Because science into life doesn't go

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Eoin, Malcom, and David wonder if the OAP home was the best choice of venue

Maybe six-forty, on a rainswept Wednesday evening in August, wasn't the ideal time for a gig, but nanbanjin (meaning: southern barbarians) still played their hearts out.

It's just a shame the audience didn't respond to the energy on the stage. I think I was the most involved audience member with my slight head-banging and hands in pockets.

Anyway, the occasion was more about catching up with Eoin, who was a fellow student on the Celta teacher-training course in Budapest in 2004. And as a big bonus, it just so happened that Greg -- another Celtee -- was acting as manager for the band's tour of England. Apparently, the tour hasn't been so rock-and-roll -- Greg's been supplying fitness lessons rather than hard drugs...

Sarah tries to ignore Greg's fitness instructions. Well, look at the state of him!

Other bands followed Nanbanjin, but none could live up to the quality of the first act. Why they weren't put later in the bill, was a mystery. By nine, there were at least fifty people in the audience.

The next day they played in Bude, Devon -- about a five hour drive away -- after a stopover in Reading for sleep. Seems being in a band means getting well acquainted with roads...

There's no accounting for popular taste

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Despair to A New Hope in 24 Hours

First off, a big congrats to Nye, Livia, and Will who have sold, sold, sold!

So, Wednesday saw me at a low ebb -- completely unrelated to my classmates' successes, of course. Why? I went through all the critiques of my Clarion-written story "Core Temperature" (crap title, I know). Twenty-five annotated manuscripts, whose insights, for some masochistic reason, I decided to transfer to the laptop. Every single issue with the piece flowed through my fingertips, and I realized just how much it sucked. Sucky ending, sucky characterisation, sucky structure, sucky use of the rich environment, sucky psychological relationships, and on and on....a complete re-write was on the cards.

Luckily, after a night's sleep, I choose to salvage what I could. Today I came up with a new scene breakdown and a better handle on the characters. Right now I'm 2300 words in and am feeling much better. It's probably still melodramatic bullshit, but there's no one around to tell me that, so I can indulge in the fantasy that it isn't...also, I found a quiet place to write -- less than a metre from my bed no less!

Reading: The Handmaid's Tale
Words: 900

Where the...ahem...magic happens

Monday, August 14, 2006

Books Are Evil

So, the package of manuscripts from the States arrived today (my manuscripts, annotated with the clever thoughts of my fellow Clarionites), but of course I was still asleep when the postman called. This meant a trip into town. I got on my bike, focused on the mission in hand, but thinking I'd just stop off at the Oxfam store to see if there's anything new in. (One of the up-sides in living in a town with a vast geriatric population, aside from the easy muggings, is the quantity of second-hand bookshops).

Then I saw the "Everything Half-Price" ticket in the window. I'll buy a couple of books, I thought, and still have plenty of room for the scripts in my backpack.

Didn't happen.

Thirty minutes later I came out with twelve books for a tenner. This is what I bought:

Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkein (previously read, but purchased for completeness)
Hyperion - Dan Simmons
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Ghostwritten - David Mitchell
Gates of Eden - Ethan Coen
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicler - Haruki Murakami
Regeneration - Pat Barker
Black Holes - Ed. Jerry Pournelle
Enduring Love - Ian McEwan
Dreamsnake - Vonda M. McIntyre
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

I went home happy but manuscript-less.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Experiencing the usual reluctance to start a new story....have managed to avoid beginning by going into town for book porn (there is so much I want to read -- and that's just in the SF section), spending ages in WHSmith assessing potential magazines to subscribe to, doing some shopping, reading a min. of 50 pages from "Beggars in Spain" and then working on the travel blog.

So, this post is to announce the resurrection of the Back by Christmas 2003 travel blog. The days ahead look free so I expect to post daily. Check it out.

I spent ages looking for the invisible cafe, too...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The English

Stoning for the Modern Age

For those people not caught up in the airport chaos, Saturday afternoon offered a great British knees-up by the river.

Yes, today was the annual Adur Bath Tub Race -- an opportunity to once again prove that maritime excellence resides in the bones of every Englishman. After months of preparation approx. fifty teams gathered along the banks of the River Adur in Bramber, mid-Sussex, with contraptions that bared little relation to any boat I've seen before. There were three rules as far as I could tell. First, no engines. Second, compulsory life-jackets for the two man crews. Third, spectators could only throw flour bombs at the racers.

That's right. This was another chance for the English to (i) show what good sports they are, and (ii) be humiliated by a willing public. Kind of like a Big Brother day-out.

19, The Orange Submarine, sinks moments later - a perfect example of Directionless Britain

Okay, maybe I'm being unfair -- this was for charity after all. But there does seem to be a clear tendency these days for "doing things for a laugh" and "having a bit of fun", which I'm all for, but does it always have to be like that? As a nation we'd rather hide behind humour and cheekiness, than actually stand-up and try and be good at something. People are paralysed by a fear of failure, and don't even want to get into the position where they might be judged as such. The trouble with such thinking is that it leads to mediocrity. And that's what England seems to be to me in 2006. Mediocre. Popularity has become the touchstone for achievement. Popular soaps, popular news shows, popular products, popular people. It's so fucking bland.

And if someone IS trying to better themselves? The common response is to question their attempts. Normalize them. Make them conform. Because if they don't and they achieve something then they're saying something about you. Something you probably don't want to hear.

On the left -- Supersonic egg contrail!

Anyway. The boat race was funny and ridiculous and community re-affirming. The best moment? When Gordon -- incapacited by a wrist injury -- made me throw an egg at the motorised judging boat (which I hit) and moments later an announcement was made that eggs were strictly forbidden as missiles. Did I feel like I was bucking the system!

Gordon blames his fiance

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Clarion Week Seven...err, hang on...

So, since it took me until Monday to get home, I figure I've had two extra days to get my shit together and start being a writer again...which I did today by spending about six hours editing a pre-Clarion story with all the insights I learnt there. Or maybe I just assembled every single comment that my OWW critiques generated and then tailored the piece to them ;)

If anyone wants to read it, just ask. My only condition is that, upon reading it, you only offer line-by-line edits and possible markets...I am not someone who can re-write a piece ad-infinitum (actually ad-two, to be exact).

The plan to insulate myself from the world at large continues to go well -- I only left the house to go for a run today. And I've only talked to the cat in the last 24 hours. Fortunately, tomorrow night I get to see friends in wild and wacky Brighton!

It's 2.30am which is bedtime -- I have a cunning plan to keep to Clarion sleep patterns and only sleep five hours a night for the rest of my life. Sadly the first three post-Clarion nights have ended in failure. Reading "Beggars in Spain", which is about a splinter group of humanity who don't need to sleep, isn't helping.


Monday, August 07, 2006

What the %$&@? Dial-Up?!

Back in UK, safe and sound and feeling like I'm out the loop. The writer's equivalent of going cold turkey...good job BK sent me a story to get my teeth into....which I'll read tonight...and maybe have a crit circle in the morning with the cat and a few houseplants...oh dear...

This feeling's not helped by the stone-age technology I have around me. Tomorrow I will hunt for Wireless Broadband...until then I'm keeping it brief and no's just too painful...

Sleep might help, I guess.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Circle of Not So Much Power Anymore

Everyone's gone. Rahul Kanakia's gone. Aimee Poynter's gone. Kelly Link, Steve Berman, and Holly Black have gone. Sean, Felice, Shveta, Alex, and people named Will. They've all gone. BK went ages ago.

I feel like bursting into tears until I realize it's gonna be more comical that melancholy to the other guests in the lobby area. Then I smile. Bittersweet is the word. I want to reflect and enjoy the memories of the last six weeks, but I don't want to get home and be pining for an experience that has ended. The present is too precious to miss. Instead, I'll catalogue (I can't help it) some of my favourite moments:

Playing a group game called "Thing" for the first time and finding I'd picked the Mother-Thing card. Baby-Things were spawned in the night!

Michael Furlong yelling "Go Team Furby" when playing volleyball and annoying the hell out of the other side. And repeatedly falling over on dancefloors, hills, etc

Nancy Kress saying she thought my story might be able to make it into Analog after revision.

Watching Alex and Will A. recite Kelly Link's story "The Cannon" for the Archives book reading. Alex has the most expressive voice I've heard, and it contrasted very effectively with Will's sly queries. Many British pounds will be rolling into the coffers of his AudioBook site shortly.

Chip Delany giving memorable advice about dogs and pushing the envelope.

Reading a manga tale that was as cool as the Ice Hailstorm Attack therein.

Seeing people write outside their usual zones...and succeed. You know who you are!

Beating Toby Buckell at billiards. Toby, as well as being an award winning writer by 21, used to make extra bucks as a pool hustler, so besting him on the (admittedly dodgy) green baize was very satisfying.

The moment the phrase "The writing was very smooth", oft used in the critique circle, tipped from sincere comment to parody.

Ordering Chinese food at 1am and not having to move to collect it. American consumer culture sometimes rocks.

Writing the last word of "Thargus and Brian" and completing six Clarion stories. Much jumping around did ensue...

Watching a five foot three (?), slight, Classical Pianist, take down a six foot six, Delany beard-impersonating, Chewbaca figure.

Seeing Sean Manseau -- weight-lifter, NYC bartender, take-no-shit kinda guy -- dressed like he'd come straight from a horrific 60s gender experiment...and Brad!

Watching BK Dunn, stoic-extraordinaire, pet his AIBO.

Harpers and goatee-beards.

Learning that Role-Playing-Games can be creepy, fun, and dramatic.

Michael Swanwick occasionally NOT being able to make a better title for a piece of work.

Discovering that my fellow Clarionites could write prose AND poetry. And then having the gumption to assemble it.

The last meal in the Owen Cafeteria. I like greasy food, but this place takes the deep-fried, butter-drenched, chocolate-coated biscuit.

Being given "Night of the Cooters" and "Werewolves in their Youth" during my 1-2-1 with Kelly Link. Just one of the countless examples of Kelly's generosity -- thanks for the Brownies, too!

Every time Will L opened his mouth. This man would be a stand-up comic if he wasn't such a good writer. I'm sorry I didn't get to know him better.

Chris Cevasco putting a box on his head for no apparent reason. Doesn't sound funny but this guy makes it hilarious.

Winning Mafia even though Steve Berman started the night-round while one of the Mafioso, Alex, was out the room. Alex walked to his seat while we, the other two Mafia, had our eyes open, and none of the villagers put 2 and 2 together in the morning.

Realizing I can probably sleep less.

Being out of England during another soul-destroying World Cup run.

BTW: Reports of Week 5 and 6 to follow. Keep checking below.