Questionnaire with a Dark Lord.

Éric Poindron’s Étrange (*) Questionnaire. Discovered at the Weird Fiction Review.

(*) Bizarre, extraordinary, singular, surprising. Le Robert Dictionary

1 – Write the first sentence of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Dark Lord in posession of a plot to destroy the world must be in want of a minion.

2 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?

7:45

3 – Look at your watch. What time is it?

7:51

4 – How do you explain this — or these — discrepancy(ies) in time?

My time keeping device indicates the time via the screams of a minion, and he was a bit hoarse today.

5 – Do you believe in meteorological predictions?

Why would my weather minion lie to me, knowing, as it does, the unfortunate consequences?

6 – Do you believe in astrological predictions?

Piffling one! No aspirant may claim the title of Dark Lord without full powers of precognition and ambulatory divination.

7 – Do you gaze at the sky and stars by night?

The all seeing eye does not gaze. Glowers perhaps. Or probes. Yes, probes.

8 – What do you think of the sky and stars by night?

I am the Dark Lord of all I survey.

9 – What were you looking at before starting this questionnaire?

The dark heart of mankind.

10 – What do cathedrals, churches, mosques, shrines, synagogues, and other religious monuments inspire in you?

Only that it can be informative to study the techniques of ones forebears.

11 – What would you have “seen” if you’d been blind?

What would you have “seen” if ‘you had’ been blind. Pedantry is the pleasure of all Dark Lords.

12 – What would you want to see if you were blind?

Your mortal concept of sight means nothing to the awakened ones.

13 – Are you afraid?

*ahem* OK. A little bit. Just between us.

14 – What of?

Sometimes, when I awake from my eternal slumber, I worry that I won’t destroy the world. It’s a stupid fear I know, but it vexes me. What if I’m not evil enough? What if actually I’m quite nice, and might just be happier with a quiet job in a museum and a nice little house somewhere? Ridiculous of course. My destiny is a subject of prophecy. I can’t choose a quiet life, even if I wanted to. Not that I want to. At all.

15 – What is the last weird film you’ve seen?

After a particularly long day of dominating the mortal plane of existence I will, on occaision, instruct some among my minions to perform a popular entertainment of the day. You have not experienced culture until you have seen Avatar interpreted by terrified and highly trained minions. In 4D.

16 – Whom are you afraid of?

Paxo. Even Dark Lord’s fear a Newsnight grilling.

17 – Have you ever been lost?

I did once spend a frustrating afternoon in a service station McDonald’s near junction 8 of the M6, watching rain stream down the plate glass windows, receiving ever more apologetic text from a soon to be kept in agonising torment for eternity driver minion.

18 – Do you believe in ghosts?

Well, I am keeping you suspended between realms in order that we may continue this discussion.

19 – What is a ghost?

Describe your current circumstance.

20 – At this very moment, what sound(s) can you here, apart from the computer?

The weeping of minions.

21 – What is the most terrifying sound you’ve ever heard – for example, “the night was like the cry of a wolf”?

Joyous laughter.

22 – Have you done something weird today or in the last few days?

*raises eyebrow*

23 – Have you ever been to confession?

What full blooded Dark Lord has not been tempted to employ the services of a Man of the Light? But it’s not something we talk about at the dinner table.

24 – You’re at confession, so confess the unspeakable.

‘Damn me father, for I have done good! I have fed and homed a number of kittens, and allowed my minions moments of peace and freedom!”

25 –Without cheating: what is a “cabinet of curiosities”?

Why would I not cheat?

26 –Do you believe in redemption?

ahahahahahaha

27 – Have you dreamed tonight?

Only of power.

28 – Do you remember your dreams?

No. I make them real.

29 – What was your last dream?

Destroying the world. Then I woke up and destroyed the world.

30 – What does fog make you think of?

Fog.

31 – Do you believe in animals that don’t exist?

I must be careful what I believe in, as it will automatically come to pass.

32 – What do you see on the walls of the room where you are?

Let’s just say it involves numerous minions in various states of discomfort.

33 – If you became a magician, what would be the first thing you’d do?

Reverse Paul Daniel’s and Debbie McGee’s costumes.

34 – What is a madman?

Someone who believes in an objective reality that does not conform to their every whim.

35 – Are you mad?

I bend reality to conform to my every whim.

36 – Do you believe in the existence of secret societies?

They make an excellent entree.

37 – What was the last weird book you read?

Every now and again a writer or two dedicates their being to my service as a minion. They amuse me with the contents of their puny mortal minds which I have them labour for year upon year to record in words. At least, watching the manuscripts burn is amusing. I would never read one. How funny! Reading the hopes and dreams of a minion. Ha!

38 – Would you like to live in a castle?

Funny you should say that…

39 – Have you seen something weird today?

*raises eyebrow*

40 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever seen?

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. Creepy or what?!

41 – Would you like to live in an abandoned train station?

I…have never considered the issue.

42 – Can you see the future?

I can see your future.

43 – Have you considered living abroad?

If by abroad you mean in parallel tiers of reality, then, no.

44 – Where?

The problem with pan dimensional travel is that wherever you go you find British people. I mean honestly, if you make it to the eighth tier of transcendence do you really need a traditional english breakfast and a pint of lager? Apparent you do if you’re from Essex.

45 – Why?

oh all right then. I’ve always quite fancied a backpacking trip to Valhalla. Satisfied?

46 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever owned?

Ah ha! I am indirectly responsible for the Transformers movie franchise and Pearl Harbour, following the transfer of Michael Bay’s soul to my possession. ouch! stopping kicking me!

47 – Would you liked to have lived in a vicarage?

I had much more fun living in a vicar.

48 – What is the weirdest book you’ve ever read?

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A post-modernist satire on the absurd impossibility of writing an epic fantasy in the 21st century, surely?

49 – Which do you like better, globes or hourglasses?

Globes of course, to better peruse my possession. And hour glasses make me nervous. Like I’m always late for something.

50 – Which do you like better, antique magnifying glasses or bladed weapons?

Ah ha! The former, because they allow me to better see the impact of the later.

51 – What, in all likelihood, lies in the depths of Loch Ness?

You do not wish to know, I assure you.

52 – Do you like taxidermied animals?

heh heh heh heh…that made me think of something I did with a few minions last week. *snort*

53 – Do you like walking in the rain?

That…oh my…my memories are flooded with the aroma of fresh cut grass after a thunder storm in late summer. Walking across the open fields of an idyllic countryside hand in hand with a young maiden who loved me with all her heart as droplets of moisture tumbled from the sky on to her beautiful, upturned face. Then sacrificing her. So, yes.

54 – What goes on in tunnels?

You…don’t really want to ask me that, do you?

55 – What do you look at when you look away from this questionnaire?

My favourite minion Tony. He seems…agitated.

56 – What does this famous line inspire in you: “And when he had crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him.”?

*blank expression*

57 – Without cheating: where is that famous line from?

I do not appreciate your attempt to outwit me, for which you will suffer in agony for eternity.

58 – Do you like walking in graveyards or the woods by night?

See question 53. Replace maiden with gentleman.

58 – Write the last line of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.

He loved Dark Lord. (Inspired by Orwell)

59 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?

9:08

60 – Look at your watch. What time is it?

9:08

Meta-content is the future of the book

This evening I bought Jeffrey Eugenides ‘The Marriage Plot’ from the Amazon Kindle store. I would love to say that I always buy books when it would be just as easy to download a pirate version for free, but I would be being  dishonest. But buying the book has recently become a far more likely outcome, for the simple reason that I want to see what other people are saying about it.

Reading through The Marriage Plot I am able to see where other readers have highlighted passages. I find this really quite interesting. It would of course be much, much more interesting if readers could share comments on the text directly through their Kindles. We may read books in isolation but we love to talk about them together. Books are about our shared human experience, so it’s good and natural that we want to exchange thoughts about them. Take it a step further. Think about the commentary that accrues around a text over the years. Reviews. Academic studies. Reader comments. Author interviews. Social media gives us the technology to connect all of these materials directly to the text. That’s incredible added value, which has hardly even begun to be tapped.

The publishing industry has been chronically slow in exploiting the unique added value of user generated meta-content around the product they publish. Particularly as it provides an absolutely compelling solution to the problem of piracy. Only the authorised text allows you both to read commentary, and to comment upon the text. Readers are in effect paying not for the book, an increasingly worthless product, but for entry to the community of the book’s readers, an increasingly valuable experience. My prediction is that the first players to provide a seamless commentary and meta-content system for published texts will gain an advantage in the game of modern publishing. It will almost certainly be Amazon, unless the major publishers suddenly gain a gift for innovation they have previously lacked.

Winter reads: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

This potent rite-of-passage tale offers readers some useful pointers on keeping the heart warm in allegorically wintry times.

The novel that raised Haruki Murakami to literary superstardom ranges across the seasons, but the heart of its meaning is found in winter. When 30-something Toru Watanabe hears a fragment of the titular Beatles track after a long airplane flight, his memories are returned to his days as a young student and his love affair with the beautiful but damaged Naoko. Toru walks beside Naoko for the last time in the snow-blanketed woods surrounding the mental institution where she is undergoing intensive therapy. Shortly afterwards Naoko commits suicide in that frozen landscape, and while Toru’s life continues, a part of him remains forever wandering in winter.

Read more at Guardian books.

I don’t believe I’m about to have this argument, but…

After enough years in fandom there are certain arguments you learn to steer clear of because they are futile and never end. Genre definitions are one of them and I really should know better by now, however…

The pugnacious @gavreads earlier tweeted the following definitions, distilled from this IO9 report on a talk between Margaret Atwood and Ursula K Le Guin

“could happen (speculative fiction), couldn’t happen yet (science fiction), could never happen at all (fantasy).”

No, much as I respect both Atwood and Le Guin, this is just nonsense.

Firstly, speculative fiction is absolutely and definitively a catch all umbrella term for all imaginative fiction. It is not any kind of distinct genre in itself, and it was ABSOLUTELY NOT IN ANY WAY begun by Jules Verne as Atwood claims. That’s the kind of thing an ignorant but intelligent observer, which is exactly what Atwood is, would say knowing that its credible enough to sucker people in.

Secondly, this falls in to the tired old rut of defining science fiction and fantasy as different things. Which in turn is just pandering to the beardy science fiction fans and their group delusion that they aren’t just indulging the same fantastical tendencies as everyone else because they happen to base their fantasies on New Scientist magazine instead of germanic mythology. Science fiction is one among many brands of fantasy, and that’s the end of the matter.

THERE WILL NEVER EVER BE ANY POINT IN THE FUTURE HISTORY OF MANKIND WHERE WE CAN UPLOAD OUR CONSCIOUSNESS TO COMPUTERS. IT’S A FANTASY METAPHOR EMPLOYING TECHNOLOGY IN A PURELY SYMBOLIC WAY.

Taking that metaphor literally makes it absurd and meaningless, which is the generalised effect of forgetting that science fiction, while possessing a number of distinguishing characteristics, is nonetheless still a form of fantasy.

That is all.

Can science fiction lead us away from economic collapse?

Recent SF novels dealing with the fall of western capitalism seem right on the mark. But do they offer any answers?

It’s a truism that science fiction, however distinct its vision of the future, is always just as much a reflection of its present. The golden age of SF writers, including Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke, predicted near futures of a colonised solar system and an era of engineering marvels from robotics to space elevators. But, viewed through a historical lens, their futures say far more about the cold war politics of 1950s America than the post-industrial world of 2011. If science fiction provides a record of the hopes and fears of each generation for the future ahead, what do contemporary SF writers say about today?

Read more in The Guardian

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