Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Monday, August 30, 2004

"Don't Give Up The Day Job"

Fuck that shit.

Yes, today I handed in my resignation. Am I off my trolley? Possibly. Am I naively idealistic about the prospect of being a full-time writer? Not at all. I have a cunning plan, you see.

Actually, I have a few cunning plans. However, the ones which involve nailing company directors to crucifixes all along the road from London to Glasgow, well, those ones have been put on the back-burner for now. There are other options, after all, than going postal. Granted, in the new feudalism of waged serfs and lords of industry, going postal is quite clearly the most rational response (or the only rational response perhaps... in contrast to the cultural orthodoxy of weekend binge drinking and water cooler gossip, you know, it does actually require conscious thought). But sometimes we do have to let our hearts rule our heads and say, no.

No, I will not murder the firstborn of my managing director. No, I will not paper my living room with the skins of team leaders. No, I will not spear the heads of sales managers on rusted spikes outside my front door. No. Because that's just narcissistic rage talking. That's a wish-fulfilment power-fantasy, the dark and sociopathic logic of the Jungian shadow, sullen, petulant and sadistic. OK, so it may still be the only rational response to our current politico-economic environment, like the simple survival mechanism of the cornered rat, but, well, the problem is I have this small sentimental attachment to other human beings, this annoying little thing called empathy. It's a real fucking nuisance but I find I just can't quite dissociate myself from the rest of humanity, not enough to treat these corporate fuckers with the remorseless antipathy they deserve and indeed demand.

Bastard. It was so much easier to dream of chaos and slaughter when I was seventeen and crazy.

So having reviewed and dismissed all those cunning plans involving broken fingers, dead pets and mock executions, I've come up with a cunning plan that might just work. I quit. Ah, sweet zephyrs of freedom. O shining sunbeams of sanity. I've got my first installment of my advance due sometime within the next two weeks and with enough dosh in the bank to see me through for a good wee while, I can afford to take back the slack. I know my rate of production, so I know that sooner or later I'll have to go back to work but, fuck it, that's what contracting's all about: nice 3-6 month contracts where you don't have to deal with the same shit from the same people for any longer than is absolutely necessary. Three years VB.Net experience, full project lifecycle, ya de ya. I reckon I should be able to earn more in six months contracting than I'd make in a year at my current job. If not, well, I'll burn that bridge when I come to it. Stick the dynamite to it, flash a grin at Clint and light the fuse with the stub of my cheroot.

For now I dance! dance! and drink to delirium on absinthe, port and Guinness! Here's to three months notice! Here's to freedom by Christmas! To clubbing on a school night! To days spent rolling on the floor with my doggie! To 48 hour writing sessions! And to not being sent to fucking Pakistan for three weeks because honestly, no matter what those silly-billies at the Foreign Office say, it's not a serious threat of kidnap and decapitation. Well, we wouldn't send you if we thought it was dangerous.

The fuck you would, you psychopathic motherfuckers. Don't give up the day job?

Fuck that shit.


Friday, August 27, 2004

"Philosophy With A Hammer"...

... and literature with a full set of fucking power tools.

I was working on Ink last night and I've realised what I need isn't a PC but a bloody custom motors garage-workshop. I need monkey-wrench and car-jack, power-drill and chainsaw, hammer and nails, a ratchet screwdriver and gaffer tape, crowbar and welding torch. I feel like those guys on the MTV show Pimp My Ride, taking some clunky old jalopy totally apart, rebuilding it from scratch. I'm not complaining, mind. I'm not saying this out of some creeping horror that what I've got is junk that "must be fixed". Oh, no. This is just the way I work and really, honestly, I love the demolition derby approach where writing is as much about destruction as creation.

I love old stories, you see - ancient myths, epics and tragedies. You take an Aeschylus play in some translation from the 18th Century and it's clunky as hell, all obsolete "thee"s and "thou"s and "thy"s. Man, the engines of these things are clogged with rust. They chunter and shriek and splutter into life, only to die again just as you pull the handbrake off, gears grinding on some convoluted passage of so-turgid prose. What the fuck does that mean? you think, slamming the steering wheel in frustration. But I fucking love them. Because under all the rust is this timeless classic, only 20,000 careful owners. Fuck, is that a Prometheus 660? They don't make them like that anymore. But so many of these stories seem to be hidden away in the literary museums of Academia. You just don't see an Oresteia cruising down the road, or a whole chapter of Virgil's Eclogues gunning along a freeway through that modern pastoral idyll of biker bars and diners. The hell, I say, the hell with that hoary old "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" maxim. What about restoration.

So the first part of Ink is basically Euripedes' The Bacchae, pimped big-style. I'm totally rebuilding it from the core story up, replacing all those rusty panels of text with brand new steel and chrome, respraying it in the gauche and gaudy colours of a Harlequin play performed by terrorist mummers to a mad tyrant in a nanite-manufactured dreamtime. Multiple narrative threads woven through it like an onboard stereo system. TV screen on the dashboard, sub-woofers under the seats, flame decals down the side, I tell you this fucker just wants to roar out of the driveway, wheelspins blowing up dust behind it, with the reader laughing like a madman in the driving seat. These old bangers have serious horsepower in them, if you're willing to devote a little TLC.

But there are times when you're up to your arms in grease and oil, and all the finishing touches of the text are still to do - still, you fire up the engine just to test it, and you step back from it, listen to that throaty purr, and there's a part of you that's thinking:

OK. Right. I know that sound. I fucking know that sound, that little noise almost drowned out in the deep growl of a classic engine tuned just right.

Ah, fuck, you think. We've got a fucking screw loose here. Somewhere.

And then you find it and you tighten it.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

"Time is a funny thing"

So I just signed a two-book contract with Tor UK. I've got the preliminary revisions for the first book, Vellum, just through from my editor. I've got a deadline for the second one, Ink, at the end of the year. I'm determined to meet that deadline so I can start the new year with a new project, but at the same time I want to get Vellum done and dusted as fast as possible because then maybe there's a chance, just a chance, that after all the edits and the copy-edits and the proof-reading and whatever complications might arise, we can launch it at WorldCon next year in Glasgow. That's WorldCon 2005, ten years since I first walked into the SECC - into the last Glasgow WorldCon - as a 22-year-old dreaming of the day I'd be doing the con thing as a bona-fide author. This somewhat crazy, hash-smoke-hazy 22-year-old with a fucked up idea for a Big Novel. Epic Fantasy meets Modernism. Finnegan's Wake goes cyberpunk. Four parts, each based on a season and a time - Summer Days and Autumn Evenings, Winter Nights and Spring Dawns. The Book Of All Hours, I was going to call it.

And now it's real - WorldCon, next year, and I could have my first book out for it, Vellum, The Book Of All Hours: 1. And I live in Glasgow, ye see.

Debut novel. Local author. WorldCon.

Peachy keen.

Yes. Imagine a puppy dog circling your legs and going to the front door and back again, and circling your legs again and going to the door again, and scratching at it, wagging its tail, barking, panting, are we going now? are we? are we? huh? huh? That's how I feel at the moment.

So what do I do, given that every single fucking moment in my life is precious time now, not to be wasted on mere fripperies such as, oh, my actual job, or any of that stuff and nonsense? I mean, I need time to finish off Ink. I've got to make the changes to Vellum ASAP. I need at least two-three nights a week in the pub, minimum. So what do I do?

I start a blog.

Yup, welcome to the crazy world of Hal Duncan.

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