Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ain't Blogging Boy.

Went for a walk today, late afternoon along old river, and river said, "So why you not blogging, boy?"

I shrugged and watched old spider sun spin Brisbane's skyline into precious metals, and sun said, "So why you not blogging, boy?"

Went for a walk today and cloud was purple and curious, cloud said, "So why you not blogging,

Came back from a walk today, and old keyboard was laughing, he spat and chuckled. "You ain't blogging, boy"

Too hot. Too Christmas looming. The air smells too much of time, and things burning, and I ain't blogging boy.

Someone left their handbrake off a couple of houses down. Big Mistake. Seems if you leave your handbrake off, and your car goes rolling down a hill and knocks over a fence and ends up hanging off a ledge, that you need the police involved and these sorts of things aren't high priority. Poor person waited with two tow truck drivers for nearly four hours.

When I was a little kid, my dad used to tell me and my siblings stories about his alter ego, Blakey the boy of steel. His adventures involved delivering newspapers really quickly, saving crashed milktrucks, the sort of things that were plausible to kids in the 70s*.

I swear I used to believe that my dad really had superpowers.

This would have been the perfect job for him.

Instead they had to wait for four hours. Pity.

*yeah the 70s were crazy, dude.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why I Hate Ben Peek

"My first thought was, he lied with every word,
That hoary cripple with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie..."

Robert Browning - On Ben Peek

Let me start this post by saying that I don't hate many things*. Hate is such a strong word, and if I use it all it is generally in an archly ironic sense, or to indicate the opposite emotion. But not so with my hatred of Ben Peek. I hate Ben Peek, and if, through this brief post I can lead you to a place where hate him too then I will have achieved at least one positive thing with this blog, and I can finally give up writing altogether and begin to pursue my true and twin loves – namely accounting, and the collection of cartoons by cartoonists who are trying to be - but not quite making it - Gary Larson.

Ben Peek first came to my attention in 1973. I was barely out of the womb, he was already eighty-five, though he looked scarcely older than twenty-eight. Ben Peek was well known even then as a fabricator of lies, he produced them in a factory, out of the webs of spiders, the carpal bones of secretaries working for large and important law firms, and the eyes of babies.*

I was just a baby when I met him. So it was not surprising that he stole my eyes. Between blinks they were gone, snatched out of my head, and ground down in his machines and bound up in a lie. I was a wealthy baby, and a hot-headed one, and I demanded my eyes back. Instead he sold me the lie that I was not blind. Flawless, as all good lies are. My substitute eyes are nothing more than balls of dust. But so effective is the working of that lie that they appear to be brown orbs of exquisite sensitivity and depth. So effective is the working of that lie that I can actually see.

Another lie was born that day, in a factory of my own construction, out of the brains of puppies and the teeth of kittens and a dash of egg white. That lie being that I would never seek revenge.

I have pursued Ben Peek across the decades. We have warred and we have lied, and always he has been one step ahead. I ate his pet turtle, he ate the entire population of my home town, ground them down in his machines and produced them again as the lie that they were not dead, but I can still hear their screams. I torched his house, he set the very sky alight – I forgot to mention that before this battle there was no sun, so, yes, our battle created the sun, deal with it, move on.

I pierced his heart with a rusty nail, he ground all my organs into salt then fed them to his owl – yes, he owns an owl, it is wise and vicious, and fond of salt.

I released a book of short stories, he released a novel, and this. Read this, and you will surely understand why I hate Ben Peek.

*Well, actually I started it with a poem.
** He had also invented the telephone, and telemarketing, both reasons for blood-boiling hatred at the least.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ant Nests, Lemons and Peaches

Finished Scar Night yesterday. Looking forward to the next one - it's part one, don't you know. Alan Campbell pulled the whole book off, as far I'm concerned, even with the airships and angels, and he did something I totally respect, he gave the ant nest of his world a damn good kick. People have compared this novel with the work of Mervyn Peake, and you can see the influence, but I actually think it does the book a disservice*. Campbell's style is much more direct, he isn't as wordy and his characters not nearly as eccentric (and they're a little sweeter), which is good, these things serve the book he has written very well indeed. This is an adventure story and a very good one**; you all don't want to turn those folk who hate Peake off. Peake wouldn't have written this book, would have been incapable of writing this book, as say a lemon is incapable of becoming a peach; it just isn't his bag.

Things have been quiet on the old blog front, but that's good, when it's quiet, it usually means I'm writing, or thinking, deeply, usually about how nice peaches are, and lemon meringue pie, yeah, I sure love lemon meringue pie. But there's plenty of other fine grade bloggery to engage with – my two personal favourites are the blogs of Ben Peek and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Two writers that are not only excellent and thoughtful bloggers, but who've been writing some wonderful fiction of late – which isn't to say that they weren't before, but I find myself looking forward to reading their fiction, you know, actually putting time aside for it, maybe going out and getting a coffee and sitting down and reading their stuff.

I'm a slow writer, so when I actually find myself writing in blocks of hours rather than the usual bits on the train or bits after I've done the washing up, I don't like to trip it up. And I've also decided that I don't like talking about it much, the process, which really is rather dull. Writing's false starts, and chewing and re-chewing words, and bloggery is all optimism and doom, and I'm not that fond of the whole writer's journey kind of thing, it's more - for me at any rate - you jiggle your head, the words pop out, usually not fast enough and usually the wrong ones, and then you do it again, after discarding the previous words - because they weren't lemony enough.

Talking of doom. Go out and buy Scar Night and get your fill of a city suspended by huge chains over an abyss that may or may not contain a corpse hungry god. It ain't Peake, but, like I said, that's a good thing.

*And, the bookseller in me loves comparing author x to author y. Hell, I don't know why, maybe it's just from all those years of people asking me "so who are they like?"

**Even if there is one scene where the characters just run around a lot, and for a moment, I could feel the writer there thinking, now where the fuck do I go from here?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Debuts, all good, but no Penny-Farthings, not even one.

It's coming up to Christmas, the busiest time of the retail year, don't you know, so my reading time is going to start shrinking. I'm onto my last couple of books of the year. Alan Campbell's Scar Night is taking my fancy at the moment.

It's an assured debut, and a lot of fun. If you like gothic adventures with airships, and huge smoky urban spaces. This territory has been mined out of late - coming from someone who has a gothicy adventure with airships and smoky urban spaces in his hard drive this is a little hypocritical - but I think I'm over airships. In fact I might actually start avoiding books with airships on the covers. They're cool and all, but as sense of wonder artefacts they've kind of normalised, they're more sense of "oh, an airship, behold its immense floatiness". I reckon we need more Penny-farthings on the covers of books, or maybe more elephants, but only elephants playing brass instruments – okay, I'll accept a little woodwind, too.*

Which doesn't mean I'm dissing Alan's book, it's got it's hooks in me, oh, yes, even if they're hooks dangling off airships, or angels – yes, it has angels in it, and I really don't like angels, but they work here, like they worked in Stepan Chapman's the Troika, and they must really be working because I generally avoid books with the winged folk in them.

Which goes to show that you have to take these things on a case-by-case basis, because, yes it has angels, yes it has airships, but I'm digging it quite a lot. Definitely worth considering as your Summery read.

Looking over the books I've read this year quite a few of them have been first novels. Stand outs for me this year were Martin Living's Carnies and Grace Dugan's The Silver Road both were accomplished works, both played with my expectations, and both have me wondering what these writers are going to produce next.

I hope they manage an elephant or two on the cover, or at least a Penny Farthing.While I'm waiting to find out, you should go and buy their books, and buy a copy of Scar Night as well.

*Think of it this way, an alternate world where Penny Farthings are the main source of transport, cars were never invented nor were airships, and bicycles grew to ever larger sizes, people ride them on great silver bridges that circle the globe, listening on their radiogizmogs to genetically modified elephants playing a kind of jazz. Oh, and there'd be lots of references to mysterious crystals, known only as the crystals of mystery.

The tag would go : In world without Airships, the Penny-Farthing is king.**

**And I'd actually mocked up a cover, but blogger's giving me a hard time, so that will have to do.


Sitting out the back, staring at a possum, it's returning the stare.

I think it wants my wine, well the memory of it, the fruit it was, the bunches once sweet. Its gaze flicks from mine to the glass and back again. The tree droops with the possum's weight, not the least of which is that stare, geckos are making that deliquescent exclamation, that frustrated cartoon cry into the night.

There's always traffic, rumbling in the background, slipping from Coro Drive, seeking the Western Freeway. But it's just me, and that possum, and the geckos. Even old moon has opted out.

And I'm thinking about old men, and words, and failure.

Failure is the most interesting thing. It makes stories work, it's a kind of oil, and abyss – the sort that demands leapers. I sometimes wonder if failure not conflict is the true engine of tales.

I'm constantly disappointed and amazed, by the choices I've made, by the way the world works or doesn't, by the words I've chosen and the ones I didn't.

I choose to get up, and out of the dark. I choose to write this down.

The possum. I don't know where it goes, maybe to debate the possum scene. The traffic continues, it's going everywhere, and running down, softly into the night. The geckos continue. I can hear their frustration, and their hopes.

And I'm still thinking about old men, and words, and failure.