Who reads urban fantasy?

Or indeed any other truly mass market fiction?

Now, let me contextualise my question. I like urban fantasy. This is not an attack on the genre. And I understand that lots of people enjoy reading it. What I don’t understand is who reads it in the kind of bulk quantities that justify the vast number of urban fantasy novels being published. It seems that almost every other living human being is making a living writing urban fantasy novels at the moment. How can this be?

My confusion must stem from the fact that I am a certain kind of reader. I might classify myself as a ‘skimmer’. I float through the world of books, looking for *special* books, brought to me by word of mouth, or recommendation from another writer I like, or particularly good reviews, or even simply hype. (Which brought me to Justin Cronin’s The Passage, where I am happily still ensconced.) I demand a high level of return from any book I invest time in, and will willingly abandon a book part-way through if it fails in its initial promise.

But for urban fantasy or any mass market fiction to work, my reading pattern must not be typical. I’m hypothesising the existence of ‘habitual’ readers, people who plough through two or three or more books a week, and read within genres that they like and will buy one urban fantasy series after another and keep coming back for more. Hypothesising because, while I can imagine these readers, I can’t prove their existence other than by deduction. Large sections of every bookshop are packed with urban fantasy novels, ergo the urban fantasy reader must exist.

Even if the habitual reader is real, surely their numbers must be shrinking? I can believe that before television and then the media saturated internet, many more people had a need for cheap books in copious supply that did no more than entertain. But there are now so many competing ways for people to invest their leisure time that the mass market paperback or even the e-book are surely struggling for market share? How long can mass market publishing persist with its business model, if there is no longer a mass market readership?

Or am I wrong, and is there a ‘dark matter’ readership that my sensor arrays are failing to detect? And if so, who are they?

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A Little Something for Us Clarionauts

Today is the two year anniversary of the start of Clarion 2008. This time two years ago I was being collected by Dan Pinney and Megan Kurashige from a random street corner in San Diego, for the drive up to La Jolla and UCSD where I and seventeen others were going to spend six weeks of our lives writing and workshopping SF stories. And as I write eighteen new Clarion students are heading out on the same journey.

I haven’t written up my Clarion experience. I have often tried to but in the final reckoning I don’t think I can and I don’t think I’m going to now. There was too much, and attempting to express it has always seemed to limit it somehow. I’ve expressed parts of the experience in different contexts, but as the two year anniversary has approached and I’ve been flooded with memories of that six weeks, I want to try and say something about what it meant to me, in the hope that will mean something to the other people who have been and are going there.

Clarion was a very intense experience for me. It was my first trip to America, and to California, which in itself was a wonderfully rich and powerful journey. I find California overwhelming and intoxicating, and have returned twice and will again.

(I would love to live and work there for a time, so if anyone reading this happens to want to offer me a year of work, please do.)

And it marked a separation from the life I had been living up to that point. I went to Clarion with a job to come back to, but knowing I was not going to come back to it. What I did not know was that the very close relationship I was leaving behind was also going to end with Clarion. If you had asked me why I wanted to go to Clarion while I was sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow airport, I could not have told you. But looking back, I can see that I had for some time had a growing yearning for adventure, and for a space to grow and develop as a person. Clarion became a catalyst that brought those things into my life, and for that reason it will always have tremendous personal significance for me.

But Clarion was and is an intense experience for everyone who attends, whether they bring along the kind of personal drives that I did (many do I think) or whether they are just attending a six week writers workshop. I’m going to try and explain where that universal intensity stems from, and I’d be interested to know if other people who have been there agree.

Speculative Fiction writer is, and I mean this respectfully, a weird career ambition to hold. Like a lot of people, my relationship with SF started with a parent. My mum LOVED science fiction. Arthur C Clarke and C.S. Lewis particularly, and also Lord of the Rings which was almost a bible in our home. And she also wanted to write. So in one way or another, I have been on a journey into the world of SF pretty much since birth.

But the SF world can be difficult to find. It is almost a secret world, invisible even to some of its biggest fans. Millions of people read Hugo and Nebula award winning novels, but only a fraction of them even know about WorldCon or the Science Fiction Writers of America. There are new bestselling SF novels every week, but the short story markets where SF was born and around which much of the community turns are barely known. It took me, and it takes most writers, years of work and effort to find my way into the SF world.

And then, at Clarion, you are not just in SF world, you are at its heart. A world that until then had been built out of books, and internet forums, and weekend conventions and maybe a few real life friendships or a writing group, is suddenly made of eighteen passionate, committed, ambitious, aspiring SF writers who all share much the same vision. A world that had been subjective, ghostly and intangible is now solid and real, and you are in it twenty-four hours a day with no work or other distractions.

The feeling of being at the heart of the SF world at Clarion is incredibly strong. I have had heart-to-heart conversations with Clarion graduates from different years that I had never met before but felt instant friendship with, simply because we had the shared experience of being at the centre of a place that few people get to enter. In contrast, I’ve met professional, published SF novelists who feel much less a part of that world than completely unpublished Clarion graduates.

More than anything else, it is that sense of belonging and community in the SF world that is Clarion’s real gift. Leaving Clarion is very difficult because of it (and because you are leaving behind very real and very true friendships). After those six weeks end you are back in the big bad world, and that can be very hard. But that feeling of belonging never really goes away. In fact it can get stronger. As Kelly Link said to our Clarion group in week one, some of us would go away from Clarion and start reshaping our lives so we could be part of the SF world permanently, whether as writers or editors or committed fans. Its been a pleasure to watch all of my friends from Clarion do that in their own ways, as I’ve been doing it in mine.

I titled this blog post after a short story by Philip K Dick, A Little Something for Us Tempunauts. It’s a story about time travel, but also about leaving home and coming back, and about belonging. Clarion graduates are commonly called Clarionites, like citizens of the state of Clarion. But I think of us as Clarionauts, travellers into the strange and weird and ever so slightly odd world of SF. If we come back from our travels a little strange and weird and ever so slightly odd please forgive us, it’s the nature of the journey itself.

(I want to know all about Clarion 2010! If you are there now and reading this or know someone who is please give me blog / Twitter / Facebook links below or at http://twitter.com/damiengwalter )

(And look, I’ve done a whole Clarion post without mentioning Neil Gaiman once! Oh…darn-it…)

Should new writers know their SF history?

I’m between social engagements, and reading the introduction to The Mammoth Book of 20th Century Science Fiction. Editor David G Hartwell offers a cogent history of the SF genre through the last century, one that considers not just the genre but the field (the former defined as the body of texts, the latter as the people involved with creating them). Hartwell discusses SF as a literary tradition in it’s own right, a position I always argue for given half an opportunity.

(I’m not entirely in agreement with Hartwell’s argument. In particular his statement that SF is a literature that ‘expresses, represents and confirms faith in science and reason’ seems not so much outdated as occluded entirely from the other half of the SF literary tradition that does exactly the opposite. )

I was lucky enough to briefly meet David G. Hartwell (with whom I suddenly realise I share a middle initial!) at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, along with a number of other senior members of the SF community including Robert Silverberg. Later, explaining my speechless response to meeting such a legendary author to another delegte, I was met with a look of blank ‘Robert Who?’ In fact I was surprised at WFC by the number of people, many of them aspiring writers, who had a very narrow understanding of the history of the SF genre.

But is knowing the history of SF essential to becoming a writer in the genre? On the one hand SF can be considered as an ongoing conversation spanning decades. It you enter that conversation without knowing what has already been said, you are not liable to say much of interest to people who have been following the arguments unfold for decades. But on the other hand if SF is a genre that seeks to find meaning in modern life, raw responses to that life might be mire interesting than viewpoints filtered through the mirror shaded gaze of the SF genre.

Re-Engineering Science Fiction

Will Ellwood asked me to expand on a section of last nights blog-post, which I am also interested to do because the idea came out of left field whilst I was writing it and it seems like it might be worth exploring further.

As I read the handbook, Shock is making me think some things. It is making me think that science fiction is powered by a small number of essential processes, and Shock does a good job of pinpointing what they are. It also makes me think that if we can accurately describe the meta framework of science fiction this way, then the task for science fiction writers is not to keep filling that framework with more stuff, but to start reengineering the framework itself. Don’t keep churning the same old products out of the factory. Don’t even build a new factory. Conceptualise a whole new manufacturing process and see what it produces.

Read last nights post on Shock for more context to this.

Shock reverse engineers science fiction, and reduces the genre to the interaction of two elements. Issues, which are the themes that SF explores, and Shocks, which are the tropes through which it explores them. So to give a classic example, War of the Worlds is a product of Martian Invaders (The Shock) being used as a way to explore Colonialism (The Issue). Or Neuromancer could be described as an interaction between Emergent Intelligence (Shock) and Spiritual Transcendence (Issue). You could even argue that this simple equation describes the entire SF genre:

Shock x Issue = Sci-Fi !

Ok. I’m not seriously going to argue that. But it is interesting to consider how much of the SF genre does work around that basic equation. As a test, take five of your favourite SF novels and see if they can be described within that equation. I’d be interested to hear suggestions of SF novels or short stories that do not.

So when we talk about innovation and experimentation, and about moving the SF genre forward, what we tend to mean is inventing new Shocks and exploring new Issues, or using old Shocks to explore new Issues or vice versa. So in Metropolis the Robot shock is used to explore the dehumanising process of industrialisation. A few decades later Philip K Dick uses the same shock to explore human empathy. Or Vernor Vinge describes the Singularity and introduces a brand new shock which a host of other writers then adapt to different uses. And in such ways does the genre advance.

Lets assume that the Sci-Fi equation holds true (I’m happy to be shown it does not, this is more of a thought experiment than anything else) then perhaps a fertile ground for experimentation is to start reworking the equation itself. Hmm…how about…

Shock x Character = ?

To me, that would suggest using an SFnal trope, lets say Alien Invasion, and exploring its consequences on a purely personal level for one character archetype, with no reference to the broader social context. So, Alien Invasion and the Tragic Hero. Or Alien Invasion and the Threshold Guardian. At the very least, this kind of playful tinkering makes for some interesting writing prompts!

Hmm…it is late and I have much work to tackle tomorrow so I can explore this no further tonight. So please, explore it for me. How far can the Sci-Fi equation be stretched? What other factors could replace Shocks and Issues? Or could we abandon the equation all together and formulate an entirely new one? And of course, does any of this make any sense at all, or am I just spouting nonsense?

I’ll be back in the morning, at which time I expect a fully re-engineered SF genre ready and waiting for me.

Who wants to play a game of Shock with me?

I am reading Shock: Social Science Fiction v 1.1.1 by Joshua A C Newman. Not a novel but a ‘fiction game’ (Or Role-Playing Game if you are old style) handbook leant to me by the eminently cool Will Ellwood.

Shock is pretty effing fascinating. The first page explains that the handbook uses the ‘DIN fonts originally designed for street signs in Germany just before the Nazi Party took over.’ and goes on to explain this is because the font represents the ‘ideal of the Modern with a twinge of the horror it can contain.’ Yes, that’s right Toto, you aren’t in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons any more. This is a (very) intelligent RPG, that asks the player to do things that make the kind of pseudo-intellectuals who staff university critical theory departments look like scalp scratching primates.

Shock is a framework that has its players improvise science fiction scenarios based on the interactions and conflicts of certain Issues (slavery, imperialism etc etc) and Shocks (replicants, mind transfer) and Minutia. Or in other words, the gamut of tropes drawn from more than a century of science fiction. I’m not going to expend time I should be sleeping to explain the rules any further when you can explore them on the games website, but let me assure you they are very, very interesting.

(Shock uses the excellent neuter term *Tagonist to denote the meta of Protagonist / Antagonist. I love it.)

As i read the handbook Shock is making me think some things. It is making me think that science fiction is powered by a small number of essential processes, and Shock does a good job of pinpointing what they are. It also makes me think that if we can accurately describe the meta framework of science fiction this way, then the task for science fiction writers is not to keep filling that framework with more stuff, but to start reengineering the framework itself. Don’t keep churning the same old products out of the factory. Don’t even build a new factory. Conceptualise a whole new manufacturing process and see what it produces.

It also makes me think that I want to play this game! Let me know if you want to play also, and we will find a way.

Too many ideas..ah..ah..stop them!

Kelly Link continues her blog tour around the paperback release of Pretty Monsters with a post about ideas, where they come from and why we have them. (Kind of.)

(Kelly was our Week One instructor at Clarion ’08. She is a brilliant writer, an evil Mafia player and I can’t think of her without thinking of Micha.)

(Oh…it is also approaching two years since Clarion. Wow. I will write something about this.)

Kelly’s list of things she likes in other peoples fiction (The list starting with theme parks, cults etc etc) is a wondrous idea. I love it, but I also fear it, as I fear all forms of random idea generator. I’m one of those writers who lives with such an unending stream of ideas that it becomes a burden. I can barely start working on one idea before another one comes along. I write brief fragments of them then add them to my big ideas file. I can barely begin work on one idea before another one arrives to distract my minuscule attention span.

(I explained my minuscule attention span to Kelly in our 1-2-1 meeting. She nodded and agreed that yes, that was a problem for a writer.)

Kelly’s story are like amazing cakes. The kind of cake you get when a life long lover of cakes has a long think about all the things they love about cake, and then makes a cake that brings together the best qualities of cakiness from many different recipes in previously undreamt of combinations. Like my favourite of her stories,  The Hortlak, which combines unrequited love, all night convenience stores and (I think) Egyptian mythology. The story is more than the sum of its parts, but the parts are pretty good as well.

So I am going to get over my fear of things that give me even more ideas, and give Kelly’s technique a go. I’ll report back on the results. Maybe.

And in case you have not heard…

There is something wrong with the sun. My my, puts that global recession in perspective, doesn’t it just?

John Gray may be an early precursor of ‘serious’ intellectuals jumping on the SF bandwagon, like teenage girls in the grip of Mieville Mania.

Porthmeor

It’s my last night in St Ives. I’ve somewhat fallen in love with the place, and with much of Corwall (all the bits not Newquay). There is a storm coming in, and I’m sat on the headland overlooking Porthmeor beach, where there are thunderous white waves smashing onto the rocks and sand.

This week has been a retreat of a kind. I have had the week entirely to myself, without a face to face conversation of more than a few sentences. And I’ve had a really excellent week. I’ve spent some time thinking about work, writing and life. Buy more importantly I’ve spent time not thinking about much of anything at all.

Through the week I’ve been listening to Jack Kornfield’s Buddhism for Beginners. I’ve developed a system over the years of learning things backwards – starting with advanced texts and working my way backwards to introductory ones. I’m not what I would have made if the aeries of talks in Buddhism for Beginners I I had listened to them in isolation, but hearing them they hav helped to crystalise many ideas I’ve been slowly absorbing.

I’ve been reading about Buddhism for much of the last year, and have had the slowly growing realisation that it’s become more than something I’m examining from a distance. Instead I find many of the ideas are becoming part of my day to day thoughts and practice. Part of my reason for coming away this week was to have space to consider some of those ideas in depth.
I’m not exactly sure what that means yet. I have a good friend who often says I seem to be looking for something. I guess Buddhism and it’s ideas may be a part of that something.

Tommorow I have a two hour bus journey to Newquay, then a flight then another bus journey to get me back to the East Mudlabds in tune for Alt.Fiction on Saturday. Maybe see you there!

Hepworth Sculpture Garden

There is a conflict being played out in the Hepworth Museum. The entrance space is occupied with a display on Barbara Hepworth’s life, each major step in the process of her growth as an artist expalined and illustrated. It was a process of discovery and loss, the apparent permanence of her sculpture contrasting the transient nature of her relationships and life, which ended in a fire in her studio.

The museum occupies the house and studio where Hepworth lived and worked. It is a clean and crisp white space, laid out much like a gallery of her work, but there is still much evidence of the artist – pieces of her furniture, her mantelpiece still in place.

(As I write a middle aged Yorkshire couple have stormed through the main gallery, looking cursorily at the pieces whilst muttering ‘It escapes me’. Likely not an uncommon response to Hepworth’s abstratct style. They do not give a lot away, and there is very little or no meaning for the mind to latch on to. But if you can manage to stop thinking for a while and let your consciousness take them in, their real beauty starts to appear. Watching the other visitors is always half the fun of galleries and museums for me. The responses to art are as revealing as art itself, from the knowing nods to the angry frowns.)

The sculpture garden itself is a zen Buddhist paradise. Hepworths monolithic forms are so fascinating to the eye that a few moments gazing brings on a trance like state of wonder, accompanied by the ever present screaming of the gulls that saturates St Ives.

(The gulls are in no way adorable, being thuggish creatures that only let the human population alone because we are bigger than they are. If I ever need to put myself in the mind of a pterodactyl, I will think of sea gulls.)

All of the sculptures have large signs nearby shouting PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH. All of the comments left by children say such things as, ‘Dear Miss Hepworth. I love the scultures but was terribly tempted to climb all over them!’ and it’s not just the kids, wherever you look you see hands being consciously restrained from touching the appealing stone and bronze surfaces.

At the far end of the garden is Hepworth’s main sculpting studio, which has been preserved untouched for over 30 years, although from it’s cleanliness we guess someone hoovers out the cob webs now and again. The artist might have just stepped out for a few moments to by a new chisel.

But how long can these sculptures, finished and half finished, remain preserved? What catastrophic event will bring time back into this space? Or will it be a thousand small events, each chipping away another piece of the whole. The life that created these sculptures was as transient as all lives. They came from that place of imagination where nothing is the same from one moment to the next. And yet here we all are, desperately trying to cling on to these things.

Which might all just be a roundabout way of saying I think they should give over a few of the big sculptures for kids to climb on.

St Ives

In St Ives and wonderfully lost. All the winding cobbled streets are idosyncraticaly identical, and any attempt to navigate to any specific place is doomed to failure. The best solution I have discovered is just to wander randomly and enjoy what you stumble upon. And you always end up back at the harbour eventualy.

I’ve found a great room, right over Fore Street which is the main stretch through the town, for only £20 a night! It’s run by a real old Cornish couple who are incredibly sweet. However, at such a bargain rate I’ve been wondering if perhaps they lure unsuspecting Outlanders, butcher and sell them for meat. Unlikely, but should this be the last you hear from me then you have some clues as to my fate.

I cheated and took the bus to St Ives. Even if I had stayed in St Agnes it would have been way to far to walk in one day. I’m glad I did, I like St Ives a great deal and I’m glad I’ll be able to spend a few days here. Also, my terrible, unwaterproof Merrell shoes are still soaking wet.

My family has a history with St Ives. My mother, at the age of 19, worked a season as a maid in a hotel in the town. I imagine it was hard work but she rembered it fondly, and when I was about 10 we (my mum, my big sister and me) came for a holiday here two years running. I remember Porthmeor beach being enourmous, but it is really quite dinky, and certainly dwarfed by the magnificent Perran Sands. Because they are golden sand beeches however, when the tide is in the sea is glittering turquoise like a tropical island. When my mother came here to work (that would have been around 1959 / 60) St Ives was an artists haven. A far flung outpost of bohemia by the sea, which would have suited mum very well as she would have just finished art college then I think.

(Coincidentaly, I am part way through reading the account of Duncan Thaw’s time at art college in Lanark. I’m finding the novel keeps giving me prickly moments of recognition as parts of what Gray depicts resonate with my own life experiences.)

St Ives is not quite bohemia any more. As often happens, artsists give a place bohemian cool, people come to experience it, prices shoot up and the penniless artists have to find other places to be. (I think this could happen in Leicester over the next decade or so, in a very different way.) The art in St Ives now is beautiful, decorative and safe. Now it’s really a tourist town, and sells the kind of art tourists like, in which regard it reminds me a great deal of Sorento.

I’m going watch the sunset on the beech now and maybe write. Tommorow another cliff walk on a circular path perhaps.

Shoe Fail

So. My Merrell walking shoes are not waterproof. In fact, my one year old Merrell walking shoes (I’m going to keep mentioning the brand in the hope of shaming them) today did a good impression of a pair of sponges, relaying every ounce of nearby water directly to my socks.

I woke this morning to rain, and a weather forecast of solid rain all day. But I was not detered, and set off on the second leg of my walk. The path to St Agnes is only four miles, and including all the ups and downs and ins and outs I did it in about three hours. It’s a very pretty walk, with many abandoned mines and various crumbling buildings en route along the cliff tops.

Unfortunately after the first half hour I noticed that my feet seemed damp. Half an hour after that and they were absolutely soaked through, and every step came with a squelching noise. Fortunately the walk kept them warm enough, but that meant I couldn’t rest for any length of time as they would have frozen. So I eventualy arrived in St Agnes absolutely exhausted and very uncomfortable, as the rain had also soaked my trousers and penetrated through my light waterproof coat.

St Agnes seemed very nice, but also very shut, almost abandoned. After lunch in a pub and a change of clothes I took a look around and hunted around for the beech, but it is actually a few miles from the town itself so decided against it.

I decided then to hop the bus back to Perranporth (which put my walk into perspective as it took all of 5 minutes!) thinking I could take another walk along the beech but am wishing I had not now, simply because I feel I’ve lost momentum on my walk. Perranporth is very nice but I’m sure St Agnes would have been as well given more of a chance. So I’m a bit disappointed with myself for not sticking to the plan…bah!

If the whether is good tmrw I might take the bus half way to St Ives and then walk the final half. I can then stay a night of two there then do a final night in St Agnes or Perranporth before flying back.

Despite the rain I did enjoy the walk today. Progressing along the cliff path is very satisfying and at times it seems amazingly remote and isolated. Every turn reveals a completely new and unexpected sight. I hope I get to discover some more of the path tommorow.

Castles Made of Sand

Today I built a sand castle. Having a beach full of sand to play with proved to be quite a distraction from writing and from the book I was reading. (Lanark, which I am really enjoying again after getting distracted from it by general work related business.) I was idly digging one hand in the sand whilst reading, the next thing I knew I had made a small tower. Two hours later I had a whole complex of towers, moats, defensive walls and pebble battlements. Yes, I know.

Sand castle construction has some basic principles. You dig a hole, you get a mound. The material from the hole has to go somewhere after all. Holes and mounds, the two basic building blocks of the sand castle. Extend the whole and you get a trench and a wall. Dig the trench in a circle and you have a moat. Pile a mound higher and you get a tower. Walls and trenches, moats and towers. Intermediate sand castling. Start combining these elements together and you are in advanced castling territory.

The thing about sand castles is that you can start building them without any training or study. A six year old can learn most of what there is to know about sand castles in a single afternoon of play. Sand castles are the outcome of unlimited sand, imagination and a playful spirit.

Much like stories. You do not need lots of learning and study to tell a good story. We tell ourselves and each others stories all the time. And as soon as you start telling a story, you start inventing characters and situations, which quickly become relationships and narratives. The basic building blocks that all stories are made from are as simple to discover as holes and mounds in the sand.

But they are also easy to loose sight of. Imagine if I had gone down to the beach today with the image of Windsor Castle in mind and tried to build it. Or spent seven years studying architecture then tried to apply those principles on the spot. Or worse yet, tried to build a castle that represented the existential nature of the human condition. Argh!! Failue and frustration!!

But that is exactly what we do as writers all the time. Stories can achieve all kinds of sophisticated and abstract outcomes (as too can sand castles). But however sophisticated, all stories are still made from the same basic building blocks, characters and situations, holes and mounds. It’s so easy to lose sight of those basics, and with them lose the imagination and playful spirit that make storytelling possible at all.

The other thing that sand castles and stories have in common is impermanance. Stories last as long as the telling, although the memory of them may linger. Sand castles are gone with the tide, as I am sure mine has by now.

A Long Walk – Newquay to Perranporth

I am on holiday. I might might not have mentioned this yet. So there…now you know.

I set off from Newquay on my journey southward around the Cornish coastline. Newquay is not my kind of town. Picture the clubbing district of a grim industrial city, complete with classily named clubs like Silk, Envy and Charisma. Take that picture and drop it in isolation beside the sea. Populate it with a few thousand drunk and pilled up stage and hen parties. That is Newquay. Here and there are the signs of a genuinely interesting and alternative surfing town that might have existed a few years ago, but it’s been overwritten by mindless club culture.

So I got up early this morning and started along the coastal path with Parrenporth as my goal. And boy am I glad I started early because as I write now I’ve just arrived at my goal after walking ALL DAY. I’m utterly knackered and recovering with a drink as the sun sets over Perran Beach.

The coastal path is a walk of many dimensions. First is the up and down. My friend Dennis said he did not remember there being a single flat bit the whole way around. And from what I’ve seen he is right. And I’m not talking gentle gradients here, I seem to have spent at least a quarter of the day climbing up sheer cliff faces (only a slight exageration) or stumbling down paths modelled on very long playground slides.

And then there is the in and out. There is nothing more demoralising than turning a corner to see that the last hour of walking has done nothing more than take you in a giant loop around a bay. But there is also a real satisfaction to actually arriving at a destination on foot. In this age of motorised transportation all destinations are easily reached. It’s only when you walk that you realise how far apart places really are.

I have never done a walk of this kind before, and did literally no research so am learning on the job. So far I have Learned that:

I bought the right bag, and packed the right things. It isn’t too heavy but I have basically what I need. We’ll see how I fell about it by the end of the week.

My walking shoes, while the right thing, are already taking a beating. This pair are over a year old but seemed in good working order. However I’ve worn through an area of padding just today and it was starting to rub by the end of the hike. So, gaffa tape and Vaseline tmrw!

Avoid nettle traps! A very narrow path left me with stings over my shins and forearms. Fortunately not too painful but not what you want when you’re miles from anywhere.

I am taking a rest day tommrow. Perranporth is MUCH nicer than Newquay, with one of the most magnificent beaches I’ve ever seen, even rivaling Blacks Beach in San Diego, so I’m going to spend the day walking it tommorow and writing. (Photo below) After that a short hop to St Agnes, then maybe a LONG hop to St Ives.

Oh…I also have no idea how I get back from wherever the walk ends to Newquay and the airport. Ideas gratefuly received.