Carving lines on the jail cell wall

I’ve been continuing with outlining process on … … … you know I really have to come up with a pseudonym for the novel project until I run into a title I’m happy with. OK then, from henceforth the current novel project shall be called … (cosiders momentarily) … SWORD! What do you mean it’s odd sounding? Oh well…at least I can live with it.

At current rate the outlining of SWORD looks like ot could take weeks, but really I just need to clear a day and get it done. I’m still feeling very positive about the outline process at the moment and am really looking forward to being able to sit down to the writing itself with a little less mental clutter and just being able top focus on the chapter at hand. In the debate of ‘outline vs. improvisation’ I’m coming down firmly on the side of the planning camp. In fact I’ve decided that anyone who writes fiction of any complexity and tells you they DON’T outline is either lying or self-deluded. And you can tell them I said that.

I’ve also been in short story land this week. There is an open call from BBC 7 for short fiction for braodcast, which interested me because I’m such a fan of Escape Pod and Pseudopod and Podiobooks. The BBC 7 programme makes it farly clear they aren’t interested in cutting edge SF or Fantasy so I resurrected an old idea  thought might fulfill their criteria, but really my heart just wasn’t in it. Its always a mistake to write for a specific opportunity unless it genuienly matches the actual direction of your writing so I’ve put the BBC opportunity to one side for now. However, I am submitting ‘Cthul-YOU’ to Weird Tales this week. My newly drawn up chart of my story submissions shows me that this is my only unpublished story on the market now. There are MANY other unpublished stories in my folio but as I get to know the markets better there are none I will send out again without some serious revisions. I also have some new ideas requiring a new style for shorts stories that I’m going to make the time to get into in the next few months. There is something about the short fiction mags like WT, Asimovs etc that I’m really growing to appreciate. Some of them have been around for so long that just getting a story into them feels like becoming a part of some strange alternative history (hmmm…that feels like a story stubb…). If I can possibly find the time whilst working on the novel and other commitments I really want to get some words down that will get into print on their pages.

For now however the outline for SWORD is the priority. Keep scratching away D.


Ender’s Game

enders-game.jpgOrson Scott Card is a writer that for many years existed in my mind as part of an amorphous mass of ‘Hard SF’ writers, most of them American, that I had not read and did not have any great interest in reading. Not due to any particular dislike for Hard SF, or for Americans, but because they were on the wrong side of my mental map of the SF/F geography. Which is a round about way of saying – I didn’t know anything about him or them.

This goes someway to explaining why Ender’s Game didn’t get any more than a first page test before hitting my ‘might read someday’ pile. The rest of the explanation can be found in knowing that before the ‘might read’ pile is the ‘will read’, then the ‘want to read’, then the ‘must read’ piles. And lets not forget the ‘MUST READ URGENTLY’ pile. There was nothing wrong with the book, but on page one nothing leapt out and my preconceptions did the rest. It took one of those fortuitous weeks of hearing OSC’s name three times in three different places to peak my curiosity again and get me on to page 2. Then page 3. Then pages 4,5,6 and on and on…

 I tore through Ender’s Game in three sittings over a weekend. The reasons for my excitement were manifold, a great story, intricate characters, brilliant pacing and an imaginative world both claustrophobic and escapist. By the evidence of this, his first novel, Card is every bit the writer his reputation says he is…and more.

But the most fascinating aspect of Ender’s Game was the presience of the novels predictions for our future, which originaly made in the late 70’s largely seem to have come true by the early noughties.

Ender is a young man caught into a game organised by the future military to train a new generation of star generals who will defeat Earth’s ever present alien menace, the buggers. Whilst this forms the spine of a complex tale of space warfare, the subtext of this story is the pressure that society places on the young in the process of forming them into adults. Enders experiences during military training parellel those that any young person being trained into an elite or simply towards high achievement would face. Where this subtext becomes spookily accurate is in the game metaphor that emerges repeatedly throughout the novel. In an era where many young men spend ever greater portions of their lives plugged into virtual game environments OSC’s novel has an ever more important emotional and intellectual message to deliver.


If I have a criticism of the novel it is a subjective one based on my reaction to the content of that message. The climax of Ender’s Game arrives when the young hero, having been put through what amounts to a programme of mental and physical abuse and brainwashing, defeats Earths alien enemies. All of the complex moral arguments that OSC weaves into his story are ultimately trumped by the rather straight forward ‘get them before they get you’ message. Somehow this struck me as incongruous, like a Hollywood happy ending tacked onto a Eurpean arthouse movie. It is as though OSC constructed the story in a logical fashion, found he disagreed with its morality and therefore abandoned the ending he didn’t like and replaced it with one that suited his own ethical framework. For this reason the end seems a little contrived, although there is no doubt it achieves a surprising twist and read purely as the climax of the adventure it works wonderfully.

My run in with Orson Scott Card may well direct me twords picking up a few more of the contemporary US Hard SF writers that I know so little of, although whther they will make it onto the ‘might read’ or the ‘must read’ pile I’m not sure. What I do know is that the next part of the Ender Saga is now on the ‘MUST READ URGENTLY’ pile, as will be most of Mr Cards other books when I can lay my hands on them.