Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Major rewrites and other good stuff

Time flies and the blog looks like not much has happened since February, but I'm in full rewrite mode on the first book of the Lenticular series.

After the excellent feedback and crits I got I'm in the process of killing my darlings. Firstly I knew I had to up the human element and build more front story for my secondary protagonist, Rhees. After throwing a few ideas around, I have to credit my partner Nicola for helping me make the leap and turn Rhees into a woman, which has really opened up the character for me and introduced a whole new plot line which will grow in importance over the three books.

I'm also casting a critical eye on my alien sections, upping the alieness and clearing out the dead wood. That includes ditching a bit of plot business that ran for 15,000 words. The action just wasn't working, and it also made my protagonist look kind of dumb, which just didn't feel right. It's not a total loss. Some of the concepts and plot points are being preserved but they'll be threaded through a much shorter and more central piece of action which will allow me to get to the invasion of the alien homeworld - big action set piece - much quicker. This feels right and with the additional stuff I'm writing for Rhees the overall length won't suffer. It's a lot of work but I really feel I have some momentum.

Meanwhile Dimension6 has come on by leaps and bounds. I received so many great stories I've filled the first three issues and the first issue is due out tomorrow. I hope you will pick up a FREE copy. D6 will be available for download tomorrow on the coeur de lion Dimension6 page.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gathering momentum

After the silly season I’m getting back into serious redrafting mode on the (so far) two books of the Lenticular Series. I had excellent feedback from my crit group buddies at Serapeum and from Stephanie Smith. The key elements of the story are working but I need to up the human element more and also cut a lot of backstory, all of which is fine.

The way I wrote the first draft was pretty much stream of consciousness – although I had an overall plot structure in mind, ie I knew where the characters were going to end up. As part of that process I was creating and writing myself into the world as I went. That means there’s a lot of stuff I’ve written that doesn’t really need to be in a second draft, but which I needed to work through to develop and understand motivations and implications. That also accounts for the human element needing more development. My focus in draft one was to create the Kresh society and the worlds of the Lenticular. The Earth-based Hegemony took second place, but my secondary protagonist (who is human) has a key role to play as things develop (and in fact will be the main protagonist in book three) so with the Kresh stuff sorted away in my mind I can look at expanding the human side of the story. There are no blacks and whites here, just shades of grey. So it’s important the humans don’t just come over as ‘big bads’ because that’s too simplistic a view for the story I’m telling.

Some writers hate rewiting, but I actually enjoy it because your honing the language and cutting away the dead wood and, because you actually know how the story functions and how it ends, you can also work to make individual elements of the narrative focus more on that.

In the meantime I’m also reading through the submissions for the first issue of Dimension6. I want to bring the very best stories I can find to D6 readers. That means I have to read a lot of submissions, because past experience tells me that only about 10% of subs will make it through the selection process. We’ve had over 50 subs so far, so I’m certain I’ll find enough for one or maybe two issues in this batch.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The year ahead

2014 is shaping up to be a fairly busy year.

The novel
Towards the end of last year I finished the first complete draft of the first two novels in The Lenticular Series: The Way of the Kresh and The Kresh War. TWotK received a thorough workout at the semi-regular Serapeum Novel Workshop from fellow writers Rjurik Davidson, Andrew Macrae, Matthew Chrulew and Peter Hickman, which helped me sharpen some of the early motivation for my protagonist. Later this month I’ll be getting some structural notes on both novels from Stephanie Smith. After that I’ll be working on the second draft of TWotK with a view to creating a polished final draft for submission and then swinging into a rewrite of TKW.

The magazine
coeur de lion’s latest venture is a free, and DRM-free, emagazine called Dimension6. The first reading period for the mag opens this Sunday and I’m really excited to see the kind of stories we get. As a free mag the aim is to promote coeur de lion and the individual writers appearing between its electronic covers. The first issue is due out on 4 April, but there’s plenty to do between now and then. More information at the coeur de lion website.

The business
Me and my partner, Nicola O’Shea, have now taken the plunge and started a complete book editing and file conversion service for authors. You can find our more at the ebookedit website.

The reading
I’m a notoriously slow reader, and I’m currently straining to finish the Aurealis Award Science Fiction Novel category reading for 2013. After that I’ll return to my semi-regular reviewing gig for The NewtownReview of Books.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Climate Scientists as Psychohistorians

The current state of affairs in Australia - where we have a government that refuses to accept the scientific evidence of climate change, that undermines that science and climate scientists whenever it can, and that is now dismantling the only proven method to effectively manage carbon emissions - made me think of a scientist who presented his government with another inconvenient truth.

The great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, from Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, used his science to predict that Trantor, the seat of galactic government, would fall and that the fall was inevitable, but that he and his fellow scientists could work to mitigate the effects of that fall on the population of the empire.

The government, like all governments and most particularly our current government, preferred to do nothing.

Chen said, ‘Dr Seldon, you disturb the peace of the Emperor’s realm. None of the quadrillions living now among all the stars of the Galaxy will be living a century from now. Why, then should we concern ourselves with events of five centuries distance?’
 ‘I shall not be alive half a decade hence,’ said Seldon, ‘and yet it is of overpowering concern to me. Call it idealism. Call it an identification of myself with that mystical generalisation to which we refer by the term “man”.’
 ‘I do not wish to take the trouble to understand mysticism. Can you tell me why I might not rid myself of yourself and an uncomfortable and unnecessary five-century future which I will never see by having you executed tonight?’
 ‘A week ago,’ said Seldon, lightly, ‘you might have done so and perhaps retained a one in ten probability of yourself remaining alive at year’s end. Today, the one in ten probability is scarcely one in ten thousand.
 ‘How so?’ he said.
‘The fall of Trantor,’ said Seldon, ‘cannot be stopped by any conceivable effort. It can be easily hastened, however. The tale of my interrupted trial will spread through the Galaxy. Frustration at my plans to lighten the disaster will convince people that the future holds no promise to them. Already they recall the lives of their grandfathers with envy. They will see that political revolutions and trade stagnations will increase. The feeling will pervade the Galaxy that only what a man can grasp for himself at that moment will be of any account. Ambitious men will not wait and unscrupulous men will not hang back. By their every action they will hasten the decay of their worlds. Have me killed and Trantor will fall not within five centuries but within fifty years and you, yourself, within a single year.’
Climate change is real. And the Direct Action policy will do nothing to meet the challenge of climate change. Do we really have to hope there's a wily Hari Seldon in amongst all the climate scientists who can bend the government's intransigence to his own ends in order to save humanity?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kresh book 3

In my mind there was always going to be a book three, but other than a vague endpoint I hadn’t gotten any further than that. But with books one and two of the Lenticular Series now off for a critical review by a professional editor, I’ve found that the beauty of having so much story behind me with so many characters moved into particular positions and oppositions, is that the next part of the plot is busting to unfold before me. 

There are obvious things my characters will be doing because of where they ended up in book two. There will be wound licking and the desire for revenge or salvation depending on who we’re with. I’ve fulfilled my promise to my main character and brought him to the point he had to reach. We don’t owe each other a thing now, so together we’re entering terra incognita and I’m relishing plotting that in detail.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sixteen years in the making - the final scene in the Kresh books

On a tram ride home from the Aurealis Awards in 1997, I had a vision of an alien held down on a table and having a vital organ sliced from its body. That's what started an (overly) long journey from a series of short stories to a novel about Jeldon, a Kresh terribly disfigured during an invasion by Earthers and his own personal quest to overcome adversity and reclaim his homeworld.

Sixteen years and 190,000 words later, I'm ready to write the final scene in what has become the two book Lenticular Series. It's by no means ready for publication. For one thing it needs a professional editor's eye to look it over from a structural point of view. Which will mean rewrites, killing my darlings and - hopefully - making it better. But it's time to reflect.

The thing that kept me writing for so long was the feeling that I owed something to Jeldon, my main character. I put him through some quite terrible experiences, taking him to the brink of death and then to the depths beneath, where he wishes he had died. You have to like your characters or else what's the point? I owed Jeldon a shot at redemption and - if not happiness - some kind of resolution.

I hope he's happy with how it ends up.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pacific Rim: Front and Centre

Would you buy kaiju body parts from this man?
After the disappointment of Man of Steel, I was glad that I really enjoyed Pacific Rim. Often there's no substitute for a simple story told really well and that's what Pacific Rim delivers. What could be simpler than, 'giant monsters are destroying Earth, so we build giant robots to defeat them?' Actually the first few minutes of PR very effectively and economically set the scene and delivered the backstory in an enjoyable way that reminded me of the gold standard for info dumps - Joss Whedon's Serenity.

A lot of commentators are shaking their heads over why the director of Pan's Labyrinth chose to do what to the uninitiated looked like a Transformers rip off. Those guys don't realise del Toro also made the Hellboy movies and that Pacific Rim is giant robot head and shoulders above Transformers in evoking the Japanese giant monster 'kaiju' idiom as expressed through manga and anime. While PR delivers great action and a well-paced storyline, I also enjoyed those little nods to PR's anime/ manga roots like Idris Elba's suits, haircut and nervous grunting; Burn Gorman's apoplectic/ eccentric English scientist whose mugging recalled some of those strange anime expressions you see in older cartoons; and the whole Miss Mori flashback scene with the small girl holding her shoe while kaiju and mecha destroyed the city around her. It was all so magical.

The other thing that made Pacific Rim stand out was the photography and staging of the kaiju/ mecha fight scenes. Too often - and I'm looking at you Man of Steel - it's hard to follow the flow of the battles because of extreme close-ups and poor shot composition. Del Toro displayed his compositional eye to great effect with the fights and showed a natural progression with fight elements growing in complexity from battle to battle as the stakes rose higher and higher.

And who couldn't love a movie with Ron Perlman as a golden shod black marketeer? If you haven't seen Pacific Rim yet, get out to a cinema as quickly as you can. It's exactly what monster movies should be like.