Monthly Archives: May 2014

Geogromancy

It might seem weird that for all I read it, I tend not to write much that is what I would call High Fantasy. I’m talking Feist, Hobb, Goodkind, Gemmell, Le Guin, Rothfuss, Martin, Jordan… epic world-building and magic and dragons and warriors and all that. I think the trouble is, I’m too afraid of either completely ripping them off, or not being up to that standard.

Fantasy novels (mostly Gemmell and Pratchett) were a massive part of my adolescent development and influenced my philosophy of life. Kids need to read more fantasy, as a side note, when they’re young enough to not be total bags of disillusioned cynicism yet. A good dose of good-vs-evil, honour and chivalry (NOT equivalent to sexism, btw) would work wonders.

Anyway… I don’t write high fantasy. I did start one, once, back in my Gemmell years, that I had a good plot lined up for. I have a similar outline for a different book with the same plot mechanisms in a notebook somewhere. But they’re just random doodles, anomalies. I greatly admire those who can fully immerse themselves in such an epic.

I don’t have the discipline for that. I don’t have the patience. I live in the real world too much, even though I don’t think I do (can’t remember the last proper social occasion that wasn’t online or with Rivka and Ivory) and I can’t block it out. That’s precisely the reason I read high fantasy. I get that escapism while I’m in the pages and I come out feeling refreshed and ready to hit 21st century Scotland in the kilt. But to devote that much time and effort to a whole different world is too daunting. Maybe if I had the luxury of writing full time and very understanding supporters who paid my rent while I spent weeks on research.

That doesn’t work for me.

I am happy writing what I’m writing. Quril is set in and around a city in which I lived for four years. I don’t need to spend hours on Google maps: I know the streets I’m writing about. Likewise for a lot of Once Bitten, I’ve been to the places I’m writing about. Some geography might get a little blurry for the sake of narrative causality but it’s a world I know well enough to write about. The research has been done already by dint of it being physically in existence.

I know if I were inventing my own fantasy kingdom or world that I would know it well enough to write about it, and no one else could tell me it was wrong because it’d be my world and my rules. This is the one area where my massive control issues work in my favour. Not only can what I decide never be wrong, but it would be completely made up so no one could challenge me on it either.

I’m also too lazy to want to bother with producing a map. In a hypocritical twist, one of my favourite soundbites is to declare that I don’t like fantasy books that need a map and a glossary and a character index. Too complicated! But then with worlds with no maps, or at least not detailed ones, I scour the net looking for them, official or fan-drawn.

As a sop to my fantasy-longing brain, here are some of my favourite fictional worlds:

Stewart & Riddell – THE EDGE/Edgeworld. My uni lecturer once referenced Sanctaphrax and I was the only one who got it. That made us both sad. I started at the beginning, with Beyond the Deepwoods, and this weird world with woodtrolls and slaughterers, banderbears and shrykes… there was nothing saccharine about it. This fantasy world is dangerous. If the trees themselves don’t drug you, the wig-wigs will eat you alive, the shrykes will sell you into slavery or perhaps the Gloamglozer will take your soul. There is rock that is lighter than air – a whole city floating above the land and secured with massive chains – and timber that becomes buoyant when it is burned. Sky ships that are kept in the air because of a flight stone that rises when cold and sinks when hot. For kids’ books there is an awful lot of full-on heartbreaking tragedy. But that’s awesome.

GRR Martin – WESTEROS. Has to be on the list. Summers and winters that last for a decade, all the best and worst of the high medieval period, and also dragons. I did get to this quite late, so it’s not a part of my teenage DNA, but I can understand why each book takes so flipping long to write.

C S Lewis – NARNIA. Can’t miss out Narnia. Sentient animals, fauns, a massive effing Lion! And children get taught to use weapons and can grow up to be Kings and Queens! MUCH better than the Famous Five. I do like Narnia a lot, and am quite happy to read the stories with or without Christian overtones. When I was ten and reading them, I had no clue about all that and still managed to read through them alright. The idea that time passes differently was a curious one for me as a child but is clearly a help if you want to start writing about different characters. It also gives a lot of history for the country. I love the idea that the first King and Queen of Narnia were a London cabbie who was dragged in by accident, and his wife. And the lamppost tree! And the way you can either stumble into Narnia by accident through a portal (though as every child knows, you must NEVER shut yourself into a wardrobe) or be called there in times of need. I can be a bit grumpy about real-world/fantasy world overlap and interaction because sometimes it doesn’t really gel at all well, but it works with Narnia.

Scott Lynch – CAMORR. The Lies of Locke Lamora rocked my world and the setting is a major part of that. Lynch started with Venice and then made it a bit cockney and a bit piratey and a bit alien. I love the Revels and the Shifting Market and the catbridges and the Elderglass towers and the districts and the Floating Grave. Execution by shark and alchemical plants and all the flavours of liquor anyone could want. There are street gangs and priests and a weird calendar system and what I like most, I think, is that the rulers of the City aren’t really involved. They’re mentioned, and they’re in the background, but the story is all about the underlings. The two worlds overlap and come very close to colliding. But they don’t. It isn’t about overthrowing the establishment. It’s about the power struggles lower down the food chain.

Stephen Hunt – JACKALS. I read the whole of The Court of the Air getting to the end of each chapter with no idea what the hell any of it was about, but being sure that the next chapter would illuminate. Jackals is a steampunky, chunky, riproarer of a kingdom. If John Bull had one too many stout ales and vomited up a country, Jackals would be it. Woven within this classic – and potentially pantomimic – Victoriana is a strong element of sci-fi, but also Earth magic. It’s so delicately balanced. There are insectoid creatures below the ground trying to take over, and their clinicial, pheromone-driven lifestyle is at odds with the bluff and boisterous Jackelians. Add to that the weird, folk-legend magic of the Feymist, the sentient machinery (steamdriven, of course) and Crustaceo-humanoids and there’s a whole lot of themes going on. Any two of these in conflict would be enough for a decent plot, but Hunt rams them all in and shakes them up and throws them all over the reader and leaves them to sort out all the pieces and sponge the stains from their clothes.

Sidenote: Also loved the Napoleonic style, raised sea level islands of Britain from For the Crown and the Dragon, though I hated the abrupt ending with no chance of resolution. Going back to that at any point, Hunt? Hmm? OK it’s been twenty years, but dammit, what happens????

Terry Pratchett – The Discworld. I started reading Discworld novels when I was fourteen. Back in the year 2000 there were a fair few to go at. So if we’re talking Addison’s-development-curve, the Disc is about sixty percent of that. Come on – it’s a flat slab of a world, carried on the backs of four elephants, who themselves are balanced on the back of the great Turtle A’Tuin who is slowly swimming through space. Duh. The different countries or states themselves are twisted versions of some semblance of reality – Lancre is a tiny mountain kingdom that is sort of like Switzerland but with a strong element of Yorkshire and Scotland; Ankh-Morpork is any major city (London or New York) with real-world name-checks (Lancaster street names! I’ve seen them!); Ephebe is Grecian; Fourecks is Australian… there is magic and weird science and a lot of cynicism. But it’s almost a second home for me. Daylight moves like treacle, sometimes an extra continent rises out of the sea, and above all else… The Turtle Moves.

Honourable mentions for Earthsea, Clive Barker’s Weaveworld (It’s a rug! But it’s also a dimension!) and Gregory Maguire’s version of Oz. Any favourites of yours?

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Ascendent

It’s another glorious Saturday afternoon after a week of downpours, stormy rumblings, and muggy greyness. Rivka, Ivory and I have been out sunning ourselves with a pot of tea and some cake, and have returned in good spirits and ready to tackle the Saturday Night portion of the weekend.

Last weekend, Rivka bought a Game of Thrones 1-3 box set and we have been working our way through season one. I have seen season one already, but Rivka and Ivory haven’t (too busy writing!) so it’s nice to see them getting their teeth into it. We’ve all read the books (hahaha, a massive fantasy series we’ve not read between us?! Challenge accepted.) so the plot isn’t a surprise, but it’s quite fun, knowing what is coming, to go back to the beginning. Deaths so far have been minimal and boobs gratuitous.

I have not yet read A Dance With Dragons, so I’m not 100% up to date, but that’s only because I wanted to re-read the others first. The trouble is, I swept through one two and three (parts one and two) that by the time I got to A Feast for Crows again, I was sick of Westeros and started reading something else to have a break. Then I forgot what happened, again, and was bracing myself for a re-re-read. The other day I was so sick of putting everything off that I just read the book summary of AFFC so I could get on with it! Then I decided I wasn’t actually that bothered, and read the summary for ADWD as well. Mistake. I found out something really juicy and was gutted I’d spoilered myself. Now I won’t get the same OMG WHUT reaction when I read it. Patience, especially when it comes to my obsessions, is not my strong suit.

At the moment though I have been reading Robin Hobb. I have the Farseer trilogy in paperback and The Soldier Son trilogy on my Kindle, snapped up in a 0.99 sale (yay!) but her books are no less weighty than Martin or Feist. I read Assassin’s Apprentice about eighteen months ago and never got around to carrying on. Now I’m just over halfway through Royal Assassin and all wrapped up in classic high fantasy. I need it to ground myself.

I have posted before about books and using them as mood stabilisers. Reading is never just about the book for me. If I’m re-reading an old favourite it is partly to remember the time I first read it. I read Chocolat at Lent not just because the narrative spans that time frame. It reminds me of the darkness of winter evenings and chunky knitwear and the promise of spring.

Gemmell, and other high fantasy, takes me back to simpler times, and the long summers of my teens when I could literally spend a week in the holidays stretched out on my bed boxed in by a palisade of words. Sunny mornings in the garden where the grass in the shade was still slicked with dew.

So too with music. I’ve been building a “summer” playlist, but the tracks are those that take me back to different times. Some are good driving songs, others played on crackling radios in the park. Party songs and bands that had a heyday. Hearing Ocean Colour Scene and Hanson zooms me into my teens (I refuse to say “my youth” – I’m still young!) the way that Meat Loaf and the Eagles dump me smack bang into the bedroom of my first boyfriend.

Reading, writing, music… they cannot exist free of context. Ivory, I know, with her Darkness Falls books, has found catharsis in reliving difficult situations from her past. They say write about what you know. Rivka’s The Last Ancient series is set at a boarding school. Rivka went to a similar one (though presumably one without secret witches? Maybe not…). When I go back to Once Bitten I am back at uni, third year, struggling to find my feet again after a year abroad. Murder Express makes me restless, as I have mostly added to it when on the move. Quril draws together the many parts of my weird brain and makes me a little Zen.

I need those drafts. Expedition to the computer shop tomorrow. I will be writing again by this time tomorrow.

In the meantime, I feel in the mood to rearrange my bedroom furniture, though I doubt I have the motivation to empty the shelves of books and the drawers of my dresser to make them light enough to lift alone. I am yearning to rebuild my world around me. I think the sun has charged me up a little and I am stirring just like the ever-chirping birds.

Read this blog post again. I’m getting a bit eloquent. It’s spring clean time. It’s building time. It’s action stations for my insides.

 

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Still Alive

Oh, hello, blog. It’s a hazy Saturday morning and I’ve just renewed my car tax.

My name is Addison and I haven’t updated since 15th April. Step one is admitting there’s a problem.

Well, hey, legions of fans *sips coffee* I still haven’t got my stuff off my old hard drive. I might just have to go into a computer shop and get them to take the hard drive out for me. I want my 240k of self-worth back. I keep getting all these new ideas (not just for writing) but with three millstones of unfinished drafts around my neck I’m loath to really get stuck in to anything new.

In the real world, work is also insanely busy. I’m directing a play with the kids. It’s a serious one. So we had the auditions and I’ve just put that aside because there’s a whole new lot of teaching to do and so much to prepare for that.

And I’ve got a load of sewing to do.

I’m at the tipping point of motivated success vs shame spiral. I can go get ‘em! Or I can ignore all the things and hope they go away. Hi there, TV.

Speaking of TV, Rivka and I have had double disappointment recently: they cancelled Almost Human and there’s no season 2 of Dracula either. Dammit. Karl Urban… nooooo… and Dracula really got going towards the end. Even if Lucy did look like a cut-rate Keira Knightley. At least we still have Orphan Black to rely on. Michiel Huisman has just turned up. So that’s nice.

Right. I’m off to work. Efficiencyyyyyy!

 

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