Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Author's Commentary: This Tall Tale

This Tall Tale

John Harley is one of my longest running characters. I think originally he was an embodiment of my youthful fantasies, a little bit of wishful thinking from me, a lot of Indy and a large helping of random occult. The name is my name (obviously) with added 'Harley', as in the bike: masculine, hard and cool. Like I say, youthful fantasies.

I like him though. I can't find the original story right now, but it was one of my favorites, I might have a hunt for it, to see if it has stood the test of time. It has been on the internets, but is not so easily found now, apparently.

I was going to write a trilogy of shorts back then, but I think I only got as far as planning number two. Later on he appeared on Hidden Tracks, in a mildly disturbing little piece called Zombiegasm. I'm pretty sure I've written more, but I can't recall them right now. One day he will have his own book.

This isn't really the next in the 'This is micro-fiction' series. I've skipped the Christmas one. I'm saving that piece of unsettling yuletide disturbia for nearer the big day. You lucky people.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Author's Commentary: This Institution

This Institution

And here I am back in my alternate history where Germany won the war... But this time it's more of a vehicle, and I'm not sure it was the right one. I'm not sure when exactly modern bookshops, as we know them, came into being. With the fierce commerciality and warring for space. And that is what I'm talking about here. So whether Master Shakespeare would really have experienced bookshops like this I don't know.

I have.

It's something I keep coming back to. There is something a little like Jormungandr in modern retailing, we fill the shelves so people can take the books off the shelves so we can fill them again. In total we have more books in stock and on order then can fit on the shelves because we allow for ordering time and empty space is wasted space. It is a constant fight to make sure we have enough (and the right) things in stock so that people will buy them so that we can get more in so that people will buy those...

When the new Dan Brown comes out he expands from half a shelf to a shelf and a half as interest in his backlist revives, while other authors' shelf space shrinks. Interest in an author or a genre waxes and wanes. Already growing in popularity, the boost from Twilight thrust paranormal romance (or 'Dark Fantasy' as you will find it branded in Waterstones) into enough commercial significance that it now has its own section. It sells better than traditional horror. Now there's a scary thought...

My point is, bookshops do breath and stretch and twitch. They are alive.

I was taught there are seven signs that define an organism as living. I could take my Hammer of Metaphorical Excess and, with only a little bludgeoning, show that bookshops display them all.

Author's Commentary: This is Albion

This is Albion

Oddly, this was another that arose out of criticism. Albion is over-used. It's a great name for an alternate Britain where the name never died, it inspires thoughts of Arthur and a mystical era of druids and myths and superstitions. When I first came across the name I loved it, I vowed to use it, I would have an alternate England, of mysticism and wonder, and it would be Albion.

And everyone else had the same idea.

It's like writing about an alternate history where Germany won the war.

So I took the name and made it science fiction. Took the legends and thrust them into the future. I get to use the name Albion without it just being another England, but I keep that superstitious edge. 'One hundred and one days' is such a fairytale length of time, possibly a step back from 'a year and a day' but that extra day makes a journey a quest, a quest an adventure, an adventure - epic. Actually I think if I reworked this, it would be a year and a day... (I'm tempted to go edit it right now...)

This is George and the Dragon. This is Arthurian legend where the lady in the lake is an alien race, thrusting gleaming technology forth from the darkening depths of their own extinction. This is science fiction. This is Albion.

(so the blurb would say... maybe ;) )

It's also one of the longer pieces so far, and I can see the wisdom in 365tomorrows keeping all their stories beneath 600 words. It's a good length for an internet attention span. I considered breaking this down into two parts, and it would certainly be possible with a little work. But doesn't that strike you as odd? Two parts at less than a thousand words each? Maybe nowadays, but I think it will become less odd as we become more used to micro-fiction... flash fiction... short shorts... whatever you want to call them.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

This Doublespeak: Author's Commentary

This Doublespeak

"Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself."
-1984, George Orwell

I was thinking about alternate histories. The classic and most overused alternate history is the Nazis winning World War 2. I didn't want to do that, it's too obvious, but it did get me thinking... In an offhand comment to a friend I mentioned the eternally burning pyres of London and New York, thinking of the book burning. Thinking that in every country they took the Germans would have one eternally burning bonfire of illicit books, confiscated from around that country.

I didn't say it made sense...

I just like the idea that with typical English pride, the British Library would become an underground resistance movement. So while I wouldn't write a longer piece in which the Nazis won, I couldn't help but sketch the idea as micro-fiction. Twice, in fact, you'll see another in two weeks time...

Orwell probably wouldn't have written 1984 in this world, of course, and it certainly wouldn't have been published; which is why the final quotation isn't in quote marks - in their world it isn't one.