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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.