novel voices, different ways of telling a story?

(For more on rejection by traditional publishers, see Henning Koch’s most recent post.)

And while still visiting over at Fantasy and Science Fiction, their current spotlight reprint is a 1981 article by the late Thomas Disch, where he refers to ‘the Labor Day Group’. He instantly states “I don’t mean to suggest that anything like a cabal is at work, only that a coherent generational grouping exists”, however it is interesting to read, especially in light of the recent bizzo at the Hugo Awards.

Speculative Fiction Festival

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2015 at 10:30 am

A little shout out for the NSW Writers’ Centre’s Speculative Fiction Festival (click on the highlighted text to be taken straight to their webpage), being held a the centre in the beautiful grounds of the former mental asylum at Callan Park. I have previously enjoyed many speakers and panels at the Speculative Fiction Festival and also the Genre Fiction Festival, found new writers to read, and picked up on the buzz of being surrounded by so many people interested in writing, and even a few who make their living from it. If you are in Sydney on 18 July, I can recommend it.

This year’s convenor/director is Cat Sparks. At a panel a few years ago, she challenged the audience: are you actually finishing your stories? And then, are you submitting them? And are you aiming your sights high, are you trying to sell in foreign markets? I had to admit, with a couple of minor exceptions, that my answer to all three was ‘no’. And so I did something about it. I set targets. I finished work. I sent it out. I haven’t set any worlds on fire, but I’ve now made pro and semi-pro sales in Australia and overseas, of stories I am proud of, in  publications I am excited to be associated with. So: thank you, Cat Sparks!

Get a move on …

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2015 at 12:54 am

And of course I’d lie to myself, telling myself there was still time, there were novelists who didn’t get started until they were fifty, hell, even sixty. Probably plenty of them.

– Stephen King

Or in the words of my dear friend Brett, ‘get a fucking move on’. Mate, the finger is officially out.

The Dope

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2015 at 7:41 am

“I’m looking for the dope with the microscope”

– Iggy Pop

One of my favourite lines, from the theme song from one of my favourite films, Repo Man, I was horrified to read yesterday that the quote is actually “looking for the joke with a microscope”. Several googles later, I was reassured by other sites that referred to “looking for the dope with a microscope”. Still. I prefer my brain’s version, I don’t picture anyone searching for minute quantities of dope with a scientific instrument, I picture a search for an actual science dude, referred to as the dope, who has a microscope and other tools (and driving a car, the boot of which you should not open). Just as I know that the line from Dirty Old Town is “springs a girl, from the streets of night”, I prefer to serenade everyone in hearing distance with “springs a girl, from the streets of time”. I’m old. Leave me with my small pleasures. It’s a mercy that won’t be forgotten. I mean, its not “Alex the seal”, after all.

Dracula is dead

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2015 at 7:23 am

Christopher Lee is dead, and no one is going to bring him back by dripping the blood of a virgin on his ashes in a deconsecrated London church (I walked past many such buildings last Christmas, I didn’t notice any jaded covenists hanging around waiting for dark, they all seemed to have been converted to rather jolly Sikh function rooms or mosques). I read today of an interview where he complained his Dracula was never given anything to do, and on reflection, he was blood well right. His immortality was a hunger driven needy thing, Hammer providing heaving bosoms and bare necks, but it was strangely sexless. There was no intellect (except at the end, where he planned to end humanity by plague so that all the nongs would stop bringing him back from the dead and he could just have it all over with), none of the drive that powered Stoker’s Dracula, nor the existential horrors that challenge Kim Newman’s Dracula. For all the foreboding and drama, his nosferatu was reminiscent of Janos Skorzeny in The Night Stalker, existing only to feed (unlike the rest of us – we also have consumerism!). Then we have Peter Cushing fretting away in his cardigan, and who can blame him, he’s getting on and who wants to step away from the three barred gas heater on a cold English night? Still, no one else is going to do anything, so van Helsing has to step out from his bed sit, probably wondering why he never emigrated to Australia when he had the chance, when there was plenty of work on the Snowy Mountain hydroelectric scheme, oh those jolly times of nation building before environmental assessment plans spoiled everything. A spot of fresh air will do him good, you can smell the cigarette smoke coming from the screen, no wait, they were the days when you were allowed to smoke in the cinema. I can remember having to stand for the national anthem before the movies started, and in the pre-Whitlam days, that was ‘God Save the Queen’.  For the life of me, I do not know why her Majesty had to grace each cinema broadcast, just as I do not know why each rugby league game has to begin with a rendition of ‘Advance Australia Fair’. Is someone trying to prove that rugby league is more authentically Australian than football, aka soccer?

But anyway, Christopher Lee is dead, and though he may rise on the last day, he isn’t going to rise before then, regardless of the Satanic Rites of Dracula or Dracula has Risen from the Grave, and at 93 he had a pretty decent innings, so it is a bit hard to complain if you aren’t a member of his family or one of his friends. Don’t come here for the facts, you can search anywhere else on the internet, I just want to say I enjoyed many of his films, especially when I shouldn’t have.

PS: This is nice.