Mundane SF

I like the Mundane SF movement and may well take up the call for stories recently issued on behalf of Interzone. However like any movement that takes itself (ever so slightly) too seriously its likely the Mundanistas are going to find themselves the butt of an increasing amount of humour.

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From the My Elves Are Different! blog, punching holes in the SFF bubble in all the right places.

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Alt.Fiction Bulletin 2

Well, Alt Fiction has been and gone again. And it was really, really excellent. I managed to squeeze three sessions into the afternoon.

First up was a discussion about the alternative fiction small press with Pete Crowther of PS Publishing, Christopher Teague of Pendragon Press, Andrew Hook from Elastic Press and one other I will have to look up. The small press has really became the saviour of genre fiction in recent years. PS in particular has taken the lead in keeping classic writers like Ramsey Campbell in print and discovering new talent, with Joe Hill the leading example. I expect to see the small press go from strength to strength over the next few years, and good luck to them.

Second was without a doundt the most useful 45 minute writing workshop I’ve ever joined in with by Graham Joyce. I have to admit dialogue has been getting me down for the last few months so getting a blast of expertise on the subject from an expert was timely to say the least. I’m going to post a few more details from this workshop tommorow.

Finaly was the unofficial guest of honour Iain M Banks. Iain is one of my three formative writers along with William Gibson and Philip K Dick. I’ve met Gibson, PKD is dead (Now there is a story title) so seeing IMB was like completing the trilogy. I actually got considerably closer than I had intended to. I got collared by Alex Davis the organiser to carry some books down to the cargo elevator (the extent of my volunteer activities for the day – sorry Alex!). Coming back into the venue I ended up backstage and literary ran into IMB waiting to go on for his reading. Of course I paniced, waived manicly, shrieked ‘Hello Iain’ and then ran away leaving a bemused world famous author behind me. Well done D. However, I did get a clip of Iain reading from the next Culture novel! (see next post…)

I might try and post a more considered, insightful account of Alt.Fiction tommorow. For now I need to rest my aching brain.

Alt.Fiction Bulletin 1

Alt.Fiction 2007 gets off to a rousing start with talks from Mark Chadbourne, james Barcla, Stan Nichols and a bundle of other writers. There is a fantastic selection of book stalls that I’m yet to even get near – I’ve stepped out for a bit to eat lunch and let the brain cool down after all the listening. I’ve been making Ipod mic. recordings of the talks so far. Unfortunately they aren’t good enough quality to post as they wouldn’t do the writers involved justice but they will be useful to review later.

Highlights so far include Mr Chadbourne’s comments on fantasy genre and the marketing that surrounds it, and Stan Nichols critique of stiff, starchy prose in fantasy.

Still to come – writing workshops with Graham Joyce and Harry Harrison and the GoH Iain M Banks.

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Wangst

I wish I could have latched onto any of the more intelligent concepts in this gnarly, supremely accurate and well overdue article by Julian Gough, but the concept of Wangst has had me chorling with venemous glee all morning. I’m going to go a step further than my pal Julian and declare Wangst the new born genre of commercial fiction to be shelved in Waterstones just so – SF, Fantasy, Horror, Crime, Wangst. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

Wangst: (def) – minor, anxious, banal tragedies written to satisy the distanced emotional perspective of a ruling elite. The dominant literary form of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. For examples of Wangst see entry ‘Booker Prize’.

Dragon Smack

Today is good day in the world because George R R Martin is writing ‘A Dance with Dragons’. The next volume of of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is probably the most eagerly awaited book in the world. If you don’t believe me then pick up volume one, ‘A Game of Thrones’ and start reading. When you resurface some months later, blinking and shivering upon you’re return to reality, desperate to return to the realm of Westeros then you to will know the pain of the addict. These books are genuine masterpieces of popular fiction, made by the hand of a master craftsman, and distributed by the publisher with the ruthlessness of you’re friendly neighborhood crack dealer.

The thing that shines out of all of GRRM’s writing is the genuine love he has for his world of Weteros. Whatever the genre or style, one thing that writing always does is reveal the fundamental intentions of the writer. If someone really has something to say it can’t help coming out through the words, conversely if someone is mostly interested inhabiting the identity and status of a ‘writer’, that will make itself clear as well. GRRM is passionate about the world of Westeros, and its impossible not to be infected by that passion.

Transrealism

‘Although reading is linear, writing is not.’

Rudy Rucker, The Transrealist Manifesto

Where have all the manifestos gone? Art is like motor racing, whilst winning is all well and good its the chance of witnessing a bloody great crash that makes it compelling. Or being in one. Without the odd revolutionary manifesto every once in a while thinks start to get awful boring. I’ve had to go all the way back to the 80’s to find one that rings my bell, which leaves me with the nagging suspicion that this particular revolution may have already been and gone. There is nothing more embarrassing than being caught adopting last seasons ideology. But I’d like to think that transrealism is one of those classic causes you can keep raising the flag for year after year after year. If not I’m just going to have to be guilty of crimes against style again. It won’t be the first time.

Do you have a literary manifesto in need of expression? Then I want to hear it. Comment below.

Alt.Fiction

Some people mark religious holidays. Others celebrate at rock festivals. I get excited about SF conventions. I’ve got that Xmas day feeling you used to get as a kid and it can only mean one thing . . . ALT FICTION!

To be accurate Alt Fiction is a festival, not a convention. There are no Klingon costumes or in fact costume of any description (Yes these do appear at some conventions but I find it just as peturbing as you do) – just a shed load of excellent writers joining panel discussions, giving readings, launching books and running workshops.  Alt.Fiction is all about written SFF and other ‘Alternative Fiction’, as opposed to multi-media conventions which focus primarily on TV shows. Just into its second year and Alt.Fiction is the most important SFF gatherng in the UK after EasterCon and FantasyCon.

I’m also excited about Alt.Fiction becuase its organised by fellow LDO Alex Davis, who has also been helping me with the Fantastic! event season here in Leicester. What with this, my almost cult-like adoration of Iain M Banks and Alt.Fiction being just up the road in Derby its looking to be something of a highlight in this years literary calendar.

I’ll be blogging throughout the day from Alt.Fiction. Follow from the comfort of your own home at: www.twitter.com/damiengwalter or log onto the blog here. 

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ALT FICTION 2007 with IAIN M BANKS
April 28th, 12 midday to 9pm
Darwin Suite, Assembly Rooms, Derby
£20, £15 concessions
Tickets from Assembly Rooms Box Office, 01332 255800.
Alt.Fiction moves into its second year with another day of readings, workshops, discussion and book launches featuring some of the UK’s leading talent in the fields of horror, science-fiction and fantasy. With a line-up including Iain M Banks, Harry Harrison, Mike Carey, Ramsey Campbell, Graham Joyce, Mark Chadbourn, Chaz Brenchley and many more, this year’s event is an essential for any genre readers or writers.
Full details on the webpage at: www.derby.gov.uk/altfiction

Sunday Subs

Rule One: You Must Write
Rule Two: Finish What You Start
Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order
Rule Four: You Must Put Your Story on the Market
Rule Five: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold
Rule Six: Start Working on Something Else

Heinlein’s Rules of Writing

Sunday morning was submissions morning this week. I haven’t had anything one the market for a couple of months, taking a breather after Cthul-You perhaps but I also had been forgetting rules three and four and telling myself I would re-write a number of stories before sending them out. Wrong. once you have finished you need to draw a line, get things submitted and start on the next project or you never move forward.

Talking of ‘Cthul-You’, I have sent an enquiry to Postscripts magazine to see if they are interested in taking on the print rights following its production by the BBC. Postscipts is blazing a trail for contemporary horror fiction (they are responsible for bringing Joe Hill to us, a name you will all know well soon) so this would be a big win. ‘Chaser’ went out to Transmission Magazine, a non-paying market based in Manchester. I’m not sure whether they accept reprints so we shall see. They have a wonderfuly polite rejection letter so I don’t mind reading it again (for the 5th time if so). I’ve also sent out ‘Circe’s’ to Chizine, an online pro-market that I’ve enjoyed reading for a while now. And ‘Horizon’ becomes my first submission to Asimov’s magazine, after two years spent causing trouble on their web-forum. I have had ‘Horizon’ on the shelf for six months since it narrowly missed out on Hub, but its time to get it back out into the world.

Now I just need to start getting really strict about Rule Two. Its one thing to finish stories and have them rejected, its another to leave work mouldering half finished and then on the day you die have some supernatural being of ultimate judgement say to you ‘Yes, that would have won the Hugo and Nebula and topped the NYT Bestseller list…if only you had finished it.’

Do you have stories lingering on the shelf that should really be under the nose of an editor? Tell me about them and I’ll shout at you until you send them off, and maybe try and suggest a market. Comments below.

The Short Story

Once again the National Short Story Prize have neglected to include me on their shortlist. The nerve of it! Instead they chose this lot:

‘Slog’s Dad’ by David Almond

‘The Morena’ by Jonathan Falla

‘The Orphan and the Mob’ by Julian Gough

‘How to Get Away with Suicide’ by Jackie Kay

‘Weddings and Beheadings’ by Hanif Kureishi

The shortlist was announced today and can be found here.

Also note the total lack of SF nominations. That really is a shame as a campaign claiming to rejuvinate the short story is deliberately ignoring the area of literature where short fiction is strongest. Oh well.

A Gnats Wing Beat…

…is considerably longer than my attention span.

I have what is probably a rather unhealthy writing system. Like my reading habits I’ve resorted to having multiple writing projects on the go in the hope that one will suit my mental state when I sit down to write. Just for fun I’m going to list all of my ‘open’ (i.e. unfinished) novels and stories. Please don’t feel you have to read this, in fact it might be better if you don’t.

NOVELS
Ancient Earth
Masques
Helos
The Sword and the Sorcery
Konstanite

The Burnt Earth

Urban Magic
Not So Easy

DRAMAS
Earth Defence
Wiccapedia
Cats and Dogs

SHORT STORIES
001
1956
End Game
Unmade Man
Solid State
Skins
Transmission

Modhead
Creatures
Mud

Dark Elf
The Sword
The Wizard
The Princess

The short stories are single ideas that need exploring, the novels are built more around setting and groups of characters. Just writing all of them down is already revealing because looking through the list I can start to see evolutionary relationships between things. The dramas are all variations on other others and written from opportunism more than passion so I’m going to put them to one side for the time being. The most developed strand are ‘Masques’ and ‘Helos’ which are two mutations of the same story. Close behind are the set of short stories through ‘001’ to ‘Modhead’ which all have similar themes and tone and could also be joined by a couple of my finished shorties. ‘The Burnt Earth’ is also completely developed and shares some elements with the group of short stories. ‘Not So Easy’ and ‘Urban Magic’ are both variations on the idea of magic in a contemporary setting that I keep coming back to but can’t seem to really get a handle on. ‘Konstanite’, ‘Creatures’ and ‘Mud’ are all related as New Weird takes on the fantasy genre. And then ‘Dark Elf’ through ‘The Princess’ are all similarly connected.

Things that crop up repeatedly –

Post-Genre: self-referential to genre writing, in the way a Tarantino crime movie knows its a crime movie.

Adventure vs. Ideas: trying to tell a ripping good yarn that also has something to say.

Style vs. Substance: surface level glitz or compelling character drama?

hmmm…a useful list to write.