2/28/10

Ok: actually finished now.


Actually finished. Proofed, revised, revisions proofed, spelling checked, third party proof read and ready to go. Emailed to agents tomorrow AM. Off to see The Wolfman tonight.

Memory banks


c/- Boingboing.

Ask me anything

what's the best beverage you ever had at Celebre/Box?

The 84, which was a double 42, although the ginger wine during flu periods was also appreciated. Thinking about it now, the 84 was really just a third of a bottle of Stolichnaya. I was younger then, and everything I said was clever.


c/- Formspring

Sunday morning (The Green Parrot)

2/24/10

Chapbooks

Columbia Pictures has announced that dubious talent Shane Black will direct a new movie version of Doc Savage. I hope it will be better than the first which was showered with Snifters and Jaffas at its Manurewa Cinecenta screening in 1975. The original pulp Doc Savage novels were reissued by Bantam with exotic Hammer Horror / Lost World-style covers in the 1960s and became my standard reading aged 11. Only later did I realise that "Kenneth Robeson" was a publisher's pen name for several in-house authors. We were unwitting connoisseurs of the alternative in those days, the cinema's bargain distribution deal having exposed us to westerns, Shaw Bros martial arts movies, blaxpoitation pics and classic 1970s SF. Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze was as lame as its title. (The Man of Bronze or The Land of Terror: which would you rather see?) I and my fellow 11- and 12-year olds would have never sat through shit like Transformers.

The Cincenta also used to run the original Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon movie series as a curtain-up for the Saturday matinees, which went down a ton - the cheering and screaming was incredible. The 1980 Dino De Laurentiis remake was one of the most beautiful looking science fiction films ever. If you have difficulty appreciating it then chant "Italian cinema" over and over while watching, and then it makes more sense. It's been described as camp but is actually even more over the top than that. Now someone-or-other is developing a fourth Flash remake. How could it be better? Max von Sydow and Ornella Muti were astounding.

I have gone into bat for Dino in many after dinner conversations and always emerge bloodied but unbowed. His Kong was a dark, sarcastic and sexual -- a tone and feel not dissimilar to that of The Dark Knight -- and David Lynch's unevenly fantastic Dune created one of the two aesthetics which every subsequent SF movie would have to choose between for the next twenty years. (Other choice: Ridley Scott's Bladerunner.) And then he produced Blue Velvet. The man is a crazy god.

Does anyone remember Liquid Sky? That's a remake I'd like to see, especially if it was set in the Janowitz 80s. You could even use "I kill with my cunt" as a strapline...

Update: Final final final proofreading 20 per cent done. Breaking for the afternoon, as if you couldn't tell.

What proofreading looks like

Or do I mean "proof reading"? Anyway, this is it. Because "finishing" a manuscript really means "not having to think up any more stuff, but still having to check what's in it." And by "checking" I mean, "checking that it's in the right place" and "saying the right thing." And by "saying the right thing" I mean, sometimes having to rewrite that. Or make up something new to go where the wrong thing was. Which is different from originating material. Honest.

In movie productions it's called "shooting pick ups." Which is different from shooting at flat bed trucks, but about as much fun, because you're improving on the work you've "finished" rather than going through the whole Oh God Is It Any Good palaver. I promised the ms would be ready at the end of January but it will be the end of February now. Still, only a month late - that's not too bad. And it was finished at the end of January insofar as it was "finished."

Did Jacques Derrida ever use air quotes? That would have been "funny."

2/23/10

Next big thing #2

Bye bye, Twitter...

Next big thing #1

Yeasayer who hail from NY, I think. They sound Ladyflash-ish / post-Merriweather Animal Collective.

Still proofing. Nips and tucks.

2/21/10

Smokin'

There has been some debate in the Muse Lounge about the new anti-smoking laws. Basically Gretchen and Cedric still smoke like chimneys and none of the bar staff are going to be telling them to put it out. Recreational drugs tend to find their way into the Muse Lounge regardless of external fashions for or against. This permissive attitude is a natural product of the Hooves' European heritage and has caused problems in the past, most famously with the Lounge's accountant, Hugo Galvis. Cedric himself hired Hugo to work on the business's books after a two-day night on the town in the early 90s. Tellingly, even after 48 hours of socialising and hijinks the older Cedric remained unaware that Hugo came from San Cristobel let alone spoke not one word of English. "The time we spend together, she had flown by," Hugo told translators. "The old man - he see a little of himself in me, I think, with the fire in the eyes." In another piece of bad news, Hugo's luck with numbers has turned out to be inversely proportional to his success with the ladies, resulting in the Inland Revenue imposing full tax audits on the Muse Lounge following the break-ups of his first and second marriages. His third - to controversial Italian women's hockey star Annamaria Raffo - has seemed to take, however, and projections for the second half of 2003 are looking good, delivered as always in Hugo's crabbed handwriting on chunks of plasterboard borrowed from the painters and workmen permanently renovating the couple's ninth-floor Herne Bay apartment. "Annamarie, she is life to me," Hugo explained, wiping the sweat from his face. "Aiyee - see how my face burns? Hayfever all the time from your stinking Pacific island - hayfever! I leave you all one day!" His departure however has been delayed by inquiries from various United States agencies and a late night telephone caller identifying himself only as "El pez grande".
– Apr 19, 2003

Things I said


Mark Broatch interviewed me for the Sunday Star Times and the Q&A is now online at www.stuff.co.nz. In the interview I say things like:
I have way too few other interests. I'm lucky to be able to write and feel that anything that takes me away from it is abusing the privilege. In reality I am more fun than that, especially if you catch me in the hating myself / seeking distraction period.
You can read the rest of it here.

2/18/10

Her radio and stereo, yes, all the same to me

"Why are you in London for the worst winter in 50 years?" A Correspondent Asks. Actually every winter I've been in London it's been the worst winter in 50 years, or since record-keeping began, or the wettest, or something. Likewise reading about NZ I see it's the worst summer there since like, ever, or the best, and it's about to get worse, and so on. Which is why I'm a global warming skeptic. While terrified by humanity's disregard for the environment and worried that we're killing the oceans, and perturbed how we're fighting over deserts while leaving the rain forests to defend themselves, I still can't bring myself to believe what I read about the weather in a newspaper. Which means I guess that I'm not a global warming skeptic: I'm a skeptic about global warming reporting.

Latest reports from my home country suggest that the National government and John Key are softening up Radio New Zealand for budget cuts. Because I've done two of my better interviews courtesy of the bookish people at RNZ, namely Bookmarks and National Radio Book Club, I share PEN NZ's concerns that cutting RNZ would short-change New Zealand's authors.

RNZ is one of the few places where authors get to talk and discuss their work at length without being pressured to frame it as "news". Writing is slow and hard to pin down, not unlike the weather. The non-commercial environment of RNZ's arts programme format means that journalists don't have to make idiots of themselves pretending that a book is the best book in the world or the worst in 50 years, or the wettest on record, etc, in order to generate a headline. Instead they can get into the details of the thing: its shades and variations, its fine points, its ambling. Its humanity, in other words. Reporting art without empathy is like reporting sports without the score.

Literature, like the weather, is always of interest - but that doesn't mean it's big or easy news. I feel generally sympathetic towards journalists who have been dispatched to cover it. As for squeezing a book review into a few hundred words, let alone finding moving images to accompany the story - bonne fucking chance. Even the willing, media-friendly juggernaut of the best seller bogs down in the 24-hour news churn. Witness for instance how difficult it is to make even Stephanie Meyer into news: the author of the biggest seller on the planet is merely a footnote in a frock at the New Moon premiere. Authors are too self-contained, too introverted to be the subject of editorial fantasy. Whereas la Winehouse walks down the street: newsfelch!

The RNZ issue is evolving, and the matter as any fule kno is being filtered through the language of other media which itself is a rival and competitor to radio. But Mr Paul Reynolds, A Blogger, has written something good about it.

Other nice radio interviews I have done: Peter McLennan at the 95Bfm Culture Bunker. Yakkity yak yak yak.

2/7/10

About 20 sides to go

Not Books

I've written before that the paradox of book publishers' e-book strategy is their plan to use disruptive technology to preserve the status quo. Nicholas Ciarelli takes the argument a step further and says recent developments in the ebook pricing war prove that what publishers really want to do is turn back time:
The fact is that publishers do not need consumers to embrace higher prices because this move isn't intended to sell e-books, it's intended to sell more physical books.
Read the article here at Daily Beast.

2/5/10

Think I'll spend eternity in the city

The last, last edit, Pete, is stacking up real neat - I'm thinking Wednesday next week, in the out box by Friday and then God knows what. A day's break and back into the three other manuscripts (I'm serious – count 'em) or maybe - or maybe something new. There's nothing else to do except work. Although today was the sort of day, to quote Colin MacInnes, that only an old whore like London could throw up. Sunny and everything, and the cafe where I do most of my work was empty. Everyone was outside grabbing the weather while they could.

When I was 12 or 13 and totally into photography my brother recommended Absolute Beginners to me because it's about a photographer, but it turned out to be so much more. I clocked the Peter Blake cover – I was that kind of kid – but not the date of publication, and started reading it thinking 'Elvis' was Elvis Costello. Halfway through I realised I was wrong, went back and read the imprint page and clicked and started it over again: conscientiously this time, but still missing most of it. It remains in my syntax, I think, from the Soho imagery to the Dickens joke.

Most of my reading is secondhand now. Music, newer - things grabbed from all over, and cheap, oldish TV: X-Files, Medium. Watching Patricia Arquette reminds me that it's time to enjoy Lost Highway again.

2/4/10

SF & Genre

Good genre debate at io9.com. Writes Charlie Dane Anders @ io9:
Where would we be without genre labels? Free to write new and weird idioms, possibly. But a couple of recent blog posts make the case that genres aren't cages, they're toolkits that tell you how to read a particular text.
The io9 article links in turn to Jo Walton at Tor.com, who says:
Science fiction may be literalization of metaphor, it may be open to metaphorical, symbolic and even allegorical readings, but what’s real within the story is real within the story, or there’s no there there.
The summary article also quotes Rachel Swirsky at Jeff Vandemeer's blog:
Genre distinctions aren't useless - they are ways of signaling expectations to readers, and establishing reading conventions... I think the problem comes when we start reifying genre and assuming that the barriers between genres are somehow real and important barriers, rather than being useful human constructions that can be argued over and negotiated.
Writes another contributor to the latter, A.D. Jameson:
I love genre, because genres are basically conventions. They’re expectations that both authors and readers (and editors, and sales people) bring to a text—suggestions as to what should be inside, and how it should be arranged. And I dearly love conventions, because they’re the very stuff of communication, and of artistic structure—whether we’re obeying them, or departing from them.
Read the summary article containing links to all the above here. Also includes mention of zombies, fantasy and a whole lot of other books I don't personally like to read. What I do like about this discussion is that you don't hear it (enough) in literary circles. It's sincere and straight up.

A cookie full of arsenic

Don LeLillo in the Wall Street Journal, 2010:
It's tougher to be a young writer today than when I was a young writer. I don't think my first novel would have been published today as I submitted it. I don't think an editor would have read 50 pages of it. It was very overdone and shaggy, but two young editors saw something that seemed worth pursuing and eventually we all did some work on the book and it was published. I don't think publishers have that kind of tolerance these days, and I guess possibly as a result, more writers go to writing class now than then. I think first, fiction, and second, novels, are much more refined in terms of language, but they may tend to be too well behaved, almost in response to the narrower market.
Kurt Vonnegut in the 1977 Paris Review interview:
INTERVIEWER: Should young writers be subsidized?

VONNEGUT: Something's got to be done, now that free enterprise has made it impossible for them to support themselves through free enterprise.

2/1/10

"I didn't know Scarlett from a hole in the wall"

Can recommend the Faber director series' Woody Allen on Woody Allen as a very good book on writing. I have it in storage somewhere. When I was living in Brick Lane I managed to be drinking coffee when Woody Allen walked past: he was filming something just up round 'corner. Small, walks fast, and he really does wear that hat.

Here is Allen in an oldish interview on Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The movie is terrific and cogent (a good Woody) but - surprise! - didn't start that way:
I had the idea about two women going away on a summer thing some place. Someone called from Barcelona and said ‘Would you like to make a picture here? We’ll finance it.’ That’s always the hardest part of making any picture, is getting the financing. Writing it, directing it, or anything else is easier than getting the financing for it, so I said sure, I would do it. I had no idea for anything for it, and then about a week or two later I got a call from Penelope Cruz. I didn’t know her, she wanted to meet, and she was in New York. I had only seen her in ‘Volver’ and nothing else ever. I thought she was great in it, and she said that she knew I was doing a film in Barcelona, and she would like to participate. I started out with Barcelona, with Penelope, and in the back of mind I was going to go to Scarlett. Then I heard Javier [Bardem] was interested, so gradually it took shape. I was writing for these people. I was deliberately writing for these people. I didn’t know Rebecca Hall at all. Juliet Taylor, my casting director, discovered her. She said that she was great, I should read her, and look at some film on her. I did and she was right. I put the thing together for the people almost, as I did it, and did the best I could.
You can read the rest of the interview at Collider.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona star Rebecca Hall (pictured, blaming herself for Javier Bardem) is one of the actresses on the cover of the new Vanity Fair. If you're trying to pick her, she's the one with a future.