22 February 2004

Philip Purser-Hallard has been Away

Sorry this weblog has been quiescent for a while -- I've been taking a bit of a break from creative kinds of stuff after completing Of the City of the Saved.... I'm back now.

De Caffeine Nation

I've also been trying to cut down on drinking coffee, which is something I have to do every so often to prevent myself descending into a gibbering wreckage. This usually involves going several weeks without drinking any of the stuff, or the real stuff at least. I sometimes allow myself decaff.

I usually decide that I need to enter this phase of my life-cycle when I discover that I've been drinking coffee at the rate of two or three mugs a day for months, and that it's stopped having any discernible effect whatsoever. At this point, as far as effective work or conversation are concerned, it becomes impossible to distinguish between my waking personality and the one which I present when asleep, except that the former osciallates at a much higher frequency.

Cutting back on the caffeine reduces the latter effect, while doing nothing at all for the former. Provided I do it for long enough, however, my body loses its tolerance and, eventually, I become able by judicious application of the substance to operate as a functional human being for short periods of time.

It also means I can write again, which I can only really do when effectively caffeined up. It's a bit of a bitch, but it seems that my brain is only really able to make the connections and imaginative leaps which writing (at whichever stage of the process) really requires, under the influence of at least two (and up to eight or ten) mugs of the black stuff. I know that's not ideal from a health point of view, but it could be worse -- I might require whiskey, for example, or laudanum, or young Moroccan boys.

Incidentally, decaffeinated coffee seems to me to disprove the whole basis of homeopathy: it does absolutely bugger all to keep me awake. If homeopathic theory was correct, the trace amounts of caffeine in decaff ought to have me bouncing off the ceiling.

Faction Fiction

Since some of those reading this weblog will be doing so without a clear idea of the context into which Of the City of the Saved... fits, I've realised it's probably a good idea to plug the other novels published by Mad Norwegian Press in its Faction Paradox series.

So... for a start, there's The Book of the War, the collaborative anthology / encyclopedia / novel published back in 2002, edited by the Faction's creator Lawrence Miles, and written by Lawrence, Simon Bucher-Jones, Daniel O'Mahony, Ian McIntire, Mags L Halliday, Helen Fayle, me, Kelly Hale, Jonathan Dennis and Mark Clapham. You can read about it on my web pages or Mad Norwegian Press's. It's a fantastic read (I'm allowed to say that, as I only wrote around 4% of it), with multiple interwoven strands of narrative set out in encyclopedia format. It's not the only novel I'm aware of which uses this technique (Lawrence was rather irritated when I pointed out Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars to him), but it does so to great effect. The beauty of it is that all the different strands of story have distinct flavours, arising from the various authors' styles. My segments are fairly easy to spot now I've been "outed" as the creator of the City of the Saved, but the real highlight of The Book, for me, is the story of Faction Paradox's Hollywood wing. It's full of great stuff, though, and highly recommended.

The Book of the War is usually cited as Number 0 in the Faction Paradox series, which makes Lawrence Miles's This Town Will Never Let Us Go, published last November, Number 1. This is a fantastic, weird, warped and richly indulgent book, full of authorial asides and the occasional rant: it centres around ideas of politics, war and ritual (and says so, repeatedly). Lawrence's technique here has been compared with early twentieth century surrealism, rather than SF: either bravely or insanely for the first novel in a series, it takes the view that none of the central characters or forces in the Faction universe necessarily exist, seeing them instead as artefacts of popular culture. Fortunately (for what could frankly have ended up being a pretty pretentious read), This Town is firmly grounded both by its humour and the ordinariness of its central characters, who include a pop princess, a ritual-obsessed goth chick and an ambulance driver flirting with dangerously radical politics. It says disturbing and sometimes profound things about our world.

Of the City of the Saved... is due out in April: my pages on it are here, and Mad Norwegian's are here. A Preview of it is available both online and as an Appendix to This Town. To follow it, Mad Norwegian have announced novels Number 3 and 4: Lance Parkin's Warlords of Utopia, due out in August 2004, and Mags L Halliday's Warring States, due in December.

Lance's novel is about an apocalyptic transdimensional war between all the parallel universes where Rome never fell, and all the ones where the Nazis won World War II, which is about as high-concept as can be imagined. I'm a great admirer of Lance's work, and am thrilled he's going to be writing for Faction Paradox. Mags Halliday was one of the contributors to The Book of the War (she also moderates the unofficial Faction Paradox forum). Warring States brings back one of The Book's more intriguing characters, Cousin Octavia, and sends her to China in 1900, the time of the Boxer Rebellion.

I should also mention the Faction Paradox comics and audio dramas, both of which are Lawrence Miles's preserve.

Sorry if I've gone slightly overboard with the links there. If you're only interested in OtCotS because I'm writing it (because you are, for instance, my mother -- hi Mum), then none of the above will interest you. Otherwise, I hope it's informative. I really think the Faction novels are shaping up to be an excellent series, and that they will repay close attention. Honestly, I wouldn't be trying to sell them to you otherwise.