Sunday, December 28, 2008

My writing week (35)

Hi all,

Three days to go, yaaaa. Assuming I write today, tomorrow and the next day, I will have done some writing on every day of this year. Am I looking forward to taking a day off writing or what.

I am halfway through chapter twenty-two of my novel. I still have two and a half chapters to go, less than 10,000 words.

No critiquing this week, but I am on the lookout for a science-fiction critiquing group. In a few months time, after I have tidied up the novel, I want to start sending it out to be critiqued. I might try for dedicated novel readers on critters.com. Otherwise, I might be spending a bit of time next year searching for a group of science-fiction writers who write helpful critiques.

I have nearly finished the novel I am reading, Grey Egan's Teranesia, so there could be a review of it later this week.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and preparing to make outlandish new year's resolutions.

Graham.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My writing week (34)

Hi all,

I finished chapter twenty-one last week, twice. I went back and added to the ending after some new ideas wouldn't go away. I also crossed the 100,000 word mark. I figure that I still have at least 10,000 words to go in the final three chapters. So, I aint gonna finish it this year. Oh well, what's new: another deadline drops dead. But it is going to be hard letting go of the characters.

No critiquing, a bit of reading and I did peruse a few writing blogs. It would seem that the book industry in the US has been hit by the recession George Bush and Dick Cheney had to have. As a result, many US publishers are saying that they are not going to be taking on new authors. While in Australia there seems to a bit of optimism that consumers will turn to cheaper forms of entertainment like reading a book. That makes sense, meaning increased book sales. But no doubt the Aussie publishers will look at what the US is doing and think the American must be right, like look how they managed their financial sector, and copy it.


Graham.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My writing week (33)

Hi all,

Still writing chapter 21, nearly finished. I spent much of my writing time last week researching what I was writing about. My chances of finishing the first draft this year are not looking good, about 10,000 words to go.

Did a bit of reading and no critiquing.

I will be glad when this year ends and I have finished my new year's resolution to write every day of this year, I can't wait to have a few days off.

Graham.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My writing week (32)

Hi all,

I've done some writing on every day of this year so far, only 23 days to go and I will have actually kept a new years resolution. I didn't keep a few others though, like eating only black jelly beans or traveling back in time and making George Bush Senior impotent.

I finished writing chapter 20 last week. I still have three chapters to go, even though chapter 20 was supposed to be the third last chapter. Chapter 21 is the beginning of the climax or what is called the Road Block in Christopher Vogler's The Hero's Journey. My main character has to overcome the road block in front of him to survive. I still have around 10,000 words to go.

Didn't do a lot of reading this week and no critiquing, but I did read some writing blogs and watch the First Tuesday Book Club on the ABC last night (Sunday).

Now back to writing.

Graham.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Review - Analog Dec 1996

Hi all,

I very much enjoyed the originality of the stories in the Dec 1996 issue of Analog. In fact, I think it is the most original set of six stories that I have read in a speculative fiction magazine.

A Replant Day Carol,
by John Vester started off the collection. It was a strange tale about the interactions between a planet's colonists and the local flora and fauna, and the frequently violent symbiotic relationship they had. It did rely on the contrivance that only one food source could be grown on the planet.

The Lily Gilders by Joseph H. Delaney (the only one of the six authors I had heard of) was a good industrial espionage story where giant water lilies are used to extract gold from sea water, causing a massive world glut in gold.

The Widower's Wife by Jayge Carr explored the consequences of a husband downloading the brain of his dying wife into a brain dead body. Their children didn't accept the stranger. The story relied on some contrived laws, that I doubt would ever he enforced if this future technology came into being, but it still explored some interesting issues.

The Best is Yet to Come by H.G. Stratman, threatened to be the least original, with a husband wanting to take advantage of new technology to extend his life, while his religious wife just wanted nature to take its course. I have read a lot of similar with the theme of religion versus science, but perhaps we need more, especially in parts of the US where the understanding of science seems to be going backward due to an increase in the unquestioning adherence to ignorant preaching that has propaganda like Intelligent Design on the rise.

The Shaper by Rick Shelley seemed like fantasy until a twist at the end. It was the least memorable of the stories. I find that a lot of stories that have twists are all set-up for the twist, so unless the twist absolutely astounds a reader, which this one didn't, the story is very easily forgotten.

The last, and for me the best, story was Gerry Boomers by A.J. Austin and Daniel Hatch. It told of the effects on neighbours after a EMP pulse from an exploding satellite fries the circuits in most electrical items in a region of the U.S. Its theme is similar to one in the novel I am writing of the effects on humans when they lose their technology, so I took interest in how he had his neighbours reacting.

All the stories were well written, and none of them had me pulling out the dictionary. Overall, I would give the issue of Analog 3 and 1/2 stars out of five.

Graham.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My writing week (31)

Hi all,

I am getting close to finishing my novel, the first draft anyway. I am nearly at the end of chapter 20, which took some unexpected turns, refusing to follow my outline. It still shows the main character's state of mind as he approaches the climax, and that was the main purpose of the chapter, but it also introduced some unexpected elements that further complicate the climax.

While walking today I spent much of the time scribbling notes as I wandered along, for the next chapter. I am still excited when writing this novel, it's just getting myself to make the time to write. It is now 94,000 words, with an estimated 10,000 still to go.

My critiquing efforts are not looking good, so perhaps I should just give it a rest for a while because I never seem to make the time to do it. Conversely, I am reading more. I enjoyed reading a twelve year old copy of Analog, whose stories still seemed fresh and original to me. Analog is my favourite speculative fiction magazine because unlike many magazines that publish science fiction it is strictly science-fiction, most others also publish fantasy, which to me rarely works in the short story format. Another reason I like Analog is that most of its stories are over 5000 words, so there are enough words to create the world the story is set in and for the reader to get involved in the story. I will write a review of the edition I read later in the week.

I also made time this week to read a few of my favourite blogs on writing, which always helps make me feel like I am part of the writing community.

Graham.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My writing week (30)

Hi all,

I had a good writing week last week, at last. Got through a few words. Finished chapter 18 and I am well into chapter 19. Probably three chapters to go. I also did a bit of reading too.

I mentioned last week that New Scientist had a science-fiction edition. It mentions four writers to watch and one was Sandra McDonald, whose science-fiction is set in Australia. I had not heard of her - which isn't unusual - but I just looked up her bio and found that she is American. I wonder how accurate her portrayal of Australia is, even if set in the future.

When I first saw her name I decided I might buy a novel from an up and coming Aussie - next time I will know to do my research. I went to Amazon and the book was listed at $6.95 US, but with our falling exchange rate and delivery charges it would have cost $29 Australian. I thought I would get it cheaper and quicker by ordering it at the local bookstore, so I didn't buy it. I reckon Australian book sellers might appreciate the decline in the value of the Aussie dollar.

In the local regional newspaper, The Border Mail, there was an article about the locating of Nicolaus Copernicus' body. The writer of the article said: "Copernicus, an astronomer, whose theories identified the sun, not the Earth, is the centre of the universe." I think the writer meant the centre of the solar system.

Graham.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Road, a review.

Hi all,

I was attracted to The Road, written by Cormac McCarthy, for a few reasons. Those who have followed this blog will realise that I an a fan of apocalyptic fiction and films, so that was the main attraction. Secondly, the Road won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, and I have been concentrating on reading award winning fiction. Finally, I was intrigued by the movie No Country For Old Men, based on a novel by McCarthy.

The novel is about a boy and a man (who are never named) who are travelling along a road a few years after a nuclear war. The world is in the grip of nuclear winter and everything is dead. No food grows, no birds fly, all the trees are dead. It rains and snows frequently. The sun is constantly hidden behind thick cloud cover. The ground is covered in snow, but under that is a thick layer of ash.

The two main characters spend much of their time searching deserted, decaying and often burnt and flooded houses and shops for food. They only occassionally come into contact with other survivors. Each of these contacts is filled with tension as theft of food supplies and cannibalism are the norm. Apart from survival, the father has the goal of reaching the ocean at the end of the road, while the son has the goal that they remain two of the good guys: he is fearful his father will become a thieving murderer in his efforts to keep them alive.

The story pulls you in with tension as you fear that a confrontation with desperate survivors can happen at any moment. The man has a gun, but it only has three bullets. What happened to the rest of the bullets? What happened to the boy's mother? What will they find at the end of the road? From a fan of science-fiction who is sick of post-apocalyptic movies with marauding bunches of desperados - Mad Max did it, now get over it and find some other plot - I breathed a sigh of relief that the novel did not go down that path.

The book is beautifully written, with bleak descriptions of the dying world. His prose is sparse, and I can imagine the writer agonising over whether each word need to be included. Conversations are brief, a few words at a time, as there is nothing left to talk about.

It's a short novel, but effective with a very clear message: this is what the few survivors of a nuclear war will have to cope with so please don't have one.

One of the better novels I have read. One that I am sure will haunt my thoughts for years to come.

Graham.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My writing week (29)

Hi all,

I finished chapter eighteen and I am well into chapter nineteen of my novel. I finally got the main characters back together so the conflict could resume. I still feel I have about 10,000 words to go, at least.

New Scientist magazine has an edition devoted to science fiction this week. Its available free online, and I have been reading a few of the answers to the question: does science fiction have a future? by writers such as William Gibson and Stephen Baxter. They quickly dispel the myth that science fiction is predominately about predicting the future. It is more about change and in an ever changing world, more and more people are going to want to read about change. In my opinion, some people will want to read about change, others are happy to have their reading stuck in a rut. But the more people accept change, I think the more likely they will find stories that are stagnant in their world view point boring and unrealistic. The thing that concerns me more than the future of science fiction is whether reading novels and stories has a long or even meduim term future.

I failed to make time to critique anything again this week, but I did read a lot. I finished reading the haunting and devastating novel 'The Road' by Comac McCarthy. A short novel, which a lot of fantasy writers should read to learn about cutting down on the unecessary. I am sure Cormac McCarthy agonised over ever single word in it. I will review it later in the week.

Graham.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

comments

Hi all,

I discovered last week that readers of this blog would not take anonymous comments, and a person would have to go to all the trouble of getting a google password if they wanted to say something. The day after I rectified this someone made an anonymous comment. I wonder how many comments I have missed out on.

Graham.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My writing week (28)

Hi all,

A slow week for writing last week as my illness took another swing at me while I organised a garage sale to clean the house out of junk. My protagonists seem about to met though, so I can now get on with the rest of the story.

I am reading again, the Pulitizer Prize winner The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is proving a real page turner and I have also just started reading the Damien Broderick edited Year Million, a non-fiction book, as well as a copy of Analog. It would seem that Fatal Revenant's flaws (see review in last post) had really dulled my enthusiasm for reading.

No time to critique last week.

Amazon has a number of lists of its top books for 2008, selected both by editors and customers. I went and had a look to see if any Australians made a list, and Margo Lanagan was on the editor list for Science Fiction and Fantasy with her young adult novel Tender Morsels. I have only read a couple of her short stories, one of them, Singing My Sister Down, is very good.

I already knew that there are a lot of writers out there so I wasn't really surprised when I read, in the Age. that in Melbourne there are 97,600 people who enjoy writing as a hobby. I wonder how many are writing science fiction novels.

And yes, we sold a lot of junk, it's so good to get people to pay us for removing junk from our home.

Graham.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fatal Revenant, a review.

Hi all,

I have finally finished reading Fatal Revenant by Stephen Donaldson. It is the second book in the Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and eighth book in the Thomas Covenant Chronicles. I am a great fan of Donaldson’s writing having enjoyed his superior fantasy writing in the first seven books of the chronicles, and also in his two volume Mordant’s Need series and five volume Gap Into series.


I enjoy the way Donaldson immerses a reader in his character’s heads. He really shows the complex array of emotions his characters are going through. There are rarely one dimensional characters in his novels. But this strength of his work can be overdone when too much time is spent in a character’s head, in this case Linden Avery, and the plot stagnates, as she repeats over and over her concerns and doubts about her next actions. I think Fatal Revenant could have lost 200-300 of it 760 pages with no harm to its plot. 
If a reader new to the chronicles attempted to read Fatal Revenant first, I wonder whether they would finish it. I had to wait until the last few pages for something to happen that will get me reading the next volume. 
There are also too may Deus Ex Machina moments in Fatal Revenant, where Sandgorgons or Giants drop in unexpectedly to save the day. 
I have heard that the third volume is not due out until 2010 with the final volume due in 2012, so I think I will wait until 2012 before reading the third volume. Time lags between books meant I had trouble remembering why some characters were foes of Linden Avery and the land she is trying to protect. The glossary failed to enlighten me.

I hope that the third volume will be a return to form as this volume has put me off high-fantasy for the foreseeable future, maybe even to 2012.

Graham.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My writing week (27)

Hi all,

I am three thousand words into chapter eighteen, currently one of my characters is hiding and I am having trouble getting the other character to find her. As soon as I find her, that should be the end of the chapter. But it looks like I have added another chapter to the novel because a lot of other things were supposed to happen in this chapter. The novel is 86,000 words and growing.

I did my first critique of a short story for a while. I didn't like the story at all. It got off to a bad start as the author had mislabelled it science-fiction when the only genre it fell into was thriller. It was another one of those revenge stories, like half the movies coming out of America. I'm sick of watching them, I certainly don't want to read them. The characters all seemed very immature too as I wondered if the author had issues with women. I probably wrote the most negative sounding critique, mainly around the plot, that I have written, but the author seemed to take it okay, judging from an email I got from him.

I've nearly finished reading the fantasy epic that has been occupying most of my limited reading time for the past few months. When finished, I will be only reading short books for a while.

A couple of quotes on writing that I read in The Age last week. From Stephen King: "Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word". I only use a thesaurus when searching for replacements for a word I have overused. Kurt Vonnegut's first rule of writing: "Do not use semicolons...all they do is show you've been to college." I use semicolons, I haven't been to college, but I have been to university.

Graham.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Review - How to Build a Time Machine

Hi all,

I finished the non-fiction book How to Build a Time Machine by Paul Davies a few weeks ago, but I have not had time, until now, to write a quick review of it.

It is a short book at some 135 pages (excluding the bibliography) and would be even shorter if some of the totally unnecessary drawings of people like Stephen Hawking were removed. But a short book is a good book for me at the moment as I struggle to finish reading another 760 page fantasy epic (another review next week maybe).

In places, I found it hard to understand the science Davies was describing, and I one of the small minority who actually read A Brief History of Time from cover to cover, and thought I understood it at the time. My science background is just year 12 physics at high school, which I did reasonable well at.

The main premise of the book is the feasibility of building a time machine by creating a wormhole. This would enable both forward and backwards time travel between the times at each end of the wormhole. The energy involved is massive, more energy then produced by our sun, so the likelihood of such an engineering feat is not great.

I, as well as others, have argued that if it was possible to travel into the past, then why aren’t those travellers here now and why hasn't someone from the broke, sweltering and seawater inundated world of the future come back and knocked off George W Bush before he stuffed up the world. Davies counters by saying that future time travellers will only be able to travel back to the time when a wormhole was created.

Having said I had trouble understanding some of the science, I also found that I was familiar with the concepts and ideas in other sections of the book.

I did get one idea for a story out of reading How to Build a Time Machine.

Overall, I would recommend this book to a reader who knows a bit about science who has not read much about the concept of time travel.

Graham.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My writing week (26)

Hi all,

My word count is on the way up. I am currently writing chapter eighteen and the plot is diverging from the outline due to recalcitrant characters.

I printed out a story from critters.com to critique, but I haven't got around to reading it yet.

I read very little due to tiredness.

Overall, not a great week for my writing aspirations.

Graham.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My writing week (25)

Hi all,

So far this year I have written at least a couple of sentences of my novel on every single day. This was my aim and I had hoped it would lead to an impressive increase in my writing output, unfortunately that has not really been the case. Although my average daily word output has increased, the writing every day goal has seemed to become an end in itself. Just to be able to say 'I did it', I will continue to write every day this year. Next year things will change. I am thinking of setting a goal of 7,000 words a week, written on one, two or seven of those days.

I have now written 82,000 words of the novel I am working on. Yesterday I pulled out the outline and divided the what happens next section up into three more chapters, perhaps 15,000 words. The end is near. But last night I got to thinking that I was still finishing the story with a potentially unresolved ending - depending on how much the reader had read into what had happened - and wondered if I should add an extra chapter.

The novel is all about trust and I want its readers to decide if they trust the main character's version of what is going on or think that he has misinterpreted events. I was not going to tell the reader whether the main character's version of events was correct, just let the reader decide. The extra chapter would answer the question of whether the main character's view of the universe was correct. I think I will probably end up writing it and then decide whether to include it.

I've read yet another article about an author who took years to write their first novel. Steve Toltz, the Australian nominated for this year's Booker, took four years to write it after struggling for 13 years to write a novel. I think I should stop thinking about all these novelists who take years, sometimes a decade or more to write a novel because it makes me feel okay about taking forever to produce something. It's time to place some time limits on my writing goals.

I intend to finish writing the first draft of this novel by the end of this year and then return to the first draft of a previous 126,000 word novel that needs a total rewrite. My goal will be to rewrite it in 130 days. A modest goal by the standards of many writers, but nevertheless a goal that should see my output increase markedly.

Graham.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My writing week (24)

Hi all,

I mentioned last week that I was sick, so I did very little writing. But even though I was feeling a bit depressed about my ongoing, active/not active illness, I still managed to write every day.

After a bit of should I or shouldn't I, I eventually decided to risk work today, without any problems, so there are signs that one of the many medications I am currently taking might actually be doing its job or time might just be the healer, as I have read it is in 80% of medical complaints. I did zero reading and critiquing last week.
I hope to write more this week.

Graham.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My writing week (23)

Hi all,

My long-term illness has struck back with vengance in the past couple of weeks, particularly this week. I haven't been to work this week, but because of tiredness, brought on by stress about the illness, I have been doing very little writing, just constantly contacting doctors and specialists.

Last week I had a good writing week. I sent the critique of the novel I had spent about four months critiquing, and the author was happy to get it. It helped her in a few decision she was making about it.

Got to go, got another doctor's appointment.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Scientist - Favourite Science-fiction book/movie


Hi all,

New scientist wants people to vote for their favourite science-fiction book and film. I voted for George Turner's The Sea and Summer for the book - still tossing up what film to vote for.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

My writing week (22)

Hi all,

Right now I should be finishing writing up the critique of that novel, but my attention span seems to be no more than an hour at the moment, with mini-lapses every five minutes or so.

Although I have still written every day this year, my word count halved again last week. My excuse is that I was writing my very first sex scene, sort of anyway. I think it might challenge the winner of that award they give for the worst sex scene published in a year.

I didn't do much reading last week, but I am looking forward to finishing the novel I am reading which is dragging a bit. It's part two in a four volume epic and having learnt that volume three wont be printed until 2010 and volume four until 2012, I think I will wait until 2012 before I read book three. I am looking foward to reading some shorter, non-sequelled novels.

Martin Livings last report on his 45 day attempt to write a 90,000 word novel, is from day 17 when he had written 32000 words: http://martinlivings.livejournal.com/295211.html

My attention span is...

Graham.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My writing week (21)

Hi all,

Increased hours at work again cut into my writing time last week with my word count being only half that of two weeks ago. I did, however, finally finish reading the novel I am critiquing. Only took me about four months, which is no reflection on the novel which was very good, but unfortunately it lost a bit of momentum towards the end. I also finished reading How to Build a Time Machine, by Paul Davies, which I will review in the coming weeks.

Graham

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Print-on-demand arrives in Melbourne.

Hi all,

Print-on-demand has finally arrived in Australia. An article in the Age gives details.

I would stilll, like most writers, prefer being selected by a reputable publisher than take the self-published print-on-demand route, but for writers who are good at marketing themselves and have a big web or blog following, print-on-demand might be preferable for them.

Graham.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My writing week (20)

Hi all,

The University of Canberra's writing department has gained a bit of prestige with the winner of the first Prime Minister's Literary Award for fiction being an ex-student. Steven Conte won with a historical novel called The Zookeeper's War. He also did a PhD in literature at Melbourne University. I wonder in any of the teacher's I had for my master's taught him. He's a first time novelist and 42, so good on him to beat the usual bunch of award winners. Incidentally, it took him ten years to write.

Increased hours at work and tired eyes reduced my writing output this week from last week, but my word count was still good compared to previous weeks. I am probably three-quarters of the way through chapter 15, at the "refusal to return" stage. I just looked that up in The Writer's Journey and my main character is about to literally refuse to return. As I have previously said, although I did not plan this novel with the Writers/Heroes' Journey in mind, it is definitely following it.

Unfortuately, I did not finish reading the novel I am critiquing. If work had not interfered I think I would have finished it. I have two chapters yet to read, about 24 pages. Hopefully I will find time this week, but my hours at work are set to be even more this week.

I only managed to read a few pages of a novel and a non-fiction book this week.

And the world didn't end when CERN turned their LHC particle accelerator on, but they are still yet to collide any particles together, I think that occurs sometime in October. I fear death by blackhole a lot less than death from a Putin-McCain confrontation.

Graham.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My writing week (19)

Hi all,

Last week I wrote the most words I have written in a day for over six years, this week I wrote the most words I have written in a week for over six years, yaaa me. I just need to keep increasing the word count. I finished chapter 14 last week and I am now just over 70,000 words in. The end looks another 30,000 words aways, at least.

Australian writer Martin Livings plans to write a 90,000 word novel in 45 days, 2,000 words a day. After day seven he had written 16,000 words. You can follow his progress at http://martinlivings.livejournal.com/288614.html.

I mentioned in my last post three writers in Albury who were in a contest to write a short 150 page novel in 72 hours. They not only got themselves a mention in the regional newspaper but they were on the local television news where one writer fessed up to being 30,000 words into her novel with about 12 hours to go. I figure 30,000 words is about 80-100 pages, depending on how much dialogue is in the story and how it is formatted. I wonder at the quality of writing done so quickly, but at least she will have something to edit, which I keep on reading is where the real writing is done.

One thing about taking a long time to write a novel is that I have had plenty of time to think about it and add bits and ideas. I have also collected lots of relevant information from newspapers etc for it. Realistically though, I have taken way too long to write it. Hopefully my word count each day and week will continue to rise to somewhere near Martin Livings' efforts.

I reckon, with a bit of luck, I will finally finish reading the novel I am critiquing this week. I've got 50 pages to go. It has been a good read, but at the moment it does not feel like it is building to a climax.

Too tired at night last week to read any books.

In the AGE: according the the last census, the number of Australians claiming to earn a living from writing or editing books was only 5,300. Not that many. The median age for an author or book editor is 48 according to the Aust. Bureau of Statistics.

Better do some writing if I plan to make that median age.

Graham.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My writing week (18)

Hi all,

Another week, another few thousand words. It's the start of spring and I have written every day this year so far, every day for two-thirds of a year, yaaa me. In the past three weeks I have picked up the word count as I started chapter fourteen, the chapter where everything changes.

I read a few more chapters of the novel I am critiquing. I've been reading it on and off for three months now and frankly, I would not be pleased with me taking so long if I was the author. If I am going to do this again, I think I will have to forget about reading any other fiction while doing it and just concentrate on it. Incidentally, apart from a few quibbles, the novel is better than a number of published novels I have read.

I have not read much of anything else, except a few articles on writing. In the AGE David Rakoff is quoted as saying, and I tend to agree, that writing is "like pulling teeth from my dick."

I read in the local Border Mail about a competition where people have three days to write a 150 page novel. I can't see how anyone could do that. Even with extensive planning, if I wrote for say eighteen hours a day for three days I reckon I would be lucky to finish 100 pages of utterly incomprehensible crap. Of course if you are writing a romance novel that might not matter.

I've spent a bit of time fixing a few problems with my webpage and then fixing the problems I created trying to fix the problems with my webpage, and then fixing the problems I created trying to fix the problems I created trying to fix the problems with my webpage. I think it works now though. www.grahamclements.com.

So where are all the writers from my masters and other writing courses? I can find no web presence for any of them except Chris Pavey. If they are serious about writing I would think they need to have a presence on the web. I would like to watch their careers unfold and I am sure it would spur me on if I saw one of them become successful.

Graham.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

my writing week (17)

Hi all,

My eyes feel like they been nuked and have broken out in radiation sores. Now there's a pleasant image. Mentally and eyeballly I feel so tired, not so bad physically. Perhaps my eyes are suffering withdrawal symptoms after missing one of their thrice weekly dunkings in chlorine as I couldn't go swimming on the weekend due to the pool being closed for the Victorian short-course championships.

My writing started out in a rush last week, but petered out towards the end. Things just got in the way, as usual. I ended up writing just a few less words than the week before. I finished chapter 13. At the moment, I am not going back and editing chapters, as I am in a rush to get to the end now that it is in sight. If I was writing a screenplay I would be just about at the end of the second act.

I think I may have read a chapter of the novel I am critiquing, I am not sure, and I was too tired to read much of anything else.

There's always this week.

Graham.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Writing Week (16)

Hi all,

I had the most productive week of writing since I completed my masters this week. Still less than half of what I am aiming for though. I finished chapter twelve and I am now 63,000 words into the novel. Sometime this week I aim to go through the outline and cut out anything that doesn't move the story foward. I figure if the characters behave themselves in the next chapter so the relationship seems to have finally reached some semblence of normalcy, I then can jump foward to the calalyst that is going to change that normalcy. I think I have about 40,000 words to go as a lot does have to happen before the story reaches its climax. That 40,000 words will be written much quicker than the first half of the novel.

I critiqued a story for critters, and I am finally making some headway into the novel I am critiquing. I am up to page 190 with 110 to go and so far the novel is as good or better than many of the published science-fiction novels I have read.

About the only thing not improving is my reading. Again, I was too tired last week to read much.

I have been putting together a ranked list of international science-fiction novels I have read. It's depressing to pick up a novel that I have read and have no idea what it is about. Other novels I remember for perhaps the wrong reasons, like the gratuitous homosexual sex in the novel "Stars in my Pockets Like Grains of Sands" by Samuel R. Delaney. I can't remember anything else about the story although I think it was a detective story. Hopefully I will blog the list this week.

Graham.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My writing week

Hi all,

There were a lot of articles on writing in last Saturday's Age and I enjoyed one that had comments from published authors aged in from the late teens to early seventies. The younger writers feel that a perception that they lack the wisdom of age is a problem, while the older writers feel like they are running out of time to write all the stories they want to. A couple of them like Robert Dessaux and Alex Miller didn't get their first novel published until they were into their fifties.

David Carroll, this years Miles Franklin award winner, says "books require long periods of substained intensity, five days a week...three or fours hours a day...over two to three years. Most of the authors stress that writing is hard work. Chloe Hopper says "I hadn't realised that each morning I'd wake to face a fresh mutiny; each chapter trying to overthrow me as the boat fills with water".

When I wasn't reading articles about writing, I did manage to write more than the previous week. I had a couple of sessions when the writing began to flow. Didn't read much though, too bloody tired. And I started to critique a story, off critters, written by a guy I ran into on the Infinitas site.

Graham.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Australian book market

Hi all,

I've just read an article in The AGE (3rd of August) that had some encouraging things to say about the Australian book market. Firstly, sales increased by 7.5% in the past financial year to 1.25 billion. If the lastest installment of Harry Potter is removed then sales rose by 5.2%. Overall 63 million books were sold. According to Michael Heyward at Text 60% of books sold in Australia originate here.

Much to my surprise there were five Australian books in the top ten, but two of them were non-fiction. The three novels were Bryce Courtenay's The Persimmon Tree, Monica McInerney's (I've never heard of her, probably because she writes chick-lit) Those Faraday Girls and Mathew Riley's The Six Sacred Stones (he hasn't done badly for someone who had to self-publish his first three novels - bet there are a few publishers regretting not signing him).

The article goes on to say that 56% of Victorians in a Galaxy Research survey said they read for pleasure every day. I find this hard to believe, even if they include magazines and reading newspapers for pleasure. I wonder if the survey was taken at a writer's or book festival.

According to most forecasts, book reading should be decreasing as people spend more time on the internet and playing computer games, so what percentage of purchased books go unread?

I sometimes think that I'll finally have written something that would have had agents and publishers tripping over themselves to sign me when no one reads novels anymore.


Graham.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My writing week

Hi all,

Some day, hopefully soon, one of my posts will shock the hell out of its readers by telling them that in the past week I wrote over 7,000 words, read a novel and a speculative fiction magazine, and finally finished critiquing that critter's dedicated reader novel. Unfortunately, this is not that post.

I struggled to give myself enough time to write anything substantial on six out of the past seven days, usually finding that I was getting into the process just as it was time to stop. I enjoyed drawing a floor plan of the house my characters now inhabit. Once drawn, I had to retrace my main character's movements around the house in the current chapter to ensure he hadn't walked through a wall or urinated in a pot plant.

I am about to write up a critique of a story for critters. It seems that even though I am a dedicated novel reader my membership of critters will be suspended if I don't critique at least one story a month. The story I choose was wrongly listened as SF – it is a werewolf story – so the author can expect a wrathful critique - just kidding - but I find it hard to critique horror, especially when I don't find a story horrifying and fail to connect with, and therefore care about, the fate of the main character.

Oh, and I did read a couple of chapters of the novel I am critiquing.

Graham.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The world without us

Hi all,

I’ve just finished reading the non-fiction book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. It’s a book which posses the question: what would happen to the world if humanity suddenly disappeared? It seemed the world would do pretty well without us until I got to the chapter on nuclear power plants. The author reckons that half the world’s 420 nuclear power plants would meltdown after running out of coolant. The resulting radiation would probably kill just about everything on planet earth. Interestingly the author visited Chernobyl while writing the book and says the animals and birds and insects are returning, but they are mutating.

I learnt from the book that one of the best wildlife reserves in the world is the demilitarised zone between North Korea and South Korea, due to its complete lack of humans. While the wildlife could repopulate the earth - if it wasn’t for those nuclear power plants - after man left, the same could not be said for sea life, where degrading plastic looks like it will poison the food chain.

If you want to leave some relic of your existence the best bet is to have a bronze statue made of yourself and appear on television. Bronze statues should last for millions of years and the radio waves of your television appearance will float off into space forever.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in science-fiction, especially post-apocalyptic stories. It would seem that zombies and the humans they are trying to eat the brains of would have to be immune from radiation to last very long.

But there might still be hope for us if we learn how to time travel. I am just about to start reading Paul Davies’ non-fiction (repeat non-fiction) book: How to Build a Time Machine.

Graham.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My writing week

Hi all,

I’ve been busy with work and very tired afterwards, so my second job as a writer suffered last week. I did the bare minimum of writing on each day. I did manage to read a few more chapters of the novel I am critiquing though, and also a couple of chapters of a non-fiction book.

I had a look at the Melbourne Writers Festival guide, none of the sessions or authors had me rushing out to book tickets. There are no sessions devoted to speculative fiction and a dearth of speculative fiction authors. Of the 311 or so writers only one Margo Lanagan could be classed as a fantasy author.

My experiment in book promotion (before the novel is completed) continues and seems to be going okay. I will have to devote more time and creativeness to it in the coming months for it to really go somewhere.

Finally, I went and saw the Dark Knight on the weekend. It’s a good film, with it and its predecessor Batman: The Beginning, coming in second to the X-men series as the best films to come out of comic books. Unlike most comic book inspired films, The Dark Knight did at least give me something to think about. Would the average American in one of the ferries at the end have pressed the button? I think the chances of them pressing it would have increased dramatically if no one witnessed them doing it. Or would the average American hope someone else would press the button for them? In this case I would say yes. But who is worse, the person who takes responsibility and presses the button or the person who abdicates that responsibility to someone else? If none of this makes sense, go see the film.

Graham.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My writing week

Hi all,

I am getting over a cold. It didn’t stop me from continuing to write every day, but did stall my attempts to up the word count. I also spent a bit of time re-arranging my novel outline from one of happenings in a semi chronological ordered into structured chapters.

I didn’t read much last week, including the novel I am critiquing.

I have read a few things articles recently which have relevance to previous posts of mine. One of the judges involved in the shortlist for the Booker of Bookers award, said that the Booker should dispense with judges and just have the general public vote on a short list: this is happening in the Booker of Bookers awards, where the public has voted on the internet. I myself would prefer that suitably qualified judges continue to decide the Booker, because they would have read all the books on the short-list.

A writer/publisher, in a newsletter I read, said she has finally finished a book which she spent about an hour a day on – persistence prevails. Meanwhile, Murray Bail just brought out his first novel in ten years. He’s the bloke who wrote Eucalyptus that I think won the Miles Franklin award, it also took ten years to write. Tim Winton took seven years to write his latest novel. Both of these writers did put out a short story collection between novels, but still, they leave me with hope for taking way too long to produce something. Winton said he had many false starts. I would be interested to know how far he got into a novel before scrapping it.

Graham.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My writing space

Hi all,

I have been thinking about whether my writing space is conducive to writing.

Here are a couple of pictures of it.

Note the many ideas for stories pinned to the board in the background.

I think I've gotten rid on all the incriminating evidence from this picture.



Even mores shelves with books in them. Pity I have only read about a third of them, but I am not short of a book to read.



This is the scintillating view from my window: I am certainly not going to be distracted by it.

Lately I've tried listening to music while writing, which seems to have helped at least prolong a writing session. But 80's newwave and pop music is probably not the most inspiring music to listen to. Mathew Reilly says he watches the cricket while he's writing, I wonder if that's a sentence between overs and a burst of productivity at lunch and tea times, and does he only write in the summer time? I don't have any set times for writing but it seems to happen in the late afternoon, after I've done everything else, like work and fool around on myspace and facebook. Perhaps I should find a book on creating a writing space. I'm sure someone has written one.

Graham.


PS. I get a nice buzz of achievement when I learn to do something new on a computer. Today I wrote my first blot messages that included photographs. Now to see how difficult the task will be on blogspot.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My writing week

Hi all,

I got a bit closer to what I want to achieve in a week as a writer last week. I did the most writing I have done in a week for months, read a few chapters of the story I am critiquing and read a few chapters of the novel and non-fiction book I am reading. I hope to better that this week, but I have cold and I am a grumpy frustrated cold sufferer.

I've started listening to music while I write. It seemed to help in the quiet spots when I was searching for the next word. I usually like to write without distractions.

It's time to sneeze, cough and do all those other lovely cold related things.

Graham.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Australian Science Fiction

Hi all,

I thought about how to do my comparison of Australian Science Fiction that I had read to that of the rest of the worlds. A list that ranked them all would be a bit too complicated so I have started with a ranking of the novels and anthologies by Australian authors. In the list below I highly recommend 1-6.

1) The Sea and the Summer, George Turner, Grafton Books, 1989. Probably the best science-fiction novel I have read. It takes place in a Melbourne ravaged by global warming.
2) Genetic Soldier, George Turner, Avon Books,1994. Aborigines fight off a second invasion.
3) The Dark Between the Stars, Damien Broderick, Mandarin Australia, 1991. The best one author speculative fiction anthology I have read. Most of the stories are memorable.
4) Quarantine, Greg Egan, Legend Books, 1992. Once I got into the jargon it was a great read.
5) Souls in the Great Machine, Sean McMullen, Tor, 1999. Fantasy/science-fiction. Set around the area I live. Why can't he get published in Australia? It's the first book in a series which I hope to eventually finish reading.
6) The Sea's Furtherest End, Damien Broderick, Aphelion Publications 1993. My favourite Broderick novel as God plays games with humanity.
7) Echoes of Earth, Sean Williams and Shane Dix, Ace, 2002. I loved the technology involved in this story.
8) The Destiny Makers, George Turner, Avon Books, 1993. I know I enjoyed reading it but it's not the most memorable of Turner's books.
9) The Year of the Angry Rabbit, Russell Braddon, Wm Hienman, 1964. A very funny satire.
10) Blue Silence, Michelle Marquardt, Bantam, 2002. A bit Babylon-fiveish.
11) The Zeitgeist Machine, Ed by Damien Broderick, Angus and Robertson, 1977. Peter Carey's story Conversations with Unicorns was a standout.
12) Year's Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy, Volume 1, Ed Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt, Mirror Dance Books, 2005, an especially memorable opening story Singing my Sister Down by Margo Lanagan.
13) Worlds Apart, Chuck McKenzie, Hybrid Publishers, 1999. I tend to avoid reading science fiction humour, but this was amusing.
14) The Deep Field, James Bradley, Hodder Headline Australia, 1999. It is set in the near future, but I don't know whether it really fits into the science fiction category. I liked his speculations on the near future, not so much the story.
15) Victor Kelleher, Parkland, Viking,1994. Why were all the bad guys male?
16) Sapphire Road, Wynne Whiteford, Ace, 1986. Australia and India involved in a space race? I think that this was the first Science Fiction book by an Australian writer that I read.
17) The Judas Mandala, Damien Broderick, Mandarin Australia, 1990. I can remember being disappointed with this novel.
18) Year's Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy, Volume 3, Ed Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt, Mirror Dance Books, 2007. Too much fantasy.
19) Paul Voermans, And Disregards the Rest, Victor Gallancz, 1993. A nothing climax let the story down.
20) The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Vol 2, Ed by Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G Byrne, Voyager, 1998. I remember enjoying it, but none of the stories rushed out at me when I read the table of contents.
21) Matilda at the Speed of Light, Ed by Damien Broderick, Angus and Robertson, 1988. A bit of a disappointment from memory.
22) Zones, Damien Broderick and Rory Barnes, HarperCollins, 1997. Too preachy.
23) Pacific Book of Australian SF, Ed John Baxter, Angus and Roberston Ltd, 1968. Most of the stories were fantasy, saved by the multiple character and idea novella, There was a Crooked Man, by Jack Wodhams.
24) The Dreaming Dragons, Damien Broderick, Norstrilla Press, 1980. The last quarter of the book was one long info dump.
25) Time Future, Maxine McArthur, Bantam Books, 1999. I had worked out what was going on halfway through this novel. I found the main character too much of a martyr.
26) Salt, Gabrielle Lord, McPhee Gribble, 1990. All the male characters were morons.


There's one collection of four novellas that I wished I had kept because of its last story where the disabled are used to pilot single person tanks in a war. I don't know who wrote it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My writing week

Hi all,

Halfway through the year and I have still written on every day of it. Is it an easy habit yet? No, I still have to force myself to the keyboard on most days. But on some of those days the words flow. In the second half of this year I am going to make a concerted effort to increase my word count to somewhere around a 1000 words a day.

I think I am now more than halfway through the first draft of the novel I am writing. I have just started chapter ten and the narration has made its first jump in time. Chapters 1-9 covered the first six days of my protagonist's adventure, but chapter ten jumps to two weeks later. I hope that a reader will have perceived certain patterns of behaviour from the two main characters and expect them to be behaving in a certain way and if they aren't, start to wonder what happened in the preceding two weeks to change things.

After chapter ten the narration will again take a jump in time to cover a few momentous days. I still have a pile of ideas to fit into the novel, but I am now asking myself if they are necessary to propel the story forward. The end is in sight.

I don't think I am a very good dedicated reader as I have only read one more chapter of the novel I am critiquing. I have had it for at least four weeks now and if I was the anxious author I know I would be hoping that the critiquer would be nearly finished by now. I am normally a pretty slow reader and early starts have had me falling asleep while reading at night. A chapter a day, I keep telling myself, but something always seems to come up – like sleep.

I was delighted to read that 278,649 books were published in the US last year. 50,071 were novels, an increase of 17% from 2006 and double the number of six years ago. I doubt if Australian publishing has had similar increases.

Graham.


Friday, June 27, 2008

my writing week

Hi all,

I have been working longer hours this week so I haven't done much writing, just the barest minimum every day.

I am only 60 pages into the novel I am critiquing, I hope to read a bit more next week

Surprising how my hint count on my blogs went up last week as soon as I mentioned my Master of Creative Writing. Speaking of which, I was rung up yesterday by a research company wanting me to comment on the ACT Ombudsman's handling of my complaint against the Uni of Canberra. I told the researcher that I would have loved to be privy to the conversations between the uni and the ombudsman, and I didn't think the ombudsman was qualified to comment on some of the issues. In a fair world the university would have had some form of independent compliants proceedure and I would not have to had to bother the ombudsman.

This weekend I have the house to myself so I have decided to do a bit of a Homer Simpson so its time to slob off.

Friday, June 20, 2008

good bye to self censorship

Hi all,

I apologise for this post as it is probably going to wander all over the place, just like a rant usually does.

For the past few years I have been trying to intergrate myself into the Australian speculative fiction writing scene. I have been doing this for a few reasons: most importantly to learn what Australian writers are writing and getting published; secondly to learn more about writing speculative fiction, particulary science-fiction; and, as I am stuck out in the bush, the chance to just communicate with people who write speculative-fiction was also important.

I started by joining Eidolon, an Australian email based forum on speculative fiction which had a lot of published, semi-professional writers on it. This forum was fairly active when I began, but since just about spluttered to a halt. I joined Infinitas, a Sydney based critiquing group, but I never seem to be co-ordinated with their critiquing cycles. I joined Myspace, and found very few Aussie writers, so I joinned Facebook, there they all were. One of my facebook friends suggested Livejournal. I joined it and found a few Aussie writers.

I started a blog on myspace about things that concerned me, which, of course, included a fair bit on writing. I also ran the same blog on blogspot, primarily because there blogs looks so much better than the myspace blogs. I then decided to run the same blog on Livejournal. Here's where my self-censoring began, and hence the title of this blog.

I have become aware that the number of writers in the Australian Speculative Fiction field is tiny. So I didn't want to offend one of them or their mates. I am aware that many of them not only have had stories published in, but contribute to the editing of The Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Magazine. A magazine that, after reading the first four editions struck me as nowhere near the standard of Aurealis and Orb, too light, too much fantasy, too many meaningless stories. The fifth edition lies unread in a cupboard somewhere. Many of this small group of Aussie Speculative Fiction writers have been awarded or had something to do with the awarding of the Ditmars. Many of them have been published in anthologies that I have read, some good, some bad, but would a honest review offend them? Probably, I tell myself. The same as criticism of the way the Ditmar awards are decided on and the quality of the stories in Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Magazine would probably offend. Could these criticisms see it harder for me to be published in the small market in Australia? Possibly. I also sensed that most of the writers I interacted with were afraid to criticise the writing and publishing efforts of other members of the Australian spec fic community.

As my blog went onto Livejournal and could be perused by this small group of writers I found myself self-censoring. As of this week, I have decided to no longer blog on livejournal and use it a bit like googlereader: to link up with journals with something interesting and informative to say about writing - which from past experience comes from the literary agents and publishers. Where they will fearlessly answer my sometime niave, sometimes arrogant questions.

Now back to my original quest to intergrate myself into the Aussie Speculative fiction scene. I've learnt a little about Australian novels and stories and publishing avenues, but I am now wondering, is that the best way to go? The novels written by Australians, for the most part, fail in comparison to overseas authors. Is that because of a small, insular Australian writing community. There are exceptions like George Turner, Damien Broderick, Sean McMullen, Sean Williams and others (note I have only read a fraction of what has been written - an upcoming post will list these and how I rate them). I am now thinking, it might have been better to concentrate on reading the lastest novels coming out from overseas spec fic writers, like the wonderful novel "The Future Happens Twice," by Matt Browne and concentrating on reading magazines of the quality of Analog and Asimov (which I have already started to do).

From these various forums and journals and networking sites, I would say I have gleaned only a fraction of the helpful information about writing and getting published that I have read on literary agent blogs and from critiquing on the American website Critters.

The most beneficial aspect of being part of my attempts to intergrate myself into the Australian spec fic circle has been meeting a few people, mostly on the fringes, who I have enjoyed interacting with.

So, basically I am thinking that it is time to look for forums and blogs and journals by overseas spec fiction writers who might be more forthright, as they don't have to worry about offending a small group of fellow writers. The Australian spec fic scene reminds me a bit of the students doing my Masters at the Uni of Canberra, most of them seemed too scared of offending to write worthwhile critiques. I remember reading the George Turner thought the quality of criticism of speculative fiction in Australia was appalling, resulting in pretty average speculative fiction being published here.

Graham

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My blogs.

Hi all,

I have been running the same blog on Myspace (for over a year) Blogspot (for about six months and Livejournal (a few months), and I have decided that’s not working. At the moment I have two competing aims, one is to communicate with science-fiction readers, who have no ambitions to be writers, while the other is to network with writers, particularly those who are at a similar stage of writing to mine.

As most of the people I am networking with on Livejournal are writers, I have decided to cut back on my entries there and just read it for a while, maybe making a comment every now and then. While at Myspace and Blogspot I will continue to comment with the naivety of someone who loves speculative fiction and wishes everyone read more of it.

And for those of you reading this on myspace and blogspot, basically I get the impression that the Australian speculative fiction community is very small and its members have very long memories.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Writing Week

Hi all,

Nearly half way through the year and still, I estimate, only nearly half-way through the first draft of the novel I am writing. Hopefully, now that I am back using broadband, I will spend less time waiting for emails and facebook applications to appear and more time writing.

I think I have finally broken my new computer in, although I have a feeling that Office XP will be flashing a message at me in about forty days saying that it is no longer active because I have installed it on two machines. Originally I thought the software could only be installed on one machine - my old computer - but it seemed to let me install it and activate it on my new computer. I have Open Office - a free clone of MS Office - as a back-up if XP starts to complain.

So with broadband saving me time and no more software and hardware to install and register, I wrote more than usual this week. I even had one of those sessions when writing didn't feel like a hard slog. I love those days. But isn't writing supposed to be a muse-run, fun-filled, extended burst of creative energy I hear you ask. Nope, not for me. I feel validated everytime I read about a successful author who finds writing a hard slog, like Nam Le, the Vietnamese born Australian author who is getting big raps for his short story collection "The Boat".

I sorted through the pile of articles from newspapers and the net on my desk and found one that I had ripped out of the AGE referring to a competition for a Young Adult novel of at least 25,000 words run by Text Publishing. The winner gets a contract and a $10,000 advance. I am suprised that Text is having such a competition because I thought that if any genre of Australian fiction was doing well it was Young Adult. I wonder what Text's attitude to speculative fiction is. Anyway, the competition closes on the 30th August so it can be announced at the Melbourne Writer's Festival.

I have read a few chapters of the novel I am critiquing. I worry about the info dumps in it because a large proportion of the first few chapters is background information. The information is interesting and entertaining, but I think I am going to have to start asking: is it necessary to move the plot forward?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Technology's gonna save us

Hi all,

As I get around to making an appointment to get a wisdom tooth extracted, I wish I lived in an age where nano-dentistry existed. Where nano-machines mingled with the bacteria in my mouth to destroy any plaque and cleaned out and fill in any decaying teeth, molecule by molecule.

I hope to be around at the other side of the coming technology spike or singularity, where a combination of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and nanotechnology will totally change what it means to be human. As it is, in my more negative moments, I think I’ll miss it and the last years of my life will be lived in a word ravaged by the consequences of global warming, where I, like the billions of others, will spend all my time trying to scrap the resources together to eat. Nanotechnology has the potential to fix global warming: nano-swarms could deconstruct the carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.

Only a couple of months ago I read an article by a right-winger, Chris Berg, in the Age gloating on how the dire predictions of an over-populated world in the 1970’s book “The Population Bomb” never came to fruition, a month later and I was reading about food riots and food crisis in 30 countries. Last night on the news Ethiopia was again suffering famine – although I think its government is mostly to blame for its current predicament. I am hopeful that genetic engineering will create salt and drought resistance crops to help feed us while the climate changes. Maybe someone will discover a gene that stops people from overeating too.

In the shorter term I hope that SETI is finally successful and we learn that there are other civilisations out there. I doubt if we will ever get to greet them in person, because I don’t think faster than light travel will ever eventuate and worm-holes are just the stuff of scientific theory. It would be great to know that other civilisations survived becoming civilised, so perhaps we could too.

In the immediate term, with the current petrol crisis, I hope Rudd starts to encourage the conversion of cars to natural gas in a big way. Australia has heaps of the stuff and the infrastructure to get it into cars. Gas also has the advantage of producing a lot less greenhouse gasses. Using natural gas instead of importing oil will also help fix our rapidly increasing foreign debt.

Unlike many, I am a person who believes technology might actually save us and I am becoming increasingly annoyed at what I perceive to be ignorant fear campaigns against things like GM foods and genetic engineering. The anti-gm foods lobby’s major argument seems to be fear of the unknown (where the unknown comes from lack of research on the part of the fearer).

I’d be interested to hear what readers others hope to see technology do in their life times.

Graham.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

My Writing Week

Hi all,

Let's get the excuses for not writing much out of the way first. I bought a new computer and consequently spent a bit of time installing software, creating backups and downloading updates. I then rejoined the broadband world, after being on dial-up for a while.

My new monitor is 19 inch and many of the pages of the interactive story on my webpage are rendered unreadable when the page is stretched over a large screen, so I spent a while fixing up my webpage: www.grahamclements.com.

While doing some research for a previous post, I saw Conjure, a science fiction convention, was being held in Melbourne this weekend. I checked out the program and couldn't really find anything that I thought would be of great benefit to my writing. Perhaps a bit of interaction with other writers and fans of science fiction would be beneficial, but I decided not to go. From the point of view of writing, I think I have gotten all I can out of writing festivals where the focus is on the end product and not the writing process.

I still managed to write every day, woohoo, but the author of the novel I am critiquing won't be happy with my lack of progress - I must get in to it next week. I did very little reading of anything but instructions in computer manuals and on computer screens this week.

Graham.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Speculative fiction awards

Hi all,

Do readers of speculative fiction care about the many awards that are given to speculative fiction books every year? When they hear a book has won a Ditmar or Nebula award do they rush out and buy it? Does Hugo or Aurealis award winner on the cover of a book make the casual browser more likely to buy it? Or are they more like the contestants on American Jeopardy the other night who had no idea what the Hugo award was for?

While perusing the shelves in the local book shop a few years ago "George Turner Award Winner" caused me to purchase a book - I am a fan of George Turner's writing. The book was a disappointment, but I did enjoy reading another of the winners of that award in Michelle Marquardt's Blue Silence. Note: The George Turner award was for the best manuscript by an unpublished Australian speculative fiction writer and, as far as I know, was only presented three times.

Speaking of George Turner, I think his Arthur C. Clarke awarded "Sea and the Summer" is the best science fiction novel I have read. I went out of my way to find one particularly famous Ditmar winning novel only to be disappointed. I thought it the weakest of that particular writer's novels I had read. After hearing Margaret Attwood's Oryx and Crake was shortlisted for the booker I went and purchased it. It's a great book from an author whose words just flow off the page.

There are three Australian awards for speculative fiction that I am aware of: the Ditmars, the Aurealis Awards and the Tin Ducks. The 2007 Ditmars are to be voted on at this weekend's Conjure convention in Melbourne by anyone who pays to become a member or associate member. How many of them would have read all the books nominated in a category? How many would just vote for the one book they have read? Or for a friend? It wouldn't be a shock if a Melbourne author won. I looked at the nominated books and, to my surprise, I had read one, but I would not vote for it. If I had the time and inclination to go the convention, perhaps I would just vote to place it last. The Aurealis awards have more credibility to me because they are voted on by a panel of three judges, who I assume read all the nominated works. The Tin Ducks are limited to books published by Western Australian Writers – so the competition is smallish.

I thought the Hugo was the biggest and most prestigious speculative fiction award, but then I read that it too is decided by the participants of a science-fiction convention. The 2008 award will be voted on by people who attend this year's Denvention. Again, how many of those who vote will have read all the nomination books? The Nebula award is voted on by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Ditto to the previous criticism, but at least there would be a much larger voter base than for the Ditmars, so there is more chance that the best books would attract votes.

I am left with the feeling that speculative fiction awards seem to have very dubious value.

www.natcon.org.au/2007/Ditmars.htm
www.aurealisawards.com/
www.swancon.com/2008/tinducks
http://www.sff.net/campbell-awards/award.htm
www.thehugoawards.org

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My writing week.

Hi all,

I've just filled in a writing survey on writing advice at:

http://www.aboygoesonajourney.com/
index.php?option=com_performs&formid=5

One of the questions it asks is: of the following, select which writing advice you have heard of
1 Write what you know
2 Stay away from all clich├ęs unless you’re writing parody
3 You must plan your story before writing
4 You must plot your story chapter by chapter before writing
5 You must have written at least *a certain amount* of words
6 You must read the genre you write in
7 If you read the genre you write in, you will unknowingly plagiarise. Stay away from it.
8 You must write every day, even if it’s bad
9 You should keep a journal
10 Write without caring
11 Write for the love of it, not for readers, not for publishers
12 You should write only for the market
13 Anyone can be a writer
14 Not everyone can be a writer. It’s a special gift.
15 Take advantage of every opportunity and query everyone (if your book is good enough, even a publisher who doesn’t deal in your genre will pass it on to someone who does, or even take it up)
16 All the stories have been told
17 Treat writing as a business – get dressed everyday, go into the office/study, and work your eight hours
18 Never submit work if you haven’t completed the novel
19 If you can’t convince an agent of your worth, you’ll never be published mainstream
20 You should start by writing short stories, and then when you develop better writing skills, move onto novel-length works

The only one I absolutely agree with is: 6 You must read the genre you write in, otherwise you could end up writing a story whose concepts have been done to death or is so wide of the mark for that genre that no publisher is going to touch your manuscript.

Some writing advice from George Orwell (courtesy of David Bofinger on Infinitas):

*Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
* Never use a long word where a short one will do.
* If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
* Never use the passive voice where you can use the active.
* Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
* Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

I have agreed to critique the 117k word novel I mentioned in my last post. It will take a few weeks.

I am still writing every day, but not enough words and early bed times still interfere with the amount I am reading.

Graham.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Science Fiction Terminology

Hi all,

While critiquing a story I noticed the author use both nanite and nanobot which to me are the same thing: a nano sized machine. I personally prefer nanobot. It got me thinking about other science-fiction terminology for the same thing, so which do you prefer:

Nanite
Nanobot
Nano-machine

And which do you prefer from the following list for an intelligent mechanical human like device:

Robot
Android
Artificial Human
Artificial Person

Which do you prefer for the name of a futuristic weapon?

Laser
Phaser
Blaster
Disrupter
Ray Gun

What is your prefered term for the coming technological revolution?

Technological Singularity
Singularity
Technological Spike
The Spike

What would you prefer a spacecraft's engine be called?

Hyperdrive
Stardrive
Warpdrive
Infinite Improbability Drive
Anti-matter Drive

What would you prefer an interplanetary craft be called?

Spacecraft
Spaceship
Starship
Interstellar Transport
Freighter

Or you may have some other preferred term for some of the above.

Graham.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My writing week.

Hi all,

I was disappointed that I missed out on going to the emerging writer's festival in Melbourne two weekends ago. Silly me got behind in his newspaper reading so I didn't read about it until this week. Unlike normal writer's festivals, this one was all about the writing process, not about the finished product of books or their authors.

I have still written every day this year, yaaa me. Pity it's not a 1000 words each day as I would have finished the first draft, at least, of the novel I am writing.

I critiqued the first chapter of a novel on critters.com. I will probably become, what they call, a dedicated reader and critique the whole thing. What really piqued my interest is that it was written in first person, which I tend to write in, so I will probably get some ideas on what works and perhaps what doesn't in first person. Oh, and the first chapter also had me wanting to find out what happened to the nicely developing characters.

Watched a pretty ordinary science-fiction movie the other day called No Blade of Grass.
It had perhaps the earliest mention of global warming I have seen in film, as it was made in 1970. The film was very much a propaganda piece about the environmental consequences of our overuse of the world's resources. As it was an apocalyptic tale, I just had to watch it to the end.

Graham.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Books on writing

I mentioned “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogel in my last post so I thought I might mention a few books I have found useful for my writing.

The Writer’s Journey is the script writer’s version of Vogel’s The Heroes’ Journey. It details the structure many film scripts and novels follow. Most open in the ordinary world and then something happens to call the hero (main character) to adventure. The hero is usually reluctant and refuses the call, he’s quite happy with his unadventurous life, but he meets a mentor who helps persuade him to cross the threshold and accept the call to adventure. The hero has to complete a series of tests and is joined by allies and attacked by enemies. He then has to complete/confront the ordeal at the centre of the story. He receives a reward for overcoming the ordeal and returns to his ordinary world.

The first Star Wars movie is the classic example of the Heroes’ Journey. Of course not all stories have all the elements of the Heroes’ Journey, but most do. Interestingly, the novel I am currently writing should contain all the elements of the journey even though I did not write its outline with the Heroes’ Journey consciously in mind.

I found Stephen King’s “On Writing” inspirational and motivating. To think he nearly threw the manuscript for Carrie into the bin, his career might never have started. He mentioned how he creates “real people” who shop at Target and eat at McDonalds; characters his audience can identify with. I get sick and tired of the prevalence in books for style queens who listen to jazz music. Does anyone who is not drug affected really enjoy jazz? His editing advice is: second draft = first draft minus 10%. In my case it has been more like minus 50%.

Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers is a useful book for writers like myself who want to add a bit more colour to their writing. Through a series of writing exercises it goes through a whole range of writing techniques from Alliteration to Zeugma (a single word used both figuratively and literally at the same time, usually to create a double meaning).

The Writer’s Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe by George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier taught me to be careful when world building. For example, surfers won’t be travelling to a planet without any moons because it has no tide and therefore no waves. And the gravity tugs from too many moons could pull a planet apart. The plot of my current novel necessitated that the planet it is set on be very similar to Earth.

I am not a natural speller and my grammar is improving. At high school I used to leave a lot of lightly crossed out commas in sentences in the hope that the teacher thought at least one was in the right place. I found Lynne Truss’ Eats Shoots and Leaves a fun way to reinforce my post-high school punctuation adventures.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My writing week.


Hi all,

My characters took control of my writing again: this time a character added a new plot idea. I had been getting near the stage where the narration jumps in time to just before, what Christopher Vogler in his book "The Writer's Journey" calls, the "Ordeal". But my main character has devised another "test" for himself before he reaches his "innermost cave".

I have been writing a bit more this week, but no critiquing and little reading.

One thing I did read, in The AGE, is that publishing house Macmillian may be paying its authors 20% royalties on digital rights as compared to 10% for print editions. So electronic publishing might be better than expected for authors.

I watched a repeat of one of the ABC Tuesday Bookclub and it was great to see them whole heartedly disagree about the merits of the books they were reviewing. One was A Farewell to Arms, I can't remember what the other was, but Peter Corris gave up reading it halfway through. He's not like me, I keep reading until the bitter end.

Graham.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Review of Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy

Hi all,

The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Third Annual Volume, Edited by Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt was a bit of a disappointment. I couldn’t help thinking at the end: so this is the best that Australia had to offer in 2006.

I must admit I have not been reading a lot of Australian publications lately after being disappointed with the dominance of fantasy that had no meaning for me in the first four editions of Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Magazine, the main outlet for Australian writers of speculative fiction. I have also failed to catch up with the last few editions of Orb and Aurealis. My short-story speculative fiction reading of late has been anthologies and a pile of Asimov and Analog magazines that I picked up at a garage sale.

Perhaps there weren’t any mind-blowing, ideas-laden, totally engrossing, contemporary-messaged stories published by Australians in 2006. Or perhaps the editors of the anthology have far different tastes to mine, in particular a fascination with death. The anthology certainly had enough stories dealing with dying and death and trying to cheat death, like the Dying Light by Deborah Biancotti, Father Muerte and the Flesh by Lee Battersby, andThe Souls of Dead Soldiers are for Blackbirds, not Little Boys by Ben Peek. Another story was set in hell. Interestingly, my favourite story in the previous volume of The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy was Margo Lanagan’s Singing my Sister Down, whose plot revolved around an elaborately staged execution.

This collection started off slowly with Kaaron Warren’s Dead Sea Fruit about a dentist with killer breadth. I didn’t find the story particularly horrifying, unlike my usual trips to the dentist. The Cup of Nestor by Simon Brown hooked me in with its ideas and atmosphere and speculation on what would happen and had me expecting a big ending, but it didn’t quite get there. Margo Lanagon’s Hero Vale did not enthral me like Singing my Sister Down, which is one of the most original fantasy stories I have read.

I read the fantasy/horror Father Muerte and the Flesh twice, just in case I missed some hidden meaning, but I don’t think there was one. As a horror story it had the problem of having characters I didn’t care about. I needed to be given a reason to worry about their plight and feel sad when one character, who seemed to be too carefree for her own good, died.

Ben Peeks The Souls of Dead Soldiers are for Blackbirds, Not Little Boys intriguing me, I am still wondering whether it had some underlying meaning that I just failed to grasp. But, after the experience with the previous story, I was not going to re-read it and I was in a hurry to read some science-fiction. At this stage, eight stories into an eleven story collection, I was wondering where all the science-fiction was.

I immediately picked, like I think the author intended, where Chris Lawson’s Hieronymus Boche was set, but the fun was watching the characters figure out where they where. I enjoyed this story.

The best story in the collection was Karen Westwood’s Turning the Weel, a science-fiction story set in a post apocalyptic Canberra. This shouldn’t surprise readers of this blog because of my previously mentioned fascination with apocalyptic and post apocalyptic fiction. The story was written with many phonetic spellings, but very easy to understand.

I do hope the next collection has more science-fiction and a few more stories that resonate with meaning.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My writing week.

Hi all,

I had the perfect excuse over the last couple of weeks to stop writing every day, but I didn't. I've started a new job two weeks ago that has very early starts, so I have had to reschedule my exercise routine and my writing. I haven't critiqued a story for a couple of weeks and my reading has suffered. But I seem to be getting into a new routine.

I am going to have to put more emphasis on my writing or I will have no hope of achieving what I had hoped for this year. I had planned to finish the first draft of the novel I am writing, re-draft another novel, and then redraft the novel I am currently writing. At the moment I will be lucky to finish the first draft of the novel I am working on.

I need to spend less time on facebook, livejournal and myspace.

Graham.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

apocalypse all the time

Hi all,

I have been reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. It’s a non-fiction book which asks the question: what would happen to planet Earth if humanity suddenly disappeared? I am about halfway through and each chapter of the book begins by explaining how humans have affected some part of the natural environment and then how the environment might change/recover if humans were no longer around.

Recently the 100’s of square kms of plastic floating in the North Pacific Gyre was highlighted in the media, this is examined in the chapter I am currently reading. The author continues with his examination of plastic by detailing how micro fragments of plastic are entering our food chain, swallowed by fish, birds and most importantly krill. It seems we are slowly poisoning the oceans and one of our main sources of food.

I ordered this book after reading a review in The Age. But why did it interest me? Firstly, I am currently writing a novel set on a newly terraformed world, a world where humans may have constructed the environment, but they have not yet began to populate it and degrade it. So I thought The World Without Us, might give me some ideas about what my terraformed world would be like, and it has. Secondly, like a lot of science-fiction fans, I have a fascination with apocalyptic and post apocalyptic worlds.

A quick search of my bookshelves and I find the following books set in an apocalyptic or post apocalyptic world: The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Attwood, Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard, Earth Abides by George R Stewart, Graffiti by Peter Van Greenaway, Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen, Parkland by Victor Kelleher, Salt by Gabrielle Lord, The Sea and the Summer by George Turner and Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch.

I also have also enjoyed films like The Planet of The Apes (original), Mad Max, and Omega Man and I am Legend based on the same novel. I was enjoying both Jericho and Jeremiah (on Fox 8) until they were cancelled.

Why do I we enjoy such stories? Why do science-fiction writers, in particular, destroy worlds and then force their characters to live on them? Many of them are probably convinced that humanity will eventually destroy itself, and some of those want to warn us to stop global warming, genetic engineering, nuclear proliferation. But do some of them, like their readers/viewers, hate the world, and more importantly their place in it, so much they would prefer it destroyed?

I think my enjoyment of apocalyptic stories comes mainly from imagining what I would do to survive if I was in such a world. But I also appreciate the warnings about humanity’s future contained in these stories.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My writing week.

Hi all,

Up until this morning's writing session I was thinking what the hell has happened in my writing this week that would possible be of interest to the readers of this blog. The usual had happened: I had not reached my quota of words, but at least I could say I had written every day. But then it happened, I was writing a seemingly innocuous conversation between the two main characters of my novel when suddenly, like they had both taken acid and were on the same trip, they realised they had a point of reference, some reason for not hating each other. I had reached a crucial point in the novel where two very different characters realised they had something in common. Something they/I could build on to shape the rest of the novel.

I had not plotted this point, it just happened by accident, but it is crucial to the novel. Yaaaaa characters. Now I hope to build on this coming together of two very dysfunctional souls.

I may now start to believe those writers who say that their characters come to life and take over a story.

Unfortunately for my readers, or perhaps fortunately, I was going to blog on writing sex scenes, but that will have to wait until next week.

Graham.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The 2020 Summit and books

Hi all,

The “Creative Nation” group at the 2020 summit seemed dominated by film, with nothing said about the Australian book or fiction writing market. I suppose the ailing film industry needs all the help it can get, but perhaps if they made more genre films, like science fiction, it would be more successful. Big grossing films like the Mad Max Trilogy and Wolf Creek show how successful genre films made in Australia can be. The Matrix series and Dark City were also made here, but not with Australian money. The industry needs to get away from historical dramas, lame-arse comedies and its love affair with druggies.

I am one of the five percent of Australians who pay to see Australian films. The Proposition (western), Mad Max (science fiction), Lantana (thriller/drama), He Died with a Falafel in his Hand (comedy), Bliss (fantasy) and The Cars That Ate Paris (horror) are favourites. The recent 2:37, which did not get a cinema release in Wang, is not a bad film either.

Australian books make more much more money than the Australian film and music industries combined, so where were the high profile fiction writers at the summit? Script writing seemed to be the only writing mentioned at the summit. (Are there really that few decent scripts written in Australia or is it just bad choices from our funding bodies and investors? For example the writers/director of very successful Saw trilogy tried to get the first one made in Australia.) I wonder if the book publishing industry in 2020 even cracked a mention at the summit.

Here are a couple of my own predictions about book publishing in 2020. Novels and especially text books will mostly be electronic (web, ebook). Apart from the obvious interactivity aspect for text books, the main reason I give for this is global warming. The number of trees for paper production will be limited as more land is used for food and bio-fuel production. Fires will also account for a lot of trees. So books will have to fight to use the limited amount of recycled paper. Perhaps the Creative Nation summiteers could have discussed ways the electronic distribution of books could benefit all those involved, especially the authors. I read recently that Amazon was trying to force all electronic books to be “printed” by the one publisher. I can’t see a monopoly benefiting authors.

I see science fiction turning to a darker view of our future as the reality of climate change and all its potential and happening calamities finally start to hit home. The media will change from trying to distract us from the looming disaster we have helped create, to telling us to get off our arses and do something about it, instead of trying to make us feel good by turning our lights off for an hour during Earth Hour. Science fiction writers will reflect this change of attitude. It will take at least a century to turn around global warming – unless the singularity comes up with some technological wonder solution like carbon dioxide eating replicators – so science fiction will be a reflection of our struggle.

I am predicting pessimistic electronic books will dominate science fiction in the decades to come. What are your predictions?

Graham.

PS There are two types of people who don’t believe global warming is happening, man-made and a potential disaster: the ignorant and the selfish.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My writing week.

Hi all,


Things have just gotten in the way of writing this week: the dentist, x-rays, job interviews, clothes buying (which I loath just about as much as going to the dentist).

I've been trying a new way to promote my writing on the web which has been taking up a fair bit of my time. Other people probably have tried it, but I am not aware of their attempts, so I'll try to keep it a secret for a while. The process of setting it up is helping me to get to know the characters in the current novel I am writing.

Now that I am back on critters.com, I have been doing a critique a week. I like to choose stories of around 5,000 words to critique, because I have found that if they are shorter I usually end up asking a lot of questions about the world the story is set in. I think most fantasy and science-fiction stories need to be at least 5,000 words so they have room to create their universe.

One of the stories I critiqued was a fairytale updated to a future setting. I really think that rewriting fairytales in present or future settings has been done so often that a writer has little hope of getting it published.

I took note of the time it takes to critique a story and I spend 4-6 hours on a critque.

I read that Jeffrey Archer is often handed manuscripts from writers, and he reckons just about all of them are a first draft. I was surprised to read that he redrafts his books 17 times. I haven't read any of his novels, but to go to that much effort you would want to be winning Bookers – like Peter Carey who redrafts 15 times per novel.

The above activities, combined with increasing procrastination, meant my writing output has dropped over the past couple of weeks, but I still managed to write everyday. On a superior note, I did manage to swim my fastest time for years this morning. I have adopted a new approach, swimming every fourth lap like a publisher is standing at the end of the pool dangling a contract. If only my subconscious could visualise something similar while I write.

Graham.