They arrived in the post today. I’m rather pleased with how they turned out.
It is the day before I run the first Kick School of Creative writing, and right now I have the fear. Not the fear just the fear; if you get what I mean. I’m apprehensive and excited. I have a plan, and I’m hoping that enough people turn up to make this a fun event for loads of people.
I’ve got a friend coming along to take photographs. To capture the general spirit of the event and to capture inaction shots of writers writing. I asked her along because I do want this to be a success and I do want to run events in other places. Part of what I’m going to be doing after this is dissecting the event in detail after and writing a proper template document so other people can take my idea and run with it.
Kick it out of the stadium if you like.
But regardless of if this is a success this is a real leap in the dark for me. I’ve never organized anything like this before. I’ve ran never ran an event for groups larger than half a dozen people before. I’ve also had no formal training in teaching or in creative writing. So I’m a bit worried about being asked any technical questions on writing, but I do have answers to most questions that I think are reasonably sane.
So this should be a real test of my confidence which is something that seems to rise and fall pretty much at random. But this is doing something. Which is a good thing.
But there’s a plan. Tomorrow at 11 AM I’ll be busing it into Leicester, and at 1 PM I’m going to be shitting bricks with a cup of coffee in my grubby mitts.
This is going to be a three hour nervous breakdown filled with stories; followed by a trip to the pub for a well deserved lunch.
The only question I’ve not yet solved is where I’m going to watch Doctor Who tomorrow evening.
The Kick School of Creative Writing takes places at Fabrika, Humberstone Gate, Leicester on the 17th of April 2010. It starts at 1 PM and ends at 4 PM.
This was actually written before the essay on Social Realist SF, but then so was Ivana’s Heart; the two stories feed into that essay. I like this story a lot, but then I happen to think that it works really well for such a short vignette. It was published on Weaponizer on the 9th of March 2010.
The blurb that was posted on the Weaponizer Blog to introduce this story makes me very happy as well.
She looked at her watch. “Are you going to make the pie soon?” she asked him. He was sitting next to her on the battered old sofa reading a book.
“Are you sure you are ready?”
She nodded. “Very sure.”
He got up from the sofa and left for the kitchen. Laid out on the marble counter top were the ingredients for the pie. Pre-weighed. Pecans, Kahlua, instant coffee and chocolate. The recipe she’d printed earlier that afternoon and stuck onto the fridge with a strawberry shaped magnet.
He loved her deeply. He even believed in the cause she was fighting. And he understood that her method, her weapon even, was a well tried method of resistance. But he loved her, so didn’t want to see her harmed. Still he was compelled to follow her wishes, and a compromise had been agreed on.
With the pecans, he made the pie’s crust and put it in the fridge. She walked in just as he was closing the white door. Walked over to him and gave him a hug. “How is it going?”
“Well. I’m just about to make the filling. Want to watch?”
She smiled. “Yes. Do you mind if I put the radio on?”
“Go for it,” he said.
She turned the radio next to the sink on. It was tuned to BBC Radio 4. The clean English accent of the woman presenter was reading the news. “Members of the group Save the NHS have pledged to go on hunger strike in response to David Cameron’s recent announcement that major cuts in all sectors of the National Health Service.”
“I don’t need to hear this love. Can you change the station? Planet Rock?”
“I understand. Too close.”
He nodded and carried on mixing the filling. When it was finished he spread it on top of the crust and put it in the fridge to set. “Two hours minimum until it is ready. What do you want to do?”
Outside it was raining slowly from the grey sky. “I don’t know. I’ve already updated the Save the NHS blog and twitter feed. I don’t really want to deal with it for a while. A film maybe?”
“Did you finish watching Six Feet Under?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “We could watch a few episodes of that.”
They returned to the living room. She put in a DVD of Six Feet Under and hit play all on the menu. While she was setting up the TV he took his boots off, and then leaned back into the sofa and took out the hair tie he’d put on while making the pie. She cuddled up to him as the HBO static started.
“It looks good,” she said to him, as he took the pie out of the fridge after the DVD had ended. He put it on the kitchen table and grabbed a sharp knife from the drawer.
She hadn’t wanted any ritual with her last meal. She just wanted the best pie she’d ever had. No cameras. No record. Just memories. “Can you get a plate?” he asked. He hadn’t dried the dishes so they were all on the rack drying next to her.
The ceramic plate clunked on the wooden table. He was cutting a generous slice from the pie onto her plate.
“Eat,” he said, while hoping that she’d eat again in a few days.
This was published on the Weaponizer website on Monday 25th of January 2010. It is a manifesto that isn’t a manifesto. Some of the language I’m not entirely keen on any more. The phrase ‘Social Realist SF’ was rightly dismissed in the comment thread that followed this being posted to Weaponizer. At the moment I’m using the term Kitchen Sink SF; although this label also feels inadequate. I do however think that the general principle and line of thought was well received.
I’ve done a few stories based on this now, and I do happen to think that they have been some of my strongest pieces of work to date. Anyway, don’t let this little preface at the top put you off. The anger and indifference to contemporary SF felt then is still there.
Something is wrong with science fiction & fantasy. Speculative Fiction in general. This is something that has been bugging me for a few months now. Maybe longer. Maybe years. I have been told that my argument is a defence of all fiction. But SF is my first love, the literature of my teenage years, so it is from that area I will be arguing.
SF, as a genre, has been around for just over eighty years. There have been attempts to kick the genre into a better state. The New Wave and the Cyberpunks. These attempts have left a lasting impression on the genre. They have changed things for the better.
But recently, for me at least, it seems like the genre has taken two steps backwards. I mean more books and films and comics than ever are coming out. But none of them feel very progressive. They all feel stagnant and weighed down by expectation. But even still hardly any of them feel very contemporary to my situation.
Say hello to Molly. You’ll be hearing and seeing a lot of her in the future. At the moment she is currently sleeping in the antique travel basket we’ve used for threee previous cats. She seems quite content sleeping on a donated towel.
The talk by William Gibson that I mentioned in “Get Angry and Change Things” is from a newspaper interview carried out during his promotional tour for Spook Country, and not, as I thought, a talk of his. I rediscovered it a few days ago, and it is worth reading properly.
Stranger Than Fiction
As uncannily as Gibson has sometimes foreseen the future, there are other times when the events of the real world outstrip anything he could conjure up. In 1998, for example, when Viagra was brand-new and he was presented with a sample, he examined it carefully and responded incisively, “It does what ?”
Behind the hotel courtyard lunch table, a Marine helicopter roars low over the Potomac. Thoughts turn to the future of Washington. Could Gibson have predicted that in 2007, two leading candidates for the presidency would be a white woman and a black man?
That’s the problem with his game, he says. “If I had gone to Ace Books in 1981 and pitched a novel set in a world with a sexually contagious disease that destroys the human immune system and that is raging across most of the world — particularly badly in Africa — they might have said, ‘Not bad. A little toasty. That’s kind of interesting.’
“But I’d say — ‘ But wait! Also, the internal combustion engine and everything else we’ve been doing that forces carbon into the atmosphere has thrown the climate out of whack with possibly terminal and catastrophic results.’ And they’d say, ‘You’ve already got this thing you call AIDS. Let’s not –‘
“And I’d say, ‘ But wait! Islamic terrorists from the Middle East have hijacked airplanes and flown them into the World Trade Center.’ Not only would they not go for it, they probably would have called security.”
It may also have come from a talk somewhere, but I’ve long since lost the original reference, so this will have to do.
Through the Looking Glass [Washington Post]
This story was written for the Looking for Strange challenge “Heart“. It was submitted on January 7th 2010, and this is what I consider my first attempt at writing a more stripped down speculative fiction.
“Till death do us part,” Ivana said, to Gregor, from her hospital bed.
“I know. I know. But there is no money left.”
“In sickness and in health,” Ivana said.
Gregor looked away from his now frail wife lying in the bed in front of him. He did love her. Deep down in his heart he didn’t want her to die. But the money in their joint insurance fund had ran out. Gregor was already working double hours at the office to pay the debts that were starting to grow.
“I don’t want to die,” she said. “Sometimes I think that you have lost faith. Have you given up hope in my recovery dear Gregor?”
The following is the text of an email I sent to five other people on Tuesday the 5th of January 2010 at 01:42 AM. This marks the first piece of writing about what is becoming this year’s theme. Most of my fiction this year seems to be me attempting to meet the goal I lay out in this email.
This is going to be a really rambling email and I make no bones about
that. In an ideal world this would be an essay on my livejournal or
something like, but I’m not really firing on all cylinders on this
general idea yet so don’t want to make too much of an ass of myself.
Recently, as you might have heard/noticed, I’ve been reading Cheap
Truth which was, in its day, a fanzine edited by Bruce Sterling under
the pseudonym Vincent Omniaveritas. In the first issue it ripped into
fantasy fiction and in subsequent issues pretty much attacked
contemporary SF/F and highlighted so much of what was wrong with it.
You can read about it on Wikipedia and there’s a link to all the
issues from there. But that fanzine along with some close connections
with other writers basically formed Cyberpunk.
I have ideas every hour of every day; some of these are good ideas, and some of them are downright terrible ideas. Most of these ideas fall somewhere in the middle.
I’d like to think that this one falls in the upper-ranges of good.
The basis of the idea comes from looking at Molly Crabbapples’s Dr Sketchy, and wanting to see something for writers. Because I can’t draw to save my life. Seriously stick figures are pretty much beyond me.
So the deal is this: get a bunch of writers together, wannabe or not, and write. Because for the wannabe the only way to get better is to write stuff. Different stuff. Lots of different ideas. Lots of different styles. And for pros, the people who know how to write, same deal; since these are skills that need maintaining.
A format I have in mind is roughly the following. Everyone turns up, gets comfortable, has a pot of tea etc. Then the first prompt is delivered. This could be a phrase, a poem, a song, anything that can inspire stories. Then we, the group, writes for about half an hour.
And then we break for ten minutes. For more tea, toilet breaks and smokes.
Then this process of writing for half an hour and chilling for ten minutes gets repeats two or three more times. A different prompt each time.
Also because it’s kinda cool to share stuff that’s raw and unedited there’s a chance to read stuff that’s been written at the end. This might be the weak part of my overall idea.
Anyhow, I’m going to look into hosting an event of this nature in my local area, and I’m making the idea somewhat public because I suspect it isn’t a unique idea (I’m sure people must have done this already), and also because if I make the idea known I might get prodded into action.
My proposed name is “The Kick School of Writing”. Named after the Tesco’s own brand Red Bull, because I’m cheap. A motto, if this thing needs one, has to be something along the lines of “Writer Harder, Write Faster, Write Better.”
Peace & Love