26 May 2004

Next Time On...

You may distantly remember the "next writing project" I mentioned quite some time ago now, promising a running commentary on this page as I wrote it.

Well, the project I was talking about is now definite -- still confidential, unfortunately, so I can't go into much by way of actual detail, but contracts are being bandied about and will in all probability be signed very shortly. It's to be one of a series of science-fantasy-cum-detective novellas published by a British small-press publisher respected in the sf and horror field, which provides enough clues that anyone who cares enough can make a guess.

In order to persuade the publishers to publish me I had, of course, to write them a plot outline and a sample, so you won't be getting a blow-by-blow account of the story's genesis right from the beginning. Nor, for the aforementioned reasons of confidentiality, will I be going into detail as to the actual plot. And then I do have other stuff I need to be working on -- other proposals, a short story, some pre-writing ideas -- so I won't be working on it uninterrupted, either.

Even so, I'll be keeping the readers of this blog apprised of my progress, once I start making some. At present I'm awaiting a) the signing of the contract, and b) some word back from the editor on how my outline may need altering to fit into the general plan for the novella range. Once that's happened, though -- and when I get a moment free from everything else -- I'll be getting down to work. Watch this space.

City Bound

As of Thursday, I finally have a copy of Of the City of the Saved.... It isn't one of my complimentaries -- although those have now arrived as well -- but a copy I bought over the internet from a retailer in the US, and paid for them to send across the Atlantic by express mail. Look, I was desperate, OK?

It's... well, it's my book. In print. Bound together, and with a barcode on the back and everything. It has my name on the front cover, and words in it that I wrote, and an "About the Author" note relating to me. It's... very odd, actually, at first, although I've carefully acclimatised myself since it turned up by obsessively poring over it day and night. It's like having part of your mind break off, like a piece of iceberg, and float off on its own. Trite, hackneyed and lacking in a sense of proportion though the analogy is, I do see why people compare it with having children.

And it's beautiful. Obviously there are things I wish were different: there are design decisions which (while perfectly understandable and correct from Mad Norwegian Press's point of view) don't chime with the platonic version of the novel I keep inside my head; and I've spotted half a dozen typoes (not at all bad actually, for a book of its length), only one of which was my fault. Oh, and the frontispiece uses the same illustration as the one in This Town Will Never Let Us Go, rather than going with my suggestion of using Jim Calafiore's striking "Timebeast Assault" picture from The Book of the War.

Even so... as I kept remarking to my other half during the hours after I first saw it, wow.

I didn't say a lot else that evening, actually.

17 May 2004


What is it with the phoneme "kum" that seems to make it so bloody complicated to spell? On the one hand we have the colloquial spelling "cum" being used in place of "come" in the contexts of orgasm or ejaculate. This is a reasonable example of natural language change, and I don't mind it particularly, if only because of the splendidly smirky double entendre it adds to the mineral discovered in Cummington Massachussets, cummingtonite.

On the other hand, it seems to be increasingly common for people to use the "come" spelling where they mean to use the Latin conjunction, in phrases like "kitchen-cum-dining-room", "wife-cum-manager" or "Horton-cum-Studley". I suppose the vague idea is of a kitchen "becoming" a dining-room, but this introduces an element of process to a construction which should imply apposition alone.

I'm warning you now, if this goes on I may be forced to write a stiffly-worded letter to The Telegraph.

14 May 2004

A Quick Note to Say...

...that Of the City of the Saved... is technically now in release, although as far as I'm aware there are no copies in the UK as yet.

Do buy it, someone's already described it as "absolutely brilliant". And that was on the Faction Paradox discussion boards, so he can hardly be biased or anything.

Anyway. There are some Extras pertaining to the novel, including Deleted Scenes and Commentary, up on my website. More Commentary will follow once I have a real copy to work from.

11 May 2004

Trying out a new template...

Hmm. Not much of an improvement on the last one, really. I really must get around to working out how to customise this page.

Yet Another Novel Update

Well, I'm told -- that is, I was told this time last week -- that Mad Norwegian expected to receive copies of Of the City of the Saved... from the printers imminently, and to send them out to subscribers, purchasers and retailers (as well as me) more or less immediately.

So... has anyone seen an actual copy yet? I certainly haven't. But I have faith that they exist.

STOP PRESS: The copies for US people and shops are in the mail, apparently. The international copies are being delayed by rainstorms in New Orleans, which I'm told can be a bitch. So... it'll be soon. I still have faith.

Demanding Proofs

The heating was broken at work today, so that all the radiators were radiating away at maximum temperature. This isn't what you want in the South of England in mid-May, and the entire place was like a sauna, only with fewer nude Scandinavian businessmen.

To make matters worse, I was having to proofread the college magazine. This is a job that seems to fall to me twice a year on the grounds that, as a junior member of the library staff, I'm evidently the best-qualified person. (Well, perhaps it's more the three English degrees and the writing career, but even so.)

Certainly the chap who actually writes and edits the magazine has a grasp of punctuation, syntax, spelling and prose style poorer even than that of some of the English teachers. Apart from his scattershot approach to consistency in terms of brackets and quotation marks, his random deployment of dashes, commas, full stops and (since he spotted me using them in the final text) semicolons, is a wonder to behold. Sentences such as "[Student's Name] will study Theology, a subject which he says seems to add sense to life -- and death, at Random College Oxford" are not uncommon.

Most of the time I can convert such material into language, by carefully deploying punctuation of my own, along with the substitution and insertion of minor words. There are occasions, when a tiny intervention suddenly turns a string of gibberish into a surprisingly coherent sentence, which can feel elegantly satisfying (albeit more like the processes usually known as "editing" or "co-authoring" than as "proofreading").

However, I have my limits. Primarily, in this case, limits of knowledge. The sports reports are coded in dense jargon which I can't begin to unpack, resulting in sentences which -- while clearly a mess -- can't be turned into anything approaching English, at least not by me. Some of them achieve a pleasingly mesmeric effect by their constant repetition of words like "match" or "jump", but to me they might as well be automatic writing.

I don't have the necessary comprehension skills to tackle "England North v England South trials", "the England (January 1st) XV in the A.E.R. Festival" or "the Centenary of the Gloucestershire Schools". (I mean, what? Have there only been schools in Gloucestershire since 1904? Eh?) I was alarmed enough the other day, when I heard that the Prime Minister of Thailand was buying Liverpool, and imagined him dismantling the Liver Building and the Cathedrals for shipping to the Far East.

I don't mean to give the man who writes this stuff a mauling. He writes as he speaks, and his conversation is, in fact, perfectly comprehensible -- indeed, he's a good communicator, lively, charismatic and (if you happen to like that sort of thing) good company. He probably leaps out of bed in the mornings, eager to face his day of communicating.

It's just that he has no conception of the gulf between spoken and written English... which is what people like me are useful for, I suppose. Hey ho.